Friday, 25 July 2014

“H/Sign Of The Time” by BOB JAMES (2014 Robinsongs CD Reissue - 2LPs Remastered Onto 1CD) - A Review by Mark Barry…

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Robinsongs is a subsidiary label of Cherry Red Records who have picked up on the gaps in late Seventies and Eighties Jazz Fusion and Soul Funk albums. And this is a clever CD reissue....

UK released July 2014 – "H/Sign Of The Times" by BOB JAMES on Robinsongs CDMRED627 (Barcode 5013929162730) features two LPs on 1CD Remaster and plays out as follows (75:38 minutes):

1. Snowbird Fantasy
2. Shepherd's Song
3. Brighton By The Sea
4. The Walkman
5. Thoroughbred
6. Reunited
Tracks 1 to 6 are the album "H" - released 1980 in the USA on Tappan Zee JC 36422

7. Hypnotique
8. The Steamin' Feelin'
9. Enchanted Forest
10. Unicorn
11. Sign Of The Times
12. Love Power
Tracks 7 to 12 are the album "Sign Of The Times" - released 1981 in the USA on Tappan Zee FC 37495

The 12-page booklet gives us informative and detailed liner notes by LOIS WILSON (of the Mojo magazine) and ALAN WILSON at Western Star in Bristol has done the remaster. It's incredibly clean and has sweet muscular audio - reflecting the top quality production values at the time of recording and the great session men like Hiram Bullock, Steve Khan, Bruce Dunlap and Eric Gale all on Guitars, Liberty DeVito on Drums and of course James himself on all manner of keyboards.

Side One of "H" opens with the cheesy "Snowbird Fantasy" (complete with tweeting birdies) but things improve immeasurably with a one two of sweet and funky - the traditional air "Shepherd's Song" done in a moving and truly beautiful keyboard fashion (I'm always putting this instrumental on compilations that make for peaceful listening) followed by "Brighton By The Sea" (written by long time Saxophonist sidekick Grover Washington Jr) providing superb slow Jazz Funk. "The Walkman" is hardly memorable but a cover of the Peaches & Herbs 1979 smoocher "Reunited" ends the album on a Soulful fusion tip.

For me the best of the two albums here is the "Sign Of The Times" set - not least because three of its six Funky Fusion tracks are written by that Boogie genius ROD TEMPERTON of "Thriller" and HEATWAVE fame (his three are "Hypnotique", "The Steamin' Feelin'" and "Sign of The Times"). Bob James penned the other three with "Love Power" (lyrics above) impressing the most featuring Grover Washington Jr, Eric Gale and percussionist Airto. And I've loved the stepper groove and girly backing vocals of the title track "Sign Of The Times" - great stuff.

This is a rather cool little CD reissue of two forgotten BOB JAMES albums that deserve to be noticed again. It's not all genius of course but the goodies like the gorgeous "Shepherd's Song" are worth having...

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