Music

Album Reviews: Martha High's Singing For The Good Times is top-notch soul funk

Martha High was a long-time backing singer for the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown

Martha High

Singing For The Good Times

WHEN it comes to soul and funk, Martha High has been there, done that, and got the T-shirt. She was a long-time backing singer for James Brown, which makes it clear she has serious musical chops and her howl and scream-style vocals fits this material perfectly.

Admittedly, this album cuts no new ground in a genre packed with top-notch singers and musicians, but bang this record on at any soul all-nighter and the dancefloor will be full in no time.

Opener Always Worth The Pain sets the tone, as over a funky groove she wails and hollers about the travails of a relationship. I Am A Woman is another corker.

Fire Shut In My Bones and the aptly-named For The Good Times also showcase Martha's vocals and get you grooving. So, ground-breaking no, top-notch soul funk? Most definitely yes.

THREE STARS

Kim Mayo

Gold Panda

Good Luck And Do Your Best

SIX years and three albums into his recording career, there is still something wonderfully oblique about Gold Panda. It's electronica, but not the sort you dance to. It's mood music, but too effervescent for elevators and too demanding for dinner parties. It's virtually wordless, but endlessly expressive.

There's an engineer's eye at work in the slow-build soundscape of Metal Bird or Chiba Nights and a living, beating human heart behind the elegiac – but contrarily named – I Am A Real Punk.

FOUR STARS

Rory Dollard

Oscar

Cut And Paste

LOVE him or hate him (and, it seems, many people do the latter), North London miserablist Oscar Scheller is forging onwards with this, his debut album. It's been a couple of years of work but, with songwriting of this quality, it was worth the wait.

Cut And Paste starts with the excellent Sometimes, three-and-a-half minutes of perfect guitar pop, with that Morrissey-style vocal morosely reeling you in. While it peaks right there, overall it's good enough for you to find yourself humming track two, Be Good, or three, Feel It Too, many hours or days later.

Other songs fans will know include the cracking Breaking My Phone, Daffodil Days and Beautiful Words. Oscar's baritone voice works well and is lifted when counterpointed with a female backing vocal – and that is used to good effect. Get it for the summer.

FOUR STARS

Steve Crancher

Lizzie Emah

My Baboo EP

FOR a hit of summery beats, soulful jazz artist Lizzie Emah is one to watch. British jazz legend Courtney Pine is even a fan.

Her latest EP, My Baboo comprises a spare three tracks on which she sings of love, race and disability. White Lies jangles sweetly, forcing your feet to tap in time; Waiting has a mesmeric piano backdrop, while Reminiscing has a beat that thrums in your chest, Emah's voice treacly over the top.

A mainstay of the disability music scene – which seriously lacks an outlet commercially and when it comes to radio airplay – Emah breaks out in her music, and she deserves your time and attention.

THREE STARS

Ella Walker

Ariana Grande

Dangerous Woman

FOR a 'dangerous woman', there's not much bite to Ariana Grande's third album. Opener Moonlight is an insipid way to start – it's the kind of song you'd get in a romcom where the lovesick girl sings into her hairbrush – although the title track follows up with a punchier hit of pop.

The best offerings in fact are those she's roped in collaborators for. Side To Side is a slush of generic R&B until Nicki Minaj starts rapping expertly over Caribbean beats, Everyday featuring Future has scope to be a proper floor filler, but the real standout is Leave Me Lonely starring the always magnificent Macy Gray.

Her raspy, soulful vocals provide a moment of elevation on an otherwise overly sweet, frothy record.

TWO STARS

Ella Walker

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