Another five, keeping you informed...

Secret Stealth-Hooked On You (Kosmica)(US)
Secret Stealth, the alias of Jim Baron and Bob Sadler, definitely strike me as a British summer festival group along the same lines as another duo you may have heard of once or twice called Orbital. Now mind you Hooked On You doesn't sound a thing like "Chime" or "Halcyon (On & On) but Secret Stealth's everything-including-the-kitchen-sink approach to music is very similar to what the Hartnoll brothers conjured up in their long and illustrious body of work. This album is made up of freewheelin' party music, contemporary outdoor sound system music for folks to get their groove on during the extremely short summer over in old blighty. There is no time for experimentations or straying from the good time party vibe formula but the boys do keep it interesting with a unique and decidedly modern take on rare groove and funk that doesn't sound old and tired. Adding 303s and even drum & bass and cosmic disco to the mix makes the album fun but pretty highly derivative. I have a sneaking suspicion these guys are sort of a modern version of the Grateful Dead who instead sip tea between sets and play to hoardes of crusty jugglers throughout the summer. Sure enough, I just read these guys travelled the circuit in England thise summer appearing at the Lovebox, Beathearder, and Big Chill festivals. Addictive stuff but too much is probably toxic.

DJ Heather & Onionz-Summer Sessions 2 2xCD (OM)(US)
I gotta admit I liked the House Of OM split that Heather did last year with Colette. Getting an unmixed CD-r version complete with hasty Sharpie script in lieu of a proper disk label on a platter that was jumpy as a cat in heat in the player probably didn't help positively influence my opinion of Heather's latest mix either. Very Chicago house influenced with tons of energy culled from her endless touring schedule and a lot of vocal tracks that just didn't move me as the ones from last year. The second disk finds a much welcomed return from Queens' favorite DJ-Onionz. Now here's one O.G. mofo, who is not only influenced by Doc Martin out west and the Murk boys down south but is actually a contemporary of those old house cats. He takes old school sounding vocal acapellas (which are actually quite new) and mixes them up by hand with SF house beats and dirty East Coast and West Coast techno sounds. Tracks like "The Bushmen" by Magick Johnson are most assuredly nu-rave, but with a sleaziness found rarely in the fledgling genre courtesy of a wicked Kink & Mieka Du Franx vocal that Onionz throws over the top ghetto style. The energy Onionz conjures on this mix is dazzling and screams one word, "comeback".

Various-OM Hip-Hop Vol. 1 (OM) (US)

I know I spend a lot of time yammering on about OM Records and how great they are. Well in my defense, not everything the successful SF based indie imprint puts out is great (Colette? Seriously people...) and secondly not enough people (especially around where I live) spend time talking about OM's overall commitment to high quality commercial DANCE music. OM's full-time foray into hip-hop after lustily flirting with it for years again seems to be a focus on quality dance music. In this case the West Coast b-boy style of rap music that really seems to get people dancing. I can't say that I am in love with the Strange Fruit Project but Zion I & The Grouch, and Zeph & Azeem have delivered some crucial and highly danceable jams in a highly oversaturated market. Strong cuts from their respective albums as well as exclusive sneak peaks from as yet unreleased albums by Ladybug Mecca of the legendary Digable Planets and the always dependable J. Boogie (can't wait for the new one this winter) make this an essential car stereo compilation.

Grand National-A Drink & A Quick Decision (Recall) (US)
This relatively unknown UK duo has made the wise decision to have already released their album digitally two months ago to reach their already well-established European fan base. In addition to sales revenue this ploy also gives Grand National and their label two additional months of hype and touring before the physical album drops in the US. My how times have changed. With the lack of a dominant record chain here in the States what will become of original sounding groups like Grand National? These guys in particular make decent Police influenced proggy nu wave that would be really great if there wasn't already a bunch of dirty old wankers who claim to be, get this, the real Police. These real Police are out ruining our sense of decency this very summer as we speak, but I digress. These tunes are ok, better 'en most of the rock n rollish stuff that eager publicists keep foisting on me to no avail. "Going To Switch The Lights On" is a memorable tune in need of a good remix.

Bob Marley & The Wailers-Roots, Rock, Remixed (Quango) (US)

Here we go again, another officially sanctioned Marley remix session (yawn). But hey, this one is much better than most due to it's association with the always trendy Quango imprint. Once again, obscure tracks from earlier in the Wailers career are mined so don't expect any "Exodus" or "I Shot the Sheriff" re-rubs on Roots, Rock, Remixed. Fort Knox Five manage a decent job of "Duppy Conqueror", while Yes King feat Mark Rae of Rae & Christian do a credible job re-working the oft cited "Sun Is Shining" track, but it is King Kooba who do the best job of deconstructing Tuff Gong on "African Herbsman" with a stellar outer space dub workout. The rest of the remixes are hit or miss but with a wide variety of top remixers re-doing Bob Marley I am hard pressed to call this disk terrible.

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