Various Artists – Message in Our Music Vol. 2 (Favourite Recordings, 2020)

The never ending sublime vibes keep on coming from the Favourite camp, who release their second comp of Modern Soul classics.

When it comes to reissue labels, we truly are spoilt for choice in this day and age. A plethora of labels, individual diggers, editors etc etc, delve high and wide, deep and low, to bring to light records that never got released, got overlooked, or simply forgotten about through the slew of musical history. Each of these groups strive for an identity to form through their selection choices, as in by finding records that fit their overall vibe do they achieve an identity formed from fragments of the past and pieced together into a web of present day treasures. More often than not, the diversity of reissues on certain levels represents the label heads far reaching musical tastes; some that seem more driven by dancibility is usually reserved for the dancers; whilst some strive for tone, mood, feel and groove, and these labels often serve up to us the most powerful of threads and narratives that these forgotten masterpieces never got to tell when they were first released (or never!). It is these labels that strike a chord, and create waves rather than ripples.

Favourite Recordings have woven not just a collection of stories, tales of grooves from memories past. They have crafted a universe filled to the brim with sunshine tipped delights, treasures taken from the brilliant minds of funk, modern soul, disco, boogie, reggae and beyond, taking to places and environments we can only really imagine, but now we can vividly place ourselves in the music. This incredible universe was developed through a shared adoration for these genres, alongside smartly bringing in revered selectors and crate diggers to supplement the ever growing unparalleled discography that they have accumulated over the years. Jeremy Underground, Charles Maurice and Waxist (the selector behind this comp for this review) have all aligned themselves with the label head, Pascal Rioux, and have masterminded some of the most complete chronicles of boogie, AOR, disco, afro and beyond. Alongside these compilations, they have released some stunning timeless LPs and EPs, and have released some new tunes under their various sub labels. Each release is vividly and lovingly reconsidered, repackaged as a present of sorts, for us to consume all the fucking time. Some selected reissue cuts from the label include Byrne & Barnes’ ‘An Eye For An Eye’, Lamar Thomas’ ‘Feels So Good Inside’, Karriem’s monster disco track ‘I Love You’, Calvin B. Rhone’s ‘I Believe!’, Junior Byron’s ‘Sunshine’ and Esnard Boisdur’s ‘Mizik Bel’. We haven’t even started on everything yet. New single releases include ‘A.E.I.O.U’ by Di Melo, ‘Aldorande’ by Aldorande, and Leroy Burgess’ ‘Work It Out/Til I Found You’ single from last year. Oh yes, the compilations. The beautiful, beautiful compilations. If you’re a fan of anything groovy, boogie or modern soul related, then for god’s sake check out immediately all of the ‘French Disco Boogie Sounds’ and the ‘AOR Global Sounds’ series, and the first volume of ‘Message in Our Music’ volume 1. You will be spinning around crying with happiness for days.

So, onto our focus for this review, the brand new volume two of the ‘Message in Our Music’ compilation series, as selected by Waxist. The first compilation was a serious serious collection of modern soul and boogie hits, of which many have become very difficult to come across. Now, thanks to Waxist, after two years in the making, we welcome into the light another collection of complete and utter brilliance. Favourite Recordings, lets do our thing. Lets get into this.

Up first comes Sharnell Morton with ‘You Are My Shining Star’. The track begins on a proper high tempo note, with a straight up beat providing a bedrock for the real star of the show, that incredible key work. Chiming chords dip around in the background, complimented by beautiful shimmering key lines that tickle around the pads. The vocals come in, front and centre, that begin spoken words before acting alongside the synths. The melody is so on point, before the killer bass line comes into play. It just adds this extra touch of something very special, bringing in this incredible range to the track. The vocals keep the fire burning, and it just unravels from there. What an opener. Next comes Janice Nikki Harrison with ‘Magic Of Love’, the tempo goes down just a little bit. The drums are steady, the vocals are true, and that synth chimes away to the left. The groove is more varied, as it flows so perfectly through the motions, the vocals the guiding light through it all. This one displays its funk colours on its sleeve, with the bass synth and bass lines permeating straight through the middle, giving this track an undeniable groove. The vocals dip away for a second to give the synth some time to breathe, and its just as glorious as you might expect, as it goes from left to right on its journey through tones and textures. This instrumental break is fucking amazing, as the vocals softly glide back into play. Next comes Direct Connec Shun with their track ‘He’s No Good’, and oh boy. The groove begins with steady drums interlaced with some choppy as hell guitar work. The track builds up with light hazy synths leading into a sharp switch up, as vocals and density is added. The groove is in full flow now, the vocal work is fantastic, with the background synth the perfect accompaniment to all this sweetness. Out of nowhere we are greeted by a sweet hazy guitar solo, that elevates the track to other plains of existence. So pure, so tender, so unbelievable groovy.

The James Family come next with their track ‘We’ve Got It Made’. The track starts off with some proper deep melodic chords, with little guitar licks here and there, as the vocals join in and oh god are they something else. Deep hues, a wonderful voice that perfectly compliments the music, almost acting on the same wavelengths as the synths. The break after the chorus descends down, with high brass work moving on top of the groove underneath. But jesus that vocal work, its just so beautiful, moody and delivering the message so directly. The chorus flows into the second break, the piano taking centre stage here, as everything falls out as electronix takes over via the form of crescendos of synth work. All for it to just swing back into it. WHAT A TRACK. HEAVENLY. Network & Co. are up next with ‘Spirit of the Boogie’, and the vibes just keep on coming! The tempo retains itself, the flow from the previous track kept high. The guitar works its way around the beat, that grows in stature, the synth work again moving further back to provide an epic backdrop. The vocal work is fast, interlaced with moments of sheer ecstasy. The movements between the breaks and the vocal parts is so expertly done. God damn. Next comes Marion Hunter with ‘Did you forget my number?’, and coooar, what else does this compilation need to do. Straight into it, with the full flow of the band coming right at you like a runaway freight train. The drumming work guides the track, as guitar and bass parts float around delicately between the beats. The organ work moves between, providing the moments for the track to shift to vocal lines. The track always remains in a constant break of magic, never leaving its train of thought.

To finish up, we have Spice of Ice with ‘Star Struck’. Don’t be fooled by its slow and spacey start, this one descends so far into the groove its hard to not just lose yourself in it. The cosmic fluidity of the guitars and synths move around the steady beat and punchy vocals, as the track moves to places of mystical perfection. The breaks once again in this track are where its at, just perfectly balanced and fluidly moved between. The transitions into the vocal parts are once again expertly placed. Finally, to finish up an experience that will last a lifetime, we have Executive Suite with their track ‘When it Comes to Loving Me’. The best perhaps, saved til last? that would do a disservice to the rest of this amazing album. The track starts off big and bold, tugging at the emotional heart strings, the depth found here is off the charts. The track finds its stride from the off, just going through the motions, with vocal performances that stand out from this record. Bloody hell. A late night hand holder to be sure, just simply incredible.

Well then. Whilst the first compilation in the ‘Message in our Music’ was an exercise in understanding the boundaries of modern soul and boogie, ie. its tempos, melodies and craftmanship, this volume is simply about the straight fucking dancefloor fire that is contained within these wonderful genres. Every cut is stunning, simply stunning, taking us on sharp and epic journeys through the night time, to places and dancefloors far away, and to areas rich with tones, textures, heart and soul. We feel every inch of goodness brimming from these tracks. Hats off to Waxist and Favourite, this comp truly is remarkable. Compilation of the year? probably.

Support the troops:

https://favoriterecordings.bandcamp.com/album/message-in-our-music-vol-2-selected-by-waxist

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