Beach Recordings presents Unwrapped Volume 3 – reviewed by Chris
may know the gig by now, and maybe a revisit of my review of Unwrapped
Volume 2 will serve as an introduction.
Hidden Beach Recordings, with the Unwrapped series of releases
redefines the crossroads where jazz and hip-hop meet.
This selection, apart from offering respect to hip-hop heroes
Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. and Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay,
highlights successes by Fifty Cent, Eminem and A Tribe Called Quest to
name just a few.
the fleeting intro, In Da Club retains that powerful funk vibe
but adds some great trombone like Brian Culbertson kicking it. The scratching is vicious and the brass section is awesome.
House bassist Andrew Gouché is in the pocket as always. I Know What You Want has a romantic Latin sway.
It has a simple arrangement with lovely acoustic guitar from
Dennis Nelson. Melena’s percussion is very sexy as is the lush flute
of Lou Taylor. There is
plenty to enjoy and this could be my favourite song.
its steel drum sounds, P.I.M.P. gets a Caribbean-style
treatment which benefits from the lovely, deft electric piano of Jeff
Lorber. The song is a
little long for me. Tainted
is a very moody track with strong vocal performances and, does that
sound like Earth, Wind & Fire’s long-time collaborator Larry
Dunn on keys? Well, it
is. Richard Turner’s
vibes solo is a strong one. Again,
if this had been kept a minute shorter, I’d have enjoyed it more.
Yourself is a very intense song made
more intense by the distinctive, soaring violin of Karen Briggs.
Peter Black’s heavily distorted guitar adds a menacing edge.
I really enjoyed the Tupac Tribute Medley, which
contains strong renditions of Keep Ya Head Up and I Ain’t
Mad at Cha which get you in a mellow groove.
You get shaken out of that mood by the funky How Do You Want
It with some far-out Funkadelic-style guitar from Peter Black.
Biggie Tribute Medley is made up of a tight, funky version of Juicy
with Larry Dunn soloing like crazy over the top of Gouché’s
slippery bassline. Big Poppa again raises a big smile from the
sexy treatment of the old Isleys/Biggie smoocher. Dennis Nelson’s
guitar is sweet. Gouché’s
bass slapping on the Hypnotize track turns me inside out.
His feel is one of the key elements in tying all the
jazz-funk/R&B/hip-hop strands together.
A nice funky guitar riff drives the lovely Beautiful.
Terry Stanton’s falsetto vocal is haunting and addictive.
Jeff Bradshaw’s heavily distorted trombone solo is superb
and I’d love to hear him do this stuff over a really funky dance
Wop has lovely old-skool brass and that
tinkling piano riff. Vocals
on this track are superb, both lead -courtesy of Tamika Peoples - and
background. Mike Phillips
sax solo is up there with the best contemporary alto players.
Do I need to list them? A
strutting funk masterpiece – truly.
The Way You Move has a mellow Norman Brown-style semi
acoustic guitar by the superb Dennis Nelson.
Gouché’s there on his “squelchy” bass (come on you
Mu-Tron III freaks, you know what I mean) and Mike Phillips blows
passionately on here. The
way the guitar and sax trade licks near the end is the stuff that
great live shows are made of.
Tribe Called Quest’s Check the Rhime is deeply funky with
sweet sax underpinned by Bootsy-style slippery bass.
I love this – it’s like breathing.
Paul Litteral’s trumpet cries out like Tom Browne’s back in
the day. No Jam Master
Jay Tribute Medley would be complete without a screaming version
of Walk This Way and this is a screamer!!
I like the way it slides into the minimalist groove of Sucker
MC’s, which I always loved, and then into the heavy metal grind
of King of Rock, then back into Sucker MC’s.
It’s frantic and fun and I could have taken much more of
coming to this as a jazz fan and some of this music is a surprise to
me – and makes me want to hear some of the original songs, as much
as some young hip-hop fans (I hope) will want to hear some of the
music by the jazz and soul artists featured on this CD.
assertion that “you gotta hear Blue Note to dig Def Jam” is well
portrayed here. You
can’t separate music that’s got a groove – it’s got a groove
and that’s it!
recordings just get better – the quality of musicianship is very
high and the interpretation of what are becoming classics is
respectful but adventurous at the same time.
To open-minded listeners I’d say go to the Beach as soon as
Beach Recordings – Executive Producers – Steve McKeever, Tony
Joseph, Darryl Ross