Race Records

By Hua Hsu Dec 21, 2004

The Isley Brothers
Taken to the Next Phase / Columbia
One cowers at how many babies were probably made to the criminally smooth sounds of the Isley Brothers. Here, a talented generation of new jacks like Questlove, Mos Def, Raphael Saadiq and dancehall wunderkind Lenky return the favor, re-imagining classic Isley hits with a modern-day swing.

The Mighty Imperials
Thunder Chicken / Daptone
New York’s Daptone label returns with yet another installment of gritty time-warp funk, this time courtesy the Mighty Imperials. Meticulously engineered to sound just like James at his rawest—the band even covers “Cold Sweat”—this tight, organ-driven combo will have you squawking across your living room instantly.

Midnight Theme / Dopebrother
This compilation pays tribute to Manzel, an obscure, spaced-out late-1970s outfit spearheaded by a young, funk-loving army lieutenant. After middling success, Manzel all but disappeared until sides like “Space Funk” and “Midnight Theme” got rediscovered by the hip-hop generation.

Pharoah’s Daughter
Out of the Reeds / Tkadik

This enchanting classic of the New Jewish Renaissance finds a proper reissue through iconoclast John Zorn’s always-noteworthy Tzadik label. Featuring the haunting voice of Basya Schechter and a stormy collision of folk aesthetics with downtown tinkering, this lovely album stumbles upon an affirming, common spirituality that will capture you, regardless of belief.

Deep Dickollective
The Famous Outlaw League of Proto-Negroes / SugarTruck
With proud, hardcore rhymes that assail all sorts of old-world typecasting (“I Am”) and grungy, jazz-influenced, kitchen-sink production, there’s nothing subtle about this fierce, rising Bay Area “homo-hop” quartet of 25 Percenter, Point Five Fag, JB Rap and Mr. Man Man.

To submit CDs for review, send to: Hua Hsu, 955 Mass. Ave. #325, Cambridge, MA 02139

Hua Hsu is a doctoral student at Harvard University, a DJ and a writer for Slate, the Village Voice and the Wire, among other publications.