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.
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.
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.