Probably one of the most difficult jobs in music came when BBE Music decided to compile their latest digital release, The Best of BBE 2012 which will be released on 3rd December 2012. After all, BBE Music have been on something of a roll during 2012. That’s something of an understatement. For BBE Music, 2012 started In January with Al Kent’s five-disc disco Magnus Opus The Best of Disco Demands. After that, the quality kept on coming. There was the rerelease of Sandy Barber’s The Best Is Yet To Come and Jean Wells’ Soul On Soul. Then came the first of two albums from Johnny De Mairo. This started with Johnny D Presents Disco Jamms Volume 1, then came JohNick’s You Know How We Dew. One of my favorite albums from BBE Music was Boddhi Satva’s beautiful and spiritual Invocation and its followup, the Invocation Instrumentals. As if this isn’t enough great music, there were eponymous albums from Mathias Stubo, Dark Room Notes and Newban, plus albums like Los Transatlanticos’ First Trip, Bara Brost’s Kokolores and more recently, Visioneers’ Hipology, DJ Vadim’s Don’t Be Scared and Olivia De Lanzac’s Uncut. That’s not forgetting compilations that included The Best of Perception and Today Records, Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Wild Rockers 2, Latin Concrete, Snowboy Presents New Vintage, Private Wax and more recently, Sadar Bahar Presents Soul In the Hole. As you’ll realize, it wasn’t easy for BBE Music to narrow it down to just fifteen tracks. So good has their music been in 2012, BBE Music could just as easily released a double or triple album. Why not go the whole nine yards and release a box set? Alas, BBE Music have restricted themselves to fifteen tracks, which I’ll now pick my ten highlights of.

My first choice is one of my favorites of 2012, Sandy Barber’s I Think I’ll Do Some Stepping On My Own. This was a track from a rerelease of Sandy’s 1977 album The Best Is Yet To Come. It also featured on Al Kent’s The Best of Disco Demands. Clyde Otis, Natt Adderley and Jay Hoggard cowrote the track, with Jay producing it. What makes the track is Sandy’s glorious, defiant vocal. It’s powerful and soulful, as the arrangement reveals flourishes of keyboards, a funky rhythm section, rasping horns and percussion. Later the lushest of strings that float above the arrangement, while punchy, rasping horns add drama. From there, the arrangement grows, revealing its beauty and drama. Soon, you realize that this is stunningly soulful, timeless sounding track, that demonstrates just how talented a vocalist Sandy Barber really is. 

Of all the disco compilations I’ve reviewed in 2012, my favorite has to be Al Kent’s disco Magnus Opus The Best Of Disco Demands. It was five discos of disco gems. Panache’s Sweet Jazz Music released in 1979, on the Canadian label Rota Enterprises label and produced by the Just Brothers, this is a track you wonder how you’ve lived without it. It almost explodes into life. Percussion, handclaps, a driving rhythm section, chiming guitars and jazz-tinged keyboards join together and take you on melodic, musical journey. Jazz, soul, funk and Latin music unite as one, taking you on a seven minute journey of discovery. Irresistibly catchy, hypnotic and guaranteed to get you on your way to Disco Heaven 127, that’s what this track is.

July saw the release of Bara Brost’s second album Kokolores, which opens with  The Gunman. It features a vocal from Conan Kowalski. His wistful, melancholy vocal is perfect for the track’s haunting, thoughtful lyrics. They set you thinking. Who is this flawed character that Conrad sings about? He deliver his vocal against a backdrop of meandering, melodic synths and keyboards. Then, Bara Brost throw their first curve-ball of Kokolores. His vocal gives way to crunchy hypnotic beats, while waves of synths, hissing hi-hats and percussion provide a backdrop that’s variously light, melodic, hypnotic and infectiously catchy. Now Bara Brost have your attention, they hold it for the rest of their First Trip.

Boddhi Satva’s Invocation wasn’t just one of my favorite albums of 2012 from BBE Music, but one of my albums of the year. Nankoumandjan, is track from Invocation, and was recently released as a six-track E.P. This is the original version of the track, which featured on Boddhi’s album Invocation. Nankoumandjan features Mangala Camara, from Kaye in Mali a former protege of Salif Keita. This is a track that features some glorious rhythms, that reveal themselves during the track. Powerful drumming, percussion, bursts of squelchy synths and of course the impassioned and emotive vocal of Mangala Camara. His voice has a compelling and spiritual quality, on a track that has a real African roots sound, augmented by synths. There’s a joyous and uplifting quality to what is an epic track one that lasting seven epic minutes.

Dark Room Notes released Baby Don’t Hurt Me No More a single in early March 2012. It was one of the highlights of their album Dark Room Notes. With a combination of synths and pounding drums the track opens. Soon, they give way to an ethereal female and louder male vocal. Taken together, they sound a bit like New Order, more so with the wash of synths and drums that accompany them. If you shut your eyes, you think its Barney and Gillian from New Order. All that’s missing is Hooky’s trademark bass. What they do have, are two aces up their sleeve. These are the dual guitars. They’re quick, chiming brightly, while drums pound and bright synths are key to the track’s success. Add to this an atmospheric vocal and the result is a glorious, quite joyful sounding track.

June 2012 saw the release of Mathias Stubo’s eponymous sophomore album. Those High Frequency Feelings is track from Mathias Stubo. It’s a fusion of sounds and styles that from the opening bars. It grabs your attention and doesn’t let go until the closing notes. Think funk, jazz, Latin, broken beat and even early noughties Nu-Jazz all combined in one bubbling melting pot. Stabs of horns, a proliferation of percussion, bursts of a driving funk drenched rhythm section that give way, to stabs of rasping jazzy horns while synths reverberate above the arrangement. Burst of vocal and drums that add drama. There’s so much going on that you daren’t blink, for fear of missing something. It’s a frantic, compelling and complex combination of sounds. Mathias has a used an eclectic palette of sounds and influences, painting them on with bold brush strokes, resulting in a quite fantastic sonic canvas, where the more you listen the more you hear, and the better it gets.

Los Transatlanticos released First Trip in August 2012. Donde Esta Marie is a joyful explosion of uplifting, feel-good music. This is music for the heart, feet and soul. For just under three irresistible minutes, the music sweeps you along in its pounding, impassioned wake. A proliferation of percussion and pounding drums are key to the glorious rhythms that unfold. Meanwhile, a punchy joyous vocal and a a frantic piano solo combine, before later, stabs of blazing horns join the party. When this is all combined the result is glorious, passionate track to lose yourself in, one that’s for the heart, the feet and very definitely, the soul.

DJ Vadim’s Don’t Be Scared was released back in October 2012, and saw the John Coltrane of hip hop joined by a cast of guest artists, including Jman. It’s Jman’s vocal that helps the track burst dramatically into life. Against the sound of crackly vinyl, Jman’s punchy, energetic vocal pogoes across the arrangement. For company it has thunderous drums. Soon hip hop meets drum and bass, as Jman furiously lays down a rap at breakneck speed. As drums, synths and percussion accompany him, you realize it’s impossible to keep still. Truly, it’s an explosion of emotion, drama and energy where DJ Vadim and Jman rewrite hip hop rules. Not only that, but DJ Vadim the veteran producer and DJ proves his music is just as relevant and innovative as back in the early days of hip hop.

BBE Music rereleased Newban’s two albums Newban and Newban 2 in October 2012. Both albums are real hidden gems. Free Your Mind, from Newban 2,  is a jazz track that could only have been recorded in the seventies. It has that unmistakable sound. There are further similarities with the music of Jon Lucien, Andy Bey and even Gil Scott Heron. When the guitar accompanies the tender, impassioned vocal it’s almost like finding a lost track from Jon Lucien. Soon, percussion and the rhythm section join as the arrangement begins to reveal its secrets and beauty. Later, Newban’s horn section add blazing horns that could only belong on a seventies jazz album. They drift in and out, adding drama while percussion and guitars add subtle contrasts, and the rest of Newban chant “Free Your Mind.” By then the arrangement is laid-back and mellow, reminiscent of something from the late sixties. Then stabs of growling horns bring the Newban to a dramatic and compelling conclusion.

The last track from The Best of BBE 2012 is from the JohNick compilation You Know How We Dew, which was released in August 2012. On it was Major Sea, a track from JohNick’s The Bay Ridge EP 2, released in 1992. When I started listening to the track, I recognized the sample JohNick used straight away. It’s from Cerrone Love In C Minor. Finding the right sample and using properly are two very different things, and JohNick put the sample to good use. Only fifteen-seconds of reverberating drums have elapsed before the sensuous sample is introduced. Cerrone’s growling horns, cascading strings, layers of keyboards and percussion are added to the drums that dramatically drive the track along. Having found the perfect sample, JohNick use it brilliantly. It’s at the heart of the track, as they unleash wave upon wave of dramatic, hypnotic pounding music, music that’s guaranteed to liven up any dance-floor.

Choosing just ten of the tracks on The Best of BBE 2012 to mention wasn’t easy, so goodness knows how the compiler narrowed down 2012’s releases to just fifteen tracks. Indeed, I could just have chosen Jean Wells’ Have A Little Mercy, Visioneers’ Swahililand or More Like Trees’ The Night from The Best of 2012. What The Best of BBE 2012 does show, is the consistent quality of music BBE Music releases. They’re not in the habit of releasing inferior music. Instead, they concentrate on releasing innovative, eclectic music that showcases new and established artists. They seem to constantly scour the globe, searching for new artists. 2012 saw them release music from artists based in Africa, Europe and South American. What’s more, they rereleased forgotten gems like Sandy Barber’s The Best Is Yet To Come, which is one of my favorite rereleases of 2012. It seems whether its new music, music from established artists, rereleases or compilations, BBE Music have  surpassed themselves. Beating 2012 for quality will be difficult for BBE Music, but I’m sure they’ll rise to the challenge. While other labels have struggled to adapt to the ever-changing musical landscape, BBE Music haven’t stood still. They’ve risen to challenge and become of the UK’s best and most respected independent labels. The music BBE Music have released is proof of this, as The Best of BBE 2012 which will be released on 3rd December 2012 shows. All I can say is let’s have more of the same in 2013 BBE Music. Standout Tracks: Sandy Barber I Think I’ll Do Some Stepping On My Own, Boddhi Satva Nankoumandjan, Newban Free Your Mind and JohNick Major Sea.



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