Norman Jay Presents MBE Mister Good Times.

Label: Sunday Best Recordings.

At this time of year, a countless compilations are reissued by hopeful record companies looking for what could well be the start of a long and successful compilation series. This could be the cash cow that provides them with a steady income stream for many years to come. For the majority of record companies, their dreams are dashed and it’s a case of back to the drawing board. That is apart from the lucky few who have hit the jackpot in the compilation stakes. This includes Norman Jay who has just released Mister Good Times via Sunday Best Recordings. It’s the eleventh instalment in the Good Times compilation series, and is another reminder of the music that Norman Jay’s Good Times’ sound system will playing at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival.

Norman Jay has been DJ-ing at the Notting Hill Carnival since 1981, and thirty-six years later, his Good Times’ sound system continues to provide the soundtrack to what’s one of London’s most eagerly awaited events. Each year, Norman Jay entertains the crowds with an eclectic mix of the music that he loves, including disco, Philly Soul, reggae, nineties hip hop and funk. This is also the music that has been featuring on the Good Times’ compilations since 2000.

That was when Good Times With  Joey and Norman Jay was released on the Nuphonic label. So successful was the compilation, that a second instalment was commissioned. Good Times 2 With  Joey and Norman Jay was released by Nuphonic in 2001 and replicated the success of the first instalment in the series. It looked as if the Joey and Norman Jay had struck gold in the crowded and competitive compilation market.

When Joey and Norman Jay Present Good Times 3 was released in 2003, it was on the React label. Sadly, the Nuphonic label had ceased trading in 2002 leaving the Jays to find a new home for their Good Times compilation. When Joey and Norman Jay Present Good Times 3 was released in August 2003, it was another success story in what was an increasingly competitive compilation market.

After the release of the third instalment in the Good Times series, again disaster struck for Joey and Norman Jay. React went into voluntary administration and the Jays were looking for a new label for the Good Times series.

The Jays decided to sign to Resist, which was the replacement company for React Music Limited. This became home for the Good Times’ series for the next three years. Joey and Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times 4 was released in August 2004, with Joey and Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times 5 (Silver Jubilee Edition) following  in August 2005. Still the compilations featured an eclectic selection of music that reflected what the Jay brothers were about to spin at the forthcoming Notting Hill Carnival. 

When the sixth instalment in the Good Times series was announced in 2006, there was no sign of Joey Jay. Instead, the newest addition to the series had been compiled by Norman Jay. This was a risky, as Good Times was a successful and long-funning compilation series. Was it a case of two heads are better than one?

Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times 6 was released on React in August 2006, and was the start of a new era for this long-running series. This latest addition to the series was the most eclectic so far, with Norman Jay took listeners on a musical adventure that was spread across two discs and three slabs of vinyl. Despite his best efforts, some critics wondered if Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times 6 lived up to the previous instalments in the series? Maybe it was a step to far for the Good Times’ series?

Despite this, Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times 7 (Let The Good Times Roll) was released in August 2007, and announced the forthcoming arrival of the Notting Hill Carnival in London. It was the most eclectic of the series so far, and featured everything from soul, folk and funk to disco and Philly Soul plus easy listening, jazz, punk, reggae, hip hop and house. Critics thought that Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times 7 (Let The Good Times Roll) was an improvement on its predecessor, and brought to an end the Resist years.

By 2008, Good Times which was the one of the longest running British compilation series, and had found a new home at British house label Azuli. Just like previous volumes, Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times London would be a two CD set. Compiling a two CD set each year isn’t easy for one person. It was easier when Joey and Norman Jay had compiled the first five Good Times series. Since then, the series seemed to have lost its sheen. Maybe this would change with the release of the eighth instalment in the series?

Azuli released Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times London in August 2008, which was another uber eclectic two CD compilation. It was the most eclectic compilation in the series, and featured funk, jazz, jazz-funk, joined hip hop, house,Afrobeat, easy listening, reggae and soul. Norman Jay continued to eschew the obvious, and continued to combine deeper album cuts and hidden gems on the eighth instalment in the Good Times series since 2008. Sadly, it was a good, but not great addition to the Good Times series, which had become an annual event.

The following year, 2009, Norman Jay didn’t return with the ninth instalment in the series. The last three instalments in the series hadn’t quite matched quality of the first five instalments in the Good Times series. This could be traced to the loss of Joey Jay. Since then, it was as if Norman Jay was trying too hard to create an eclectic mix of music. Maybe it was time to back to basics, and combine old favourites with hidden gems?

That was what Joey and Norman Jay had done so successfully on the first couple of volumes of the Good Times’ series. Maybe if Norman Jay looked to the past, he would find the answer to his problems?

Three years passed before Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times (30th Anniversary Edition) was released on Strut in August 2011. Unlike previous instalments in the series, volume nine featured eighteen tracks spread across one CD. This was something that he should’ve done a couple of years ago. With just eighty minutes available Norman Jay had to separate the wheat from the chaff as he returned to his trademark sound. For much of Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times (30th Anniversary Edition) the emphasis was on quality on a compilation that focused on funk, soul, disco, reggae, hip hop and soul. It was an improvement on the last couple of volumes in the Good Times’ series. 

Another four years passed before Norman Jay MBE Presents Skank and Boogie (Good Times) was released in August 2015. This was the tenth volume in the Good Times’ series. It was no longer an annual event, and instead, was an occasional series. This time around, the focus was on boogie, disco, funk, reggae and soul, which was a much narrower and focused selection of music than had appeared on volumes six to eight. Norman Jay’s decision to stick to his trademark sound paid off, and Norman Jay MBE Presents Skank and Boogie (Good Times) was well received by critics.

Two years later, and Norman Jay MBE Presents Mister Good Times was released just in time for this year’s Notting Hill Carnival. Just like the last two instalments in the series, the eighteen tracks are spread across just one disc. There’s contributions from Vicki Sue Robinson, Esther Phillips, Loleatta Holloway, The Whispers,  Barry White, The Ides Of March, Young Disciples and Aretha Franklin on Norman Jay MBE Presents Mister Good Times.

In 1976, American actress and disco diva Vicki Sue Robinson released her eponymous debut album on RCA Victor. By then, she was thirty-two and was better known as an actress than a singer. She was a star of stage and film, but was one of a number of actors who jumping onboard the disco bandwagon. Many were trying to revive failing or flagging careers and would later regret their dalliance with disco. However, Vicki Sue Robinson was a talented singer who embraced her new role as disco diva. She was helped by producer Warren Schatz, who put together a talented band, plugs horns, strings and backing vocalists. They accompany Vicki Sue Robinson on her cover of Bobby Womack’s Daylight. It becomes a soulful and hook-laden slice of disco and sets the bar high on Norman Jay MBE Presents Mister Good Times.

By 1976, the hits were starting to dry up for The Main Ingredient who were led by Bert DeCoteaux. To make matters worse, The Main Ingredient’s most recent album were no longer selling in the same quantities. Their eighth album, Shame on the World was released in 1975, but failed to replicate the success of Rolling Down A Mountainside. The problem for groups like The Main Ingredient was disco. Suddenly, many record buyers who previously bought soul and funk albums, were turning their attention to disco. That was why when Instant Love was released in 1976, it stalled at ninety-six in the US R&B charts. It was penned by Jacqueline Hilliard and Leon Ware, with Cuba Gooding and Luther Simmons taking charge of production. They’re responsible for a smooth, soulful and funky hidden gem that is a welcome addition to the compilation.

In 1979, Esther Phillips became the latest artist to jump onboard the disco bandwagon when she released Our Day Will Come on Mercury Records. It was a track from Here’s Esther…Are You Ready which was also released on Mercury Records. Drummer Harvey Mason produced the album and adds horns, harmonies and strings to Our Day Will Come, which is a soulful, funky slice of disco Esther Phillips.

Although Loleatta Holloway’s career began in the early seventies, she first came to prominence at Aware Records between 1973 and 1975. That was when many people first heard Loleatta Holloway singing Southern Soul. By 1980, she was still signed to Norman Harris’ Philly-based Gold Mind Records. Love Sensation was the fourth label Loleatta Holloway released for Gold Mind Records, and was her sixth and final album. One of the highlights of Love Sensation was the Bobby and Cecil Womack composition Short End of the Stick. It was arranged and produced by Bobby Womack and Patrick Moten, and finds Loleatta Holloway combining power, passion and emotion on a song that marries disco and soul seamlessly.

When The Whispers released Whisper In Your Ear on Solar, in 1979, it was the eight album of their career. One of the album’s highlights was Homemade Lovin’ which was penned by Leon Sylvers. It’s a glorious and memorable fusion of soul, funk, disco and even proto-boogie as The Whispers roll back the years.

Between 1973 and 1979, Barry White could do wrong, and enjoyed a glittering career. His albums were certified silver, gold and platinum on both sides of the Atlantic. However, after 1979, the hits dried up for Barry Whites and his albums were no longer selling in vast quantities. As a result, Barry White decided to enlist the help of a number of producers for his 1994 album The Icon Is Love, including Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. They wrote I Only Want to Be With You with Barry White, and then Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis took charge of production on this sensual bedroom ballad. It’s one of the highlights of The Icon Is Love which was released in October 1994. It reached number twenty on the US Billboard 200, topped the US R&B charts and was certified double platinum. With his first number one album in sixteen years and the biggest selling album of his career, Barry White was back after two decades away.

In 1969, Swedish jazz guitarist and composer Rune Gustafsson released his sophomore album Rune At The Top on the Metronome label. It featured a selection of well known songs, including California Soul. It’s given a twist by Rune Gustafsson who became one of Sweden’s leading jazz guitarists and composers. Sadly, he passed away in 2012 aged seventy-nine. 

The Young Disciples were a short-lived acid jazz group who were together in the early nineties. Their music was inspired by funk, soul, hip hop, R&B, gospel, and dub. Proof of this Get Yourself Together which the Young Disciples released as a single on Talkin’ Loud in 1990. A year later, Get Yourself Together featured on the Young Disciples’ debut album Road To Freedom. It’s one of the finest moments of Carleen Anderson and Company’s career.

After leaving The Temptations, singer and songwriter Eddie Kendricks embarked upon a solo career at Tamla. His debut album All By Myself was released in 1971, and five years later, Eddie Kendricks was still signed to Tamla. He went into Sigma Sound Studio in Philly, hoping that producer Norman Harris could revive his career. Joining Norman Harris and Eddie Kendricks were many former members of MFSB and the Sweethearts Of Sigma, who were now playing an important part in the rise and rise of The Salsoul Orchestra. The resultant album He’s A Friend reached thirty-eight in the US Billboard 200 and three on the US R&B charts. It also featured four hits singles and one was one Eddie Kendricks’ most successful albums on Tamla. One of the hidden gems on He’s A Friend is the penultimate track On My Way Home which is a reminder of the late, great Eddie Kendricks as he reinvents himself with the help of Norman Harris and a few friends. 

Reggae has always played a part on the Good Times’ series since the early days. So it’s no surprise that Slim Smith and The Uniques’ Build My World Around You features on Norman Jay Presents MBE Mister Good Times. It was released on the Lee’s label in 1968, and  a soulful slice of rocksteady from Slim Smith and The Uniques.

Closing Norman Jay Presents MBE Mister Good Times is what should be an anthemic track, I’m Every Woman. Sadly, Norman Jay hasn’t chosen the original, and instead, has included Aretha Franklin’s cover of I’m Every Woman. It’s taken from the album Sings The Great Diva Classics which was released on RCA in 2014. Sadly, it’s a long way from classic Aretha Franklin. The gospel tinged backing vocals can only carry her so far. After that, one of the worst versions of I’m Every Woman that has been ever recorded unfolds. Throughout the song, Aretha Franklin tries and fails desperately to ‘get down with the kids’ by hollering pump up the groove. This is tedious in the extreme, and adds to a woeful cover of what should be a soul classic. Unfortunately, not the way Aretha Franklin sings it. This is a disappointing way to close  Norman Jay Presents MBE Mister Good Times.

Having said that, Norman Jay Presents MBE Mister Good Times is much better than some of the previous instalments in this long-running series. It seems things are improving for the Good Times’ series. 

The series seemed to lose its way after Joey Jay’s departure from the partnership. Left to his own devices, Norman Jay seemed to try too hard to create a trio uber eclectic compilations. If they had been condensed onto one disc, then they would’ve been among the best in the Good Times’ series. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and this trio of sprawling compilations weren’t o the standard of the first five volumes in the series. 

Things improved when the Good Times’ series found a new home at Strut. No longer was the Good Times’ series a two CD set, and eighteen tracks featured on Norman Jay MBE Presents Good Times (30th Anniversary Edition). With its mixture of disco, funk, hip hop, reggae and soul, it showcased Norman Jay’s trademark sound. So did the followup Norman Jay MBE Presents Skank and Boogie (Good Times) in August 2015. Now two years later, and Norman Jay Presents MBE Mister Good Times was released via Sunday Best Recordings. It’s the eleventh volume in the series, and is just three tracks short of being an excellent compilation. 

Without the occasional predictable track and a couple of tracks that just don’t make the grade, Norman Jay Presents MBE Mister Good Times would be one of the best compilations of the summer.  Sadly, that isn’t the case. However, there’s plenty of soulful, funky and dance-floor friendly music on Norman Jay Presents MBE Mister Good Times which is a taste of the type of music Norman Jay will be playing early in the day at the Notting Hill Carnival as he gets the party started.

Norman Jay Presents MBE Mister Good Times.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: