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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Night Birds

Vocalion CDSML 8446



  1. Night Birds
  2. Streetwalkin'
  3. Rio Nights
  4. Fly the Wind
  5. Easier Said Than Done
  6. Bitch to the Boys
  7. Light on my Life
  8. Takin' Off
  9. Go for It
  10. Fly the Wind

Bill Sharpe - Piano, Fender Rhodes, Oberheim OB-X, ARP Odyssey and Prophet 10 synthesisers
Nigel Wright - Fender Rhodes, Oberheim OB-X and Prophet 10 synthesisers, trombone
Keith Winter - Guitar
George Anderson - Bass guitar
Roger Odell - Drums
Simon Morton - Percussion
Jill Saward, Jackie Rawe. Lorna Bannon - Vocals
Dick Morrissey - tenor sax
Stuart Brooks - Trumpet

Surely Shakatak is a pop group, so what are they doing on a jazz site? They undoubtedly had several big pop hits, including three tracks from this album: Easier Said Than Done, Streetwalkin' and the title-track. But their style was jazz-funk, and the jazz element was particularly notable in the case of pianist Bill Sharpe, who wrote all the tunes on the album (with words by drummer Roger Odell). Another jazz presence is saxist Dick Morrissey, who is featured on Streetwalkin' and Light on my Life.

Bill Sharpe has an immense talent for writing catchy melodies but he is also a superb jazz pianist, which is why Shakatak was one of my favourite bands in the 1980s and I can still listen to them with pleasure today. Sharpe's compositions have a happy ambience: that inexplicable feelgood factor which makes popular music special. Like Stevie Wonder, Sharpe is a prodigal inventor of melodies - often throwing several into one tune. His piano solos on the title-track and Easier Said Than Done are collections of memorable tunes, well captured by the excellent production and recording.

The band had other strengths besides Bill Sharpe, including Keith Winter's versatile guitar (eloquent on Rio Nights and Takin' Off) and George Anderson's thrusting slap-bass, which potently propels the jazz-funk rhythms.

The album - the group's second - was originally released on the Polydor label in 1982, and this CD adds a couple of singles as the last two tracks. Incidentally, Shakatak got its name from Record Shack, a record shop which made the band's first single available through mail-order.

Admittedly the band had its weaknesses: primarily Roger Odell's simplistic lyrics, which often consisted of a single stanza endlessly repeated - and barely profound to start with. Odell's drumming also tends to be unimaginative, keeping to the same beat throughout a track. But you can overlook these flaws in the midst of the cheerful atmosphere and the richness of the compositions and solos. I know that some jazz purists will disapprove of my liking for Shakatak, but I am unrepentant.


Tony Augarde 

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