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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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SHAKATAK

Invitations

Vocalion CDSML 8461

 

 


1. Invitations
2. I Lose Myself
3. Lonely Afternoon
4. Steppin' Out
5. Stranger
6. Usual Situation
7. Sol Fuego
8. In Shadows
9. Invitations (Version)
10. I Lose Myself (Re-mix)
11. In Shadows

Bill Sharpe - Keyboards
Nigel Wright - Keyboards
Keith Winter - Guitars
George Anderson Jr. - Bass guitar
Roger Odell - Drums
Jill Saward, Jackie Rawe, Tracy Ackerman - Vocals
Dick Morrissey - Sax
Simon Morton - Percussion

 

I have already confessed my liking for Shakatak, however unfashionable it may be to admire a jazz-funk group. This album comes from the same year (1982) as the one I reviewed previously (Night Birds) and it has many of the same qualities. In other words, if you enjoyed that one, you'll enjoy this. It seems to have been out-of-print for some while, judging from the high prices asked for original copies on the internet, which is why we can be grateful to Michael J. Dutton of Vocalion Records for skilfully remastering it and making it freely available again.

Oliver Lomax's informative sleeve-note refers to one source of the band's strength: keyboardist Bill Sharpe's memorable tunes, of which lyricist Roger Odell said: "The melodies are always very catchy, chord sequences are always nice". In fact Bill Sharpe's piano playing is one reason for jazz fans to enjoy Shatatak's music, as he produces well-constructed solos as well as writing sweet but jazz-infused melodies which are immediately unforgettable.

Another reason for liking this band is its tight funkiness. One has only to hear on YouTube some of the amateur attempts at Shakatak tunes to realise how much the band contributes to their success. George Anderson Jr.'s slapped bass guitar drives the band along, with help from Roger Odell's samey but propulsive drumming (why so much use of off-beat handclaps?). And it is noticeable that the band used such jazzmen as Dick Morrissey and Simon Morton to add to the authentic jazz feel.

All these qualities are evident right from the start of this album, with the title-track containing glittering piano from Bill Sharpe, infectious riffs, and vocals which put more meaning into the lyrics than is actually there. I Lose Myself is notable for Anderson's strong punchy bass and Keith Winter's fine guitar solo. Lonely Afternoon is a moody piece sung by guest vocalist Tracy Ackerman and lifted by the passionate saxophone of Dick Morrissey. Sol Fuego benefits from solos by Winter and Morrissey. In Shadows is virtually a mini-concerto, played by Bill Sharpe on piano and synthesiser.

The original album is supplemented by the last three tracks, which come from 12-inch singles. Invitations (Version) deletes the vocals and consists mainly of Bill Sharpe's Fender Rhodes solo, while the alternative version of In Shadows removes the synthesiser so that you can savour the piano alone.

Shakatak is still hugely popular in Japan - a market for which the band records an album every year to meet a demand which, sadly, seems less evident in Britain.

Tony Augarde



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