This double disc compilation is a truly international project featuring various artists working under the ‘37th State’ appellation. With the likes of Tony Allen, Dele Sosimi, Slum Village, Terri Walker and Keziah Jones on board, the listener travels sonically from Africa to the US stopping off frequently in the UK.
Judging from the colourful illustrations of an airport-based party depicted in the artwork, this intercontinental flavour was always the intention. It’s good to see acclaimed non-mainstream UK wordsmith’s such as Ty, Breis and Lyric L getting a look-in too.
Inspired by the South African World Cup and the spate of 50th Anniversary of Independence celebrations across the continent last year, 37th State is a tribute of sorts to Afrobeat and its progenitor Fela Kuti. You can hear it in the bold horn arrangements and unabashedly dirty funk.
37th State ft. Keziah Jones – “Fire”:
37th State ft. Terri Walker x Slum Village – “Leaving With You”:
Tony Allen’s ‘Best Bet’ keeps up the funky standard as does, to a lesser extent, Keziah Jones ‘Invisible Hands’. More stand out moments come in the form of Giffy’s ‘Searching’, the humorous if slightly twee ‘Ladies UK’ about a post-club encounter that goes horribly (and deservedly) wrong for the lothario in question and belle of the ball, ‘BombayJazz’ by the mysterious 37th State band. This number in particular highlights disc one’s main attraction; its musicians.
Often the instrumentation is far more appealing than what is performed over it. Besides the obvious high pedigree of musicians on the record, it’s hard to feel little more than indifferent towards disc one.
The contributions by Breis and Lyric L for instance, don’t quite live up to expectations. The rest of the album goes through the motions. Still without the former, there wouldn’t be the latter and in this case the remix-heavy second disc makes for a more complete listening experience than its predecessor. It’s shorter for one thing and the tracks selected for remixing are some of the strongest.
The one and only original song is yet another yummy instrumental -‘Found’ – by the 37th State band. The Jimmy Douglas mix of ‘Not Leaving Wit Cha’ is all dramatic synth strings, breathy vocals from the versatile Ms Walker and other hallmarks of your average pop/R&B club hit of the current era.
Ge-ology’s Remix 1 of Ty’s ‘All Get Down’ is full of the kind of old school charm that makes it an ideal house party jam; much more memorable than the original. However, it’s the various remixes of Keziah Jones’ ‘Invisible Hands’ that dominate disc two. The song lends itself very well to the four-to-the-floor treatment of a decent soulful house remix as is provided more than once by Greg Cerrone.