Album Review: The Souljazz Orchestra – Under Burning Sky [Strut Records]


The Souljazz Orchestra are back with their killer eighth studio album and have added some fearsome vintage synthesizer sounds to their trademark horn arrangements and earthy tropical sounds for maximum dancing impact. Think William Onyeabor meets Fela’s Afrika ‘70 with a splash of Creole flavours and you will have a feel for the Canadian‘s brand new journey into the tropical, soul and jazz styles. Packing a punch on the lyrical front too, they bring some timely social commentary with on-point observations that urge for progressive change.

Adding the sounds of ‘80s vintage synthesizers and drum machines to great effect, they bring electro, boogie and Lo-fi disco touches to their previous analogue sound.

Powering into the opening track with the socially conscious ‘Dog Eat Dog’, features vocals from Mabinuori Idowu and Philippe Lafrenière, and has a beautiful Afro-Disco groove. The track highlights the band’s great horn arrangements as well as castigating the powerful, unethical and corrupt.

‘Is Yeelyel’ is a funk-fuelled, disco synth, horn blasting ripper of a track which is a stunning rework of an obscure original by Somalian super group Dur-Dur Band. Next up is the French Antilles, Creole-influenced ‘Oublier Pour un Jour’, which has a beautiful swing and haunting vocals alongside the killer horn arrangements.

The band was nominated for a Canadian Juno Award for the third time in 2016 and will continue to win plaudits on this showing. The album has its obvious influences but the way in which the band seamlessly blends those influences into an uplifting and thoughtful album will make this a firm favourite amongst tropical music fans. When you add their pulsating live performances, you can understand why their saxophonist Ray Murray says: ‘Souljazz is more than just a band. For us, it’s a way of life’.

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