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SOUTHSIDE Southside United Vol.1 AB-FAB AB CD 007 (2007)

Recorded back in 1998, this Southside compilation CD compilation represents the best of what in the previous two decades had been a burgeoning South London live music scene. And 'Southside United Vol. 1' comprises 23 musicians who are rumly credited as 'playing variously' by drummer and project co-ordinator Dick Lovejoy. 9 years on, the album sounds jus as essential as it did at the time of its original release.

As the informative liner notes remind us Southside was originally conceived as a quartet with a rhythm section of Dick on drums and Roger Sutton on bass - soon to be replaced by Ian Ellis - and fronted by Geraint Watkins, and featuring Jimmy Roche on guitar.

Before too long the mothership Southside became a home for many after hours sessions featuring the cream of South London's music scene, which included such stalwarts as the late great Steve Waller, Little Stevie Smith, pianist Diz Watson who stepped in when Geraint was on tour, and of course an ever expanding magnificent horn section including Frank Mead, the two Nick's, Pentelow and Payne, Andy McDonald on baritone and John Eldred on trumpet. Then of course there was the reggae quotient courtesy care of Rasta Dubstar Chemist who doubles on Conga's and some fine toasting. In fact one of the album's highlights (and there are many) is an unlikely but magnificent fusion of genre's on a Skanked up version of Fats Domino's 'Oh What a Price', on which Chemist and Watkins swap vocal lines over a fulsome groove that features an effective coda.

Steve Waller brings his unique presence to the slow blues 'In the Dark' and adds a very original New Orleans arrangement to Willy Dixon's 'Bring It on Home', while Diane Wood adds a sensuous vocal on the Two Tone influenced single 'Softly Softly'. Not to be outdone the ubiquitous Watkins adds his own big band R&B arrangement on 'Heart To Heart' and Stevie Smith delivers a gritty harp led blues, on 'It Hurts Me To'.

There's some fine guitar led boogie on the Jimmy Roche penned, Jamie Rowan sung 'Blues Bug', and Ian Ellis once again impresses on his self penned 'Put the Blame on Me'.

To bring together such a huge undertaking in the first place is difficult enough and to manage to cobble together such a splendid recording from several 'down time' sessions is all the more laudable. Special mention therefore must be made to drummer and band leader Dick Lovejoy whose drive, vision, and unrelenting enthusiasm both saw this project to completion, and nearly a decade later he is once again rekindling some fresh spark from the same burning embers.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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