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June Evans - June Evans (Tambourine Party, 2017)

A tour de force from one of disco's most magnetic vocalists.

What a time to be alive. From left, right and centre, devoted diggers and labels come across timeless and sublime tunes, spanning all manner of genres and oddities. At times, its hard to keep up with the releases, from small to large labels, who churn out the goods at a high octane rate. Within those releases, some shine, some just exist for the historical value, and their significance to their respective genre. Some, however, you just smile and praise the fact that the songs have found their way into the collective conscience once again, and into the record bags of any disco deejay.

Tambourine Party’s release of ‘June Evans’ is just that. A timeless, joyous collection of beautifully delightful disco rarities and bangers, that have shaken many a dancefloor to their knees. Alongside that, a soulful collection of melodies compliment the groovers, creating a complete celebration of June Evan’s back catalogue (who never released a full album during the original releases of these tunes). Like a combination of the best of new disco from the 1980s, and the best of modern soul, Mrs Evans spans all this with ease, with an unreal voice a definite highlight, not to mention the undeniable groove level of this most impressive of reissues.

‘If you want my loving’ introduces the listener to her world; a slapping, funkin, triumph, a song to start the fire burning for any manner of set (this author saw its power at Dekmantel Soundsystem at Kelburn, truly for the gods). Ambient synths pump up the tires, before drums suddenly bring in a pulsating bass line, that works so wonderfully with Evan’s soaring voice. The balance here is perfect, whereas many contemporary tunes of the same genre sounded all a bit samey, the transitions, backing vocals and the standout use of synth lines make this track stand head and shoulders above the rest. This might explain its power over dance floors, its energy at level 10. In regards to the vocals, Evan’s voice is complimented by a series of backing lines that drive point the home of ‘if you want my loving’, just let me know, please? A utter delight, a iconic track, one for the ages. Up next, ‘Open your eyes’ is a subtle yet deadly modern soul groover, with instrumentals for days. Comprising almost absent vocal verses, where the groove just does its thing effortless, the choruses see the introduction of layered harmonies, and creates a delightful contrast to the straight up jacking intro track. Check the bass line on this one, and the relationship with the saxophone lead. ‘Hardly need to say’ remains one of Evan’s most renowned tracks. Another song in the modern soul mould, the high octane yet downtempo verse leads into a hypnotic chorus, where Evan’s vocals and the general vibe swirl and drain down into a mix of jazz fusion goodness. Think Patrice Rushden, George Benson, Harvey Mason, etc etc. This tune has it all. The jazzy break downs are such a surprise, the intricate twists and turns within this song are absolutely top draw. To top off the A side, a demo version of ‘Sore Loser’, showcases a intimate experimentation of Evans and her band, and caps off a perfect side that showcases all the talent of the singer.

Side B starts off with an instrumental of ‘If you want my loving’. In all fairness, I’m not sure if we had had enough quite yet. Displaying all the dub vibes of Levan’s finest, the backing vocals remain here, simmering away, and do a fantastic job at carrying the song through beautifully. Keys sound apparent, more drippy and deep, and it is a refreshing compliment to the vocal version. Up next, ‘Straight as an arrow’. A unique jammer, it has all the 80s hall marks; electronic drumming patterns, deep bass lines, sparse synths of varying styles and stabs. But the manner of the arrangement is so original, and the chorus packs an enormous punch, with the male vocal backing a perfect foil to Evans. The line just keeps on repeating, and the variations are so tight and life affirming. ‘Like it or not’ is again a high octane dance floor heater, with Evan’s voice floating along to chiming synth lines. A powerful mix, the groove just keeps on going, transitions remain at a premium but retain the dance. To cap it all off, another demo, ‘No one to love’, which has a male lead (perhaps Donald Harden Sr), it is a soft and emotive Ballard, sung with a high line, and remains so organic as to retain a cough and a raspberry.

In short, this collection represents one of the strongest releases of 2017, let alone in the disco category. Evan’s talents are on full display here, a superb soaring vocalist, who touched on the genres of the day and came out with a series of original and innovative sounding tunes. AN album that displays her vision impeccably, one that showcases feeling, depth, love, groove and desire. And a reissue that was desperately needed, not just to the diggers, but for the dancers and the lovers too. Take it away, Mrs Evans.

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