Various Artists

Simply Good Music, Vol. 1

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AllMusic Review by

Simply Good Music is a fitting title for this compilation of tracks from the Giant Step stable, headed by tastemaker Maurice Bernstein. Few of the 14 songs fit neatly into any category of music; they all incorporate a wealth of soul, an underlying sense of electronica, a knack for jazz-funk, and an occasional foray into other Afro-associated styles like hip-hop, dancehall, urban, broken beat, and so on, incorporating artists from both sides of the Atlantic. So, yeah, categorizing this compilation is pointless -- like trying to pigeonhole the Giant Step label itself -- so it's best to just call it what it is: simply good music, as Bernstein himself terms it. And damn good it is, with practically every inclusion being worthy of merit -- top-notch tracks by top-shelf artists. The highlights are many, beginning with the opener, a new track by Esthero, "O.G. Bitch." Bernstein really has a place in his heart for this Canadian vocalist, and he happily trumpets her return to the recording arena. It's nice to hear her back in the game with such a standout song, this one with a dancehall feel opposed to the drum'n'bass flirtations of her past. Simply Good Music then proceeds to run through a number of well-known artists who gravitate within the orbit of Giant Step. British rappers Ty and Roots Manuva both turn in lively numbers; "Refugee" by Oi Va Voi is a showstopper, for sure; soul singer Aya brings the album to a slow groove halfway through with "Do What You Want"; Sara Devine then picks up the pace with "Take Me Home," before Amp Fiddler ushers in the amazing finale of Simply Good Music with one of the best songs from his unanimously acclaimed Waltz of a Ghetto Fly album, "I Believe in You." Another Detroit artist, Carl Craig, follows with his techno-dancehall remix of Zap Mama's "Bandy Bandy," which boasts a vocal contribution from the one and only Erykah Badu. A pair of Bugz in the Attic-style broken beat numbers follow -- by Agent K and DKD -- before Simply Good Music comes to an especially powerful conclusion with Danny Krivit's eight-minute edit of RSL's "Wesley Music," yet another of the many tracks here that should leave you simply awestruck. So, as you can see, there's no shortage of quality inclusions. If anything, Giant Step could have rolled out a double disc. There's not a moment of filler on Simply Good Music, and you're left hoping the "Volume One" subtitle is an accurate indicator of more to come. This one isn't just for the Straight No Chaser readership, or the folks who devoutly attend Sunday mass at Body & Soul; this is a compilation that should delight anyone with a taste for good music with a soulful yet forward-looking Afro aesthetic that will lift you to your feet without fail. Fresh, a very fresh sampler.

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