Various Artists

Bad Education, Vol. 1: "Soul Hits" of Timmion Records

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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek

Daptone Records takes its longstanding kinship with Finland's Timmion label to the next level with Bad Education, Vol. 1. Daptone distributes the label stateside and assists in extending its creative reach. In turn, the folks at Timmion provide advocacy and support for the New York label's artists when they tour Europe.

This ten-song set was curated and compiled by the American label's staff. A host of American artists are in the mix, beginning with Carlton Jumel Smith, whose "This Is What Love looks Like" is also the opening track from his killer debut album, 1634 Lexington Avenue. Backed by Timmion's virtuoso house band Cold Diamond & Mink, it's a mad, deep, uptown soul jam. It's followed by Texas-born, California-raised balladeer Jonny Benavidez's emotionally charged episode in falsetto glory, "Tell Me That You Love Me." It is so powerfully soulful it doesn't matter that Benavidez slips slightly off-key a couple of times. Its rawness emerges from a commitment to spontaneity and focus; it's a defining performance for both artist and label. Three tracks feature backing from the Soul Investigators. When Timmion set up shop with its own studio in 2009, these aces served as its house band and still exist, albeit in an evolved form. "Paint Me in a Corner" by ex-pat American singer Nicole Willis appeared on their 2015 full-length collaboration Happiness in Every Style. Trombonist/flutist Ernie Hawkins teams with the Soul Investigators on "Scorpio Walk," a panoramic slice of funky, psychedelic, break-laden soul-jazz that evokes the early-'70s Blaxploitation soundtrack scene. It feels like Isaac Hayes' Shaft score welded to J.J. Johnson's for Across 110th Street, played by a combo of the Bar-Kays and the Funk Brothers. The sultry, gospel-tinged soul on Wanda Felicia's stirring "Until You're Mine" stands apart from her abundant work in house music and nu-jazz; it features a killer horn chart from Cold Diamond & Mink. The tight snare and kick drum breaks that introduce Bolivian singer Bobby Oroza's "This Love, Pt. 1 -- originally issued by Timmion's Stylart imprint -- slowly, sensually glide into luscious uptown soul as guitars and a Hammond B-3 hover above the beat to frame his haunting vocal. Bardo Martinez (lead singer of Chicano Batman) and the Soul Investigators deliver a dose of heady, finger-popping Afro-Latin soul on "Bad Education," another set standout. Helsinki native Emilia Sisco has been wowing audiences for close to a decade on Finland's jazz and blues scenes. Here, her debut single, "Don’t Believe You Like That," registers the same emotional heft and soulful depth as Esther Phillips' Kudu dates from the mid-'70s; Sisco delivers lyrics with elasticity and authority atop Cold Diamond & Mink. They coax her elegantly wrought vocal to the fore and set it free. For previously uninitiated soul music fans, Bad Education, Vol. 1 is a fantastic introduction to the depth and breadth of the Timmion sound. Even collectors, who more than likely already own these singles individually, will enjoy this 34-minute comp as a gem-laden, sometimes sublime, playlist.

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