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Album Review

The veteran instrumental/vocal foursome have come up with the kind of album that radio programmers can have a field day with. On the instrumental side, there are tons of grand variety — everything from a slamming retro-soul meets hip-hop explosion on "Space Dance" (which features a lighthearted Bill Sharpe with a piano melody amidst the futuristic shenanigans and crunchy George Anderson bass groove) to funky modern samba ("Nova Bossa," anyone?). Vocalist Jill Saward has a dreamy yet powerful voice reminiscent of Corrine Drewery (from Swing Out Sister), and she makes even the corniest cliché sound like a passionate power play on songs like "Magic." "Move a Little Closer" has her and two female backing vocalists soaring heartily over punchy retro-soul bass-and-drum grooves. The sweet little title "Sundown" belies that tune's innovative sonic progression in which Sharpe varies his synth tones from electric piano to spacy textures and hypnotic piano harmonies. Ironically, the least original piece here, a note-for-note cover of Boz Scaggs' "Lowdown," allows Shakatak and guest saxist and flutist Dave Bishop to show some of their best teamwork. The verses and choruses switch off between Sharpe's electric piano and Bishop's flute riffs; Bishop's flute mimics the flute on the original, while the bridge of the song is all sax. Magic isn't the most original title, but it fits the ensemble vibe and varied energy of the disc perfectly.


Formed: 1980 in London, England

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s

British jazz-funk combo Shakatak formed in London in 1980. Originally comprising keyboardists Bill Sharpe and Nigel Wright, guitarist Keith Winter, bassist Steve Underwood, and drummer Roger Odell, the group quickly scored an underground hit with its debut single "Steppin'," cracking the British Top 50 the following year with the singles "Livin' in the UK" and "Brazilian Dawn." Their debut LP, Drivin' Hard, was also well-received, and with the 1982 follow-up Nightbirds, Shakatak (which replaced Underwood...
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Magic, Shakatak
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