Good Times 4

by: Joey & Norman Jay MBE

Despite React Music's wrongful death and eventual rollover into Resist Music, the Good Times series continues in good time with its fourth volume, released -- as always -- to coincide with London's Notting Hill Carnival. Joey and Norman Jay pull from five decades of music on two discs, embracing the old and new, regardless of style. It probably can't compete with the experience of being in the multiracial carnival crowd, hearing the brothers' happy songs blare from the double-decker Good Times bus -- but there's little doubt that it can generate enough warm energy to thaw the souls of the igloo-bound. Like the late BBC DJ John Peel, the Jays' eclectic spirit is neither showy nor smug, directed instead by pure music-loving whims. They're not trying to impress or one-up -- they're playing songs they want to share, and they do so in a format that is the antithesis of the modern-day DJ mix, in which only one moment in time from one substyle is captured. These songs might make more sense together if they were arranged chronologically, but part of the appeal of the series has to do with its grab bag setup; the Jays are possibly realistic enough to acknowledge that most listeners won't attach to every selection, so they present them in a manner conducive to dipping in wherever and bouncing around. The ARP-heavy "Sweet Power You Embrace," James Mason's dancefloor jazz fusion stormer from 1977, has probably made a few record collectors sell back their well-meaning-but-woefully-inferior acid jazz records. Two tips of the hat are given to the System, one of the great production teams of the '80s; Jeff Lorber's "Best Part of the Night" and the duo's own "I Can't Take Losing You" (both 1984), demonstrate how machines can generate as much feeling as a guitar or piano. Jakki's "You Are the Star," an overlooked single from 1976 that features work from remix pioneer Tom Moulton, is one of the many examples of disco's original status as an extension of soul, as opposed to bastard crass-pop novelty. To give you a better idea of the breadth at play, the earliest pick is Mel Tormé's "Comin' Home Baby," from 1962, while 2004 is the most represented year. Packaged with as much care as the preceding three volumes, Good Times 4 comes a few months after the first volume of Norman's Giant 45 series -- the first in a proposed trilogy of compilations devoted to providing a portable companion for those who are unable to catch his BBC program of the same name. That is just as recommendable as this. ~ Andy Kellman

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