lordnewbornI’m very much a fan of Shawn Lee’s work, so the idea of a collaboration between him, Money Mark and Tommy Guerrero sounded pretty great. And having now heard the results, I was not let down. The record features twelve tracks, largely instrumental, and is an eclectic, highly addictive and utterly entertaining mix of jazz, funk, soul, electronica and prog rock, with an array of world music influences added here and there, and there are some video game music and sounds to boot. The recording session for Lord Newborn and the Magic Skulls lasted just two weeks at Money Mark’s Los Angeles studio, amazing considering no aspect of the album seems tossed off or otherwise rushed. There is a sense of fun and playfulness about the whole proceedings, which adds to the enjoyment. If some of it sounds like elements of a soundtrack to a film you think you might have seen, it’s because all the composers have done film work. (Lee also scored the video game Bully.) Recommended for fans of the individual artist, and for those looking for moody, cool sounding theme music for their groovy lives. Standout cuts: “Astro Blue,” “Dime Bag Conspiracy,” “She’s My Melody” and “Crazy Apartment.”

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shawnleesoulintheholeIt’s good to be a fan of Shawn Lee, London based American multi-instrumentalist, since he’s prolific enough that each year brings at least two, sometimes three, Lee releases, some albums fully instrumental, some vocal, some a combination of both. His latest LP, Shawn Lee Presents Soul In The Hole, is 11 tracks of “old school soul,” to borrow Lee’s phrase, and, wow, is it good stuff. The time period Lee is emulating falls somewhere around the late 60’s to the mid 70’s, and the production is designed to sound like music released during those years, complete with horn sections and washes of strings. This is an approach to music not unlike Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and the Budos Band, with similarly excellent results. Lee provides the vocals on a handful of tracks, though he mostly leaves those up to a talented array of guest vocalists, including Nicole Willis, Fanny Franklin, Karime Kendra, Paul Butler, Darondo, even his wife, who is billed here as “Mrs. Lee.” For soul fans, I think this will be a true delight, for those new to Lee’s unique musical genius, this is a great place to jump on board, as this is his best vocal record yet. Standout cuts: “Jigsaw,” “Land Of Soul,” “Cruel Woman” and “The Stuff.”

http://www.myspace.com/shawnleemusic

Typically solid release from London based American multi-instrumentalist Shawn Lee, this time in collaboration with California based fellow traveler Clutchy Hopkins, who, according to Lee, gave Lee his trademark tiger mask. The emphasis on the 12 instrumental tracks contained here is on funk and soul, with a little jazz and various world music influences thrown in as well. Their collaboration is a little more low key than I had expected, but it’s still pretty tasty stuff, and as per usual with Lee’s releases,very smooth and great fun to listen to, the soundtrack to the groovy life you’re planning on having. This is the first music I’ve heard from Hopkins: He’s got two previous releases out, Walking Backwards from earlier this year, and 2006’s The Life Of Clutchy Hopkins, both of which I intend to listen to now. Standout cuts: “Full Moon,” “Dollar Short,” “Bad Influence” and “Indian Burn.”

http://www.myspace.com/shawnleemusic

http://www.myspace.com/whoisclutchyhopkins

Miles Of Styles marks the seventh release from Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra, which is primarily the work of Shawn Lee, American born and London based multi-instrumentalist. According to Ubiquity Records press for the album, Miles Of Styles “is the soundtrack to places Lee has been and would like to visit. ” The titles of the mostly instrumental tracks give you an idea of the globetrotting nature of the 20 tracks included here: “Brazilian Bubble,” “Prague Rock,” “Italy 73,” “Heist In Helsinki,” “San Diego” and “Greekout.” The Ping Pong Orchestra project was originally aimed at establishing a musical library, though by now, with Christmas and a hits cover album among its recent releases, the project now seems more like a vehicle for Lee’s wildly prolific and diverse creative output. If you are new to the Ping Pong Orchestra, I envy you because you have seven albums of music to enjoy from a modern Carl Stalling, who blends rock, soul, funk, pop and world music influences into heady, groovy and often surprising mixtures. (He also has a couple of albums out as Shawn Lee, including Soul Visa and Monkey Boy.) If you don’t know Lee by name, you no doubt know his music, as it’s been featured on the soundtracks of scores of movies and TV shows, as well as the video game Bully. Miles Of Styles is as good a place as any to start discovering the work of this true musical virtuoso.

http://www.myspace.com/shawnleemusic