Oneness Of Juju – Bush Brothers & Space Rangers LP [STRUTLP255]

Strut continue their deep dive into the archives of Black Fire Records with a new reissue of Oneness Of Juju’s Bush Brothers & Space Rangers, showcasing the band at the peak of their powers in 1977. Primarily recorded at Arrest Studios in Washington DC, the album ispacked with landmark Oneness tracks including ‘Be About TheFuture’ (“possibly the first ecology-themed song that I know of”) the George Clinton-influenced ‘Plastic’, an acoustic alternative version of ‘African Rhythms’ and strong covers of Caiphus Semenya’s ‘West Wind’ and Bobby Womack’s ‘Breezin”. Plunky continues, “The album is composed of several different sessions featuring different personnel and only first came out as an album in its own right when Black Fire MD Jimmy Gray started working with P-Vine Records in Japan during the ’90s. For me, it’s one of the hottest periods for the band.”

listen

Oneness Of Juju – Bush Brothers & Space Rangers LP [STRUTLP255]

Okyerema Asante feat. Plunky – Drum Message [STRUT247]

ASANTE, Okyerema - Drum Message

Strut return to the rich archives of Black Fire Records for the ”Drum Message” album by Ghanaian master percussionist Okyerema Asante from 1977. Featuring members of Oneness Of Juju and Brian Jackson on piano.

vinyl / CD

Okyerema Asante feat. Plunky – Drum Message [STRUT247]

VA – Soul Love Now: The Black Fire Records Story 1975-1993 [STRUT238LP]

VARIOUS - Soul Love Now: The Black Fire Records Story 1975-1993

Black Fire was an influential spiritual jazz and conscious soul label that is now the subject of a first ever compilation. It has been put together by Strut and covers the years 1975 to 1993, showcasing a rich mix of jazz, deep African polyrhythms and empowering lyrics across plenty of classics and rarities. The highlights are plentiful and the comp also comes with extended sleeve notes around the black-owned label’s rich history, as well as a reprint of one of the original Black Fire magazines published by founder Jimmy Gray. This is a real piece of black music history.

vinyl / CD

VA – Soul Love Now: The Black Fire Records Story 1975-1993 [STRUT238LP]

Oneness of Juju – African Rhythms (1970-1982) [STRUT233LP]

ONENESS OF JUJU/VARIOUS - African Rhythms 1970-1982

Strut kick off a brand new deal with the seminal independent black jazz and soul label Black Fire in May with ‘African Rhythms 1970-1982’, a comprehensive 2CD / 3LP compilation of Oneness Of Juju, led by Plunky J. Branch. Tracing their career from the band’s earliest work in 1970 with South African exiled jazzman Ndikho Xaba in San Francisco, the compilation covers the band’s journey to New York’s loft jazz scene, forming Juju and releasing two landmark albums of hard-hitting percussive jazz on Strata-East. “I saw myself as a cultural warrior,” explains Plunky. “We studied about Africa and tried to infuse our music with an African spirit.” Moving back to his hometown of Richmond, Virginia during the mid-’70s, Plunky drew in a superb new group of musicians and vocalists and created the band’s new incarnation, Oneness Of Juju, retaining the African influence but fusing his sound with funk and R’n’B on the classic ‘African Rhythms’ album. “We realised that, if we put a backbeat to the Afro-Cuban rhythms, people in Richmond and Washington D.C. could be drawn into it; it didn’t change anything about our message.” The change would lead to a series of enduring soul-jazz classics on Jimmy Gray’s Black Fire label, including ‘River Luv Rite’, ‘Plastic’ and ‘Don’t Give Up’ and their biggest crossover international hit, ‘Every Way But Loose’ in 1982, later famously remixed by Larry Levan. The band received renewed interest in their music during the mid-’80s as Washington D.C.’s go-go innovators cited the band as a major influence and rare groove DJs revived their albums for London dancefloors.

listen

Oneness of Juju – African Rhythms (1970-1982) [STRUT233LP]