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Now Hear This: Smudge All Stars | Smudge All Stars

A star-studded cast helps this funkadelic studio project live up to its name.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Encompassing celebrated artists such as George Clinton, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis and many more, star-studded funk collective Smudge All Stars have released their debut self-titled album.

Smudge All Stars is Richie Stevens’ audio intelligence collective. Richie is the son of the late John Stevens, a pioneer of British free jazz, and a gifted drummer, percussionist and producer in his own right. His talents have found him in constant demand, working with everyone from Horace Andy and Joss Stone to Boy George and Damon Albarn. Now, with Smudge All Stars, Richie leads a funk/soul ensemble that draws on his friendships with many leading black British, Jamaican and U.S. musicians.

Smudge All Stars is Richie’s musical vision writ large. This is a party album in the old school P-Funk tradition. All instrumentation is recorded live, with Stevens calling on the original Horny Horns Fred Wesley and Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis to help build a fat brass groove for the authentic vibe — and recruiting George Clinton himself for the ultimate seal of funk approval.

Says Richie Stevens: “Eight years ago, compelled to generate some funk, I started a bag of jams. By chance, I ran into Omar in a supermarket and he improvised some melodies on the sketches. Then sitting in Liverpool Street station, I was compelled again, this time to reconnect with George Clinton. His vocal for Up Is Just A Place was gifted to the project. This raised the funk bar so high that it took another five years to complete an album worthy of his genius and took the help of the finest musicians I know. This whole project is, in a word, a jam … with the finest musicians and artists you could find, who wouldn’t wanna do that?”

The 10-track musical extravaganza commences with Brutal Funk; a rousing psychedelic funk workout that encompasses a delicious groove cooked up by the famed Jamiroquai member DJ D-Zire and the powerful vocals of British soul singer Mary Pearce. Up is Just a Place Feat. George Clinton continues the party vibes by bringing none other than the P-Funk master himself together with Mary Pearce, Derek ‘Dr Mouthquake’ Green and the decorated British soul singer-songwriter Omar for a full-flavoured aural delight. Cue tight rapping, funky beats and scratching alongside slap bass and a slice of synth for good measure.

Other highlights include Freaky Toe, which opts for a smoother groove than its predecessors with seductive vocals courtesy of Charlotte Kelly. B Side sees Pearce rejoin Green for another upbeat affair, accompanied by the legendary American trombonist Wesley (James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic), who adds a distinctive touch to the track. Elsewhere, the ballad Headache sees funk pioneer Clinton in a relaxed mood and joined by the versatile British-born singer-songwriter Niara Scarlett (Roots Manuva, M. J. Cole, Basement Jaxx, Xenomania) to provide the perfect vocal blend. 2 Cold 2 Hold follows with its gospel-tinged groove and adds a welcome blues vibe courtesy of harmonica player to the stars Mitt Gamon (Godley and Creme, Boy George, The Ruts, Sam Brown, Murray Head, Gang of Four).

The LP continues into its final triptych with former single Our Lives, a track that marries funk and reggae’s vintage relationship, showcasing instrumentation from Dennis Bovell and vocals from the legendary Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Earl Sixteen (Leftfield, Dreadzone). Still Here features the outstanding British alto saxophonist James Gardiner-Bateman and last but not least, Discopia encompasses the talents of Charlotte Kelly, George Pantelonius and Camelle Hines.”