As a member of the group the Jewels, singer Martha High first met James Brown in 1964 when they went on tour with Soul Brother No. 1. While her group broke up soon after, Martha stayed with Brown, singing with him throughout the next few decades.
Italian label Record Kicks has teamed Martha up with Japanese funk outfit Osaka Monaural and recorded a tribute—Tribute to My Soul Sisters, dropping November 17—to her late boss and the funky divas Brown groomed like Lyn Collins and Marva Whitney.
“I looked up to these ladies of soul,” says Martha, “Given the opportunity and the pleasure to perform their songs, is my way of saying: thank you, you’re not forgotten. To record the music of the Funky Divas, would mean a lot to Mr. Brown. He always wanted the world to know he had powerful women on stage that could hold his crowd while he was off the stage. They were just as powerful and funky as he was.”
In 2008, Gizelle Smith stormed from relative obscurity onto the funk scene as the front woman of Hamburg-based band the Mighty Mocambos.
Born and raised in Manchester, the child of a Seychellois mother and a father who was a band-member of the legendary Four Tops, Gizelle had a multicultural upbringing steeped in soulful music. Her first single “Working Woman” with the Mighty Mocambos became an overnight smash and a prime-time club favorite of funk and soul DJs worldwide, leading legendary producer Kenny Dope to remix the song for his own Kay Dee Records. The album that followed, This Is Gizelle Smith and the Mighty Mocambos, was released in 2009, followed by solo singles “June” released on Record Kicks in 2009 and “Johnny” on Mocambo in 2012. After a five-year hiatus, Smith is finally back with new recorded material, a double-A-side single ahead of a new album slated for release March 30, 2018. The record sees her moving on from the classic sound of her debut album, as she’s expanded her musical palette to incorporate more psychedelic and jazzy progressions, bold arrangements, and more adventurous instrumentation.
“Sweet Memories” announces her return with a bang and really showcases Smith’s vocal range and control, coupling her layered harmonies and powerful topline acrobatics over a funky backdrop of tasteful guitar, solid bass, and tight drums. Flitting between honey-dripped soul during the verses before a full-on frontal funk assault from the chorus, it’s a treat from the first note to the last.