Sunday, December 9, 2018

Duff Review: Rhoda Dakar "The Lotek Four, Volume II"

7" vinyl EP

(Review by Steve Shafer)

This is the second--and really superb-- crowdfunded EP from the always extraordinary Rhoda Dakar and her boss band (Louis Vause on piano and Paul Tadman on bass--both of the Lee Thompson Ska Orchestra; Lenny Bignell of Pama International and The Sidewalk Doctors on guitar; Mark Claydon from The Get Up on drums; and Terry Edwards of The Higsons and sometime Madness collaborator on horns). On The Lotek Four, Volume II, the soul influences that were quite present on Dakar's debut EP are even more pronounced--to great effect--on this set of really fine originals, all co-written with various members of the band (full disclosure, I was a supporter of this release; also, make sure to read our Duff Guide to Ska review of Dakar's first EP).

EP opener "Comfort Zone" is a fantastic jazzy-soul-ska cut that wouldn't have been out of place musically or thematically on The Special AKA's stellar In the Studio (Dakar's vocals, of course, were essential to the success of that album). The song's about going through life on auto-pilot--detached, ambivalent, without enjoyment; doing what you have to in order to get by ("The 9 to 5 is no good for me/Just busy keeping myself fed/To make a buck don't get me horny/I'd rather stay at home in bed...Save up that cash for that one rainy day/When the worst comes, I'll be up anyway..."). It's comfort zone as trap not refuge. "Welcome To My Themepark" is a Madness-y pop piss-take on the gentrification of Brixton, though it could just as easily apply to any formerly vibrant and funky urban neighborhood ruined by real estate developers' greed (huge swaths of Manhattan and Brooklyn have been transformed into playgrounds solely for the rich and fabulous). Dakar alternates between being an amusement park barker ("Ladies and gentlemen, by visiting Brixton police station at the end of your stay, anything of which you have been robbed--with the exception of your dignity--will be returned. Thank you for coming!"), and lamenting what has been lost: "It used to be a real town/Was a good life, not a fake one/And we lived that real good life/With our husbands and our wives."

The straight-up Stax-like "Back for More" finds the singer repeatedly trying to exit an emotionally abusive relationship: "You bide your time/I come back for more/Like a fool, I'm back for more." But the repeated chorus ends on a defiantly optimistic note: "I'm not coming back for more/I'm not coming back..." Everything ends too quickly with the ethereal "Love Notes (From Your Soul Team)," a wonderfully radiant, spirit-lifting track that is a sure-fired cure for anyone's blues. It also serves as a reminder of how vital close and caring friends are for staying sane and making it through this life: "You're on the same team/Not sure what it means/But you've faith in the friends who make it seem alright/We're your soul team/Here to stop you feeling sad/Takes a whole team/To antidote the bad/We're your soul team/Best support you've ever had/Sending love notes..." This is soul-pop perfection.

On the sleeve's liner notes, Dakar thanks her supporters for their leap of faith in funding both EPs in advance--well prior to hearing a note. And, once again, Dakar and Co. have delivered on their promise to their fans and then some. This is one small, but mightily impressive release.

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