Second LP for this highly respected Aussie funk and soul outfit and it seems like Randa Khamis and The Soul Kingdom have been engaging in a bit of generic expansionism resulting in annexation of the surrounding territories of disco and northern soul whilst maintaining a firm grasp over their original funky dominion. Indeed What You Need has been done so well I’d be hard put to classify it as anything than a super tight set.
A well-judged ten tracks long (pretty much any one of which could be a single) and produced by Aussie funk kingpin Lance Ferguson of Bamboos/ Cookin’ On Three Burners fame, the LP is also characterised by playing that draws from the best of mid-sixties to mid-seventies funk and soul sounds while resolutely (and correctly) steering clear of noodling and pretentious jazzy stylings. Oh yeah – and then there’s Randa herself. I’m not a massive fan of singing which leans towards the vibrato but there’s no denying the power in these pipes and her vocal style chimes particularly well with some of the cuts on here – notably disco scorcher and debut single from the album The Things – which also comes complete with added Marlena Shaw-style scat vocal motif.
Northern soul boys will lap up Be Yourself and Save Us but aside from the aforementioned The Things it’s first two tracks Power In Me with it’s loose sixties style funk and particularly soul burner Love Sick that bang. What you need indeed.
(Out 24 October on Freestyle)
Hailing from Perth and firmly at the forefront of the Australian funk and soul scene are Randa And The Soul Kingdom led by Jordanian born and Australian raised soul sister Randa Khamis.
With producer Lance Ferguson (The Bamboos, Cookin On 3 Burners, Lanu, Black Feeling) at the controls of the debut self titled album, the result was bristling with edgy, gritty funk and soul. The buzz on Randa And The Soul Kingdom led to a full European tour with label mates Deep Street Soul, a live session for Mark Lamarr on BBC Radio 2. Randa was being lauded as a modern day equivalent to Marva Whitney, Ann Sexton and Vicki Anderson in their prime by Mojo Magazine, Blues & Soul and Randa’s music even featuring in the US version of teen TV show Skins.
Instead of flying straight back to Australia after the tour, Randa spent 6 months residing in London collaborating with funk/soul artists to write her second album. Inspired and influenced by the music and musicians in London, the second album What You Need was born. Finally back in Melbourne, Australia she went straight into The Shed Studios where the songs were recorded and produced by Lance Ferguson and John Castle (Megan Washington) once again at the controls.
Whilst retaining the funk undercurrent, this new album What You Need also often incorporates elements of 60’s and Northern soul, 70’s disco and some more down tempo, reflective moments within what is a varied and mature collection of songs. Kicking off with the happening groove of Power In Me, Randa’s vocals ride over a powerful, bold and brassy riff that crackles with positive energy that is pure dance floor gold. While Lovesick still tinged with a gritty funk feel also delves into the 1960’s stomping soul arena and brings it to the forefront of a more modern accessible sound. Another highlight is the disco driven The Things (also available on the 12 inch single/download FSR092) which allows Randa to work out her disco diva muscles to quite stunning effect! Squelchy synths ride over an insistent disco beat, whilst Lance Fergusons’ scratchy guitar evokes the heady, hedonistic era of Chic, Studio 54 and Bianca Jagger riding a white horse across the dance floor! Be Yourself evokes up tempo, mid 60’s Motown with handclaps, tambourines and snappy, sharp drums, in contrast Cold paints a picture of a troubled romance, love lost and hearts breaking, the fodder for soul music since it first began.
With this follow up album, Randa & The Soul Kingdom cement their reputation as one of the most hard working and authentic purveyors of genuine 21st century funk and soul.
Randa and The Soul Kingdom: What You Need – Tracklist
01. Power In Me 3:19
02. Love Sick 3:12
03. The Things 4:55
04. Watch It 2:27
05. Slide 3:11
06. Save Us 3:50
07. Cold 4:08
08. Be Yourself 2:37
09. What You Need 4:02
10. Now I’m Free 4:46