Rhoda Dakar – The Lotek Four Vol II – EP Review
Rhoda Dakar – The LoTek Four Vol II
Second volume in the series by Two Tone Legend Rhoda Dakar, following up 2017’s LoTek Four EP….Ian Canty hears the second part of something that, if put together with its predecessor, would make a stunning album…
In my opinion Rhoda Dakar put out one of last year’s best records in the LoTek Four EP and now she’s back with the same format and approach, relying on quality not quantity. Simple is best – she’s got good songs, a fine supporting cast and made sure the music sounds just right and the sleeve look great. I know I said this last time round, but Rhoda is one of the most criminally under-recorded and underutilised talents in the country, she possesses a quite wonderful voice and her songs are full of sharp observations and emotion.
So with these things in place it is not totally unexpected really that The LoTek Four Vol II is a real pleasure to listen to, but Rhoda Dakar never fails to surprise with the depth of her insight and her singing talents. She’s in riveting form here, ably supported by the tasteful playing of Lenny Bignell (who also works wonders in his production of this record, making it sound superb), Mark Claydon, Paul Tadman and Louis Vause, they’re all clearly top notch musicians. But I must say an extra word about Terry Edwards, whose horns are perfectly deployed throughout and offer an ideal and sympathetic non-vocal foil to Ms Dakar’s work.
The EP commences with the late night-style Blue Beat of Comfort Zone, loose and jazzy, a tinkling piano line leading into some cool sax blowing plus Rhoda’s smokiest singing. It is both joyful and rueful, knowing your limits, but also your strengths. Welcome To My Themepark is a sassy and cutting dig at gentrification with also the queasy sense of unreality that pervades the world in the present day. There’s an ever so slight echo of the Specials’ Ghost Town here also, except 37 years on the concrete jungle has been knocked down and ritzy restaurants and chain stores erected in their place. The locals have been shunted out of the way, mostly ignored but told to behave themselves lest they cause trouble. Lovely R&B brass on this one with a danceable Reggae undertow, as Rhoda alternates between comic PA announcements and her ever excellent singing. Catchy as hell too!
The short and to the point acapella of Mansplaining (it needed saying) leads us into Back For More, a cracking Soul tune. Rhoda really shines on this again, the mood is more reflective than the first couple of tracks, but her vocals are to die for on here. Heart-breaking, but you feel all the better having heard it. Finally there’s the skipping beat of Love Notes (From Your Soul Team), a beautifully supportive and positive lyric in a world where looking after number 1 has taken far too much importance. Terry works marvels on this track too, it ends the album on a lovely, hopeful note. I couldn’t help but sport a big grin after hearing this. The music here is so well arranged and always provides the perfect setting, everything hangs together so well. I felt listening to this that you really got to know the artist through these songs and that’s something that is rare and precious. Rhoda’s personality and unpretentious positivity shines through as well as her abundant vocal talent.
It’s very tempting to say that this EP put together with Volume I would have made a great album and that’s true. But I prefer to think of this being a complete statement in itself, with Rhoda drawing on her life experience in five beautifully drawn tableaux direct from the UK of 2018, worldly-wise and knowing perhaps but never, ever defeated. There’s a strength and determination to make it through life with dignity here that can’t be ignored. I think I said last time that Rhoda Dakar is in the best fettle ever and this EP is further proof. I believe there is no more soulful singer in the UK and you would be missing out on some of the best music produced in 2018 if you don’t give this a listen.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here