London in the 1980s and early 90s had many a character that defined the time and Barrie Sharpe was indisputably one of them. DJ, dancer, co-creator of the style brand Duffer of St George and later, a momentary pop star, Barrie had his ‘sharpeye’ and finger in much of the city’s creative direction. ‘The Masterplan’ by Diana Brown & Barrie K. Sharpe was a Top 40 hit in 1990 and was one of the standout tracks from the Acid Jazz/Rare Groove scene that was as era-defining as the parallel Rave movement tearing up the UK. Heavily influenced by 70s and 80s funk and soul, the scene produced The Brand New Heavies and Young Disciples amongst many and for those in the know, sat alongside Soul II Soul as the true sound of London during this period.
Fast forward nearly 30 years and Barrie remains a man full of restless creativity, his new album ‘Rhythm Rhyme Revolution #3’ a continuum of his well-documented taste for style and groove. The third installment of his Rhyme Rhythm Revolution series contains 10 separate tracks but the album feels like a single piece, variations on a feeling, an attitude. Thinking about it, it actually feels like a DJ set in a cool as fuck basement club. The entire first side of the record sits together so coherently that it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint where one song starts and another ends. They all contain similar ingredients: warm organic mid-tempo rhythms straight out of the rare groove handbook, seriously loose and lithe bass lines, expressive flutes and muted horns and long drawn out vocal hooks proclaiming revolution, love and funk. Barrie’s creative partner here, Gareth Tasker, plays everything apart from the wind instruments and it’s something to behold. It really does feel like the coolest house band is jamming in a psychedelic smoke-filled den, locked into the groove, riffing off each other only partially knowing where they may end up but trusting the vibration. The lead vocals from Therryi Jay, are excellent on every song, seductive, confident and free, with particularly standout moments on ‘I Am A Woman’ and ‘You Are My Sunshine’, Barrie’s own distinctive conversational voice adding another layer of texture and focus.
To be totally honest, I was surprised at how good this album was when I received it in the post (along with the previous two records plus his eye-opening autobiography ‘This Wasn’t Part Of The Masterplan’ - many thanks sir). There is a consistent and meaningful vision here that perhaps isn’t so surprising given his history of style leadership but for the vision to be fulfilled so comprehensively is a triumph.
Released on October 15th 2019