Album Review: Mungo’s Hi-Fi x Marina P – Soul Radio [Scotch Bonnet Records; August 2020]

For their latest offering, Mungo’s Hi-Fi have collaborated with Paris-based Italian, Marina P and it’s a match made in heaven. Mungo’s have been working together with Marina P since around 2007. The jazz influenced singer is a big attraction to the Scottish sound system crew, who travelled to the French capital to lay down some tracks with her. These are to be found on Soul Radio (out on August 14 via Scotch Bonnet Records).

The set opens with ‘Soma’, a cover of the Smashing Pumpkins’ tune and has just been released as a single. This is followed by ‘Mama Was Right’ which moves into a more steppas sounding groove. Marina P’s vocals are powerful as she vies with brass instruments for the attention of the listener.

This continues with the next track, ‘Divorce A L’Italienne’ which has the Italian lady laying down the law in fine style. But the party really kicks off when track number four rolls along. ‘The Beat Goes SKA!’ features Tippa Irie toasting alongside Dennis Alcapone who provides sterling backing as Marina P asserts herself once more. This is a scorcher of a tune and ought to be played loud!

On ‘Searching’, Marina P makes this track her own. Her voice is immensely soulful and the instruments behind her work well particularly the bass, but also the brass. This is slower than the previous tunes, but works well as a counter-balance. Indeed, the rest of the album moves into a more mellow groove from here on out. On ‘Nice To Meet You’ Marina’s vocals have a rasping quality to them, at times reminiscent of Amy Winehouse.

‘Wouldn’t It Be Something’, the closing number on the album, is a poignant statement. “If only we could travel as easily as words, wouldn’t that be something…”, Marina sings wistfully and it appears she is referring to the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. The pain of travel and the loss of hope is a bitter pill to swallow and this is reflected here.

Soul Radio is a welcome return from Mungo’s Hi Fi and a fine display of vocal prowess from Marina P. This is modern soul with a sound system backing and they don’t get more prestigious than the great Glasgow-based collective. So, you get dance numbers mixed with downtempo tunes. The first half of the album is definitely more danceable than the latter half, which is much slower in comparison. It is a nice mixture and well worth a listen.