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Shakatak - Fiesta + Utopia [Secret Records - 2017]

November 17th saw the worldwide release of two previously Japan only Shakatak albums, Fiesta and Utopia. This 2 CD set from Secret Records is 23 tracks of British, jazz-funk-disco whizzes at their silky smoothest. Whether putting the listener in the mood for love or in the mood for dancing, Shakatak nails each approach.

Like riding in an elevator to a tropical heaven, 1990's Fiesta is soft, smooth, bright, and calming. Lightly jazzy but very danceable, Shakatak's sound channels the spirit of a warm paradise, rife with sunlight and a gentle breeze. While the soothing sound of "Dreamtime" is a wonderful opener, Fiesta also has some very fun tracks that have a tropical, island feel to them. Songs such as "Conquistador" and the earworm worthy "Chi-Chi Castanengo" show the inspiration for the album and add a nice vacation vibe to the stellar jazz-funk on display. On top of the tropical vibe, there's a certain sexiness to the album, too, and its similarities to 80's/90's European softcore soundtracks can't be overlooked.

Utopia is a nice complement to Fiesta, and some of the tropical flourishes are shared. However, Utopia plays a bit more traditional and stretches itself more into the disco realm than its companion, but not as much as their earlier album, Invitations. Sometimes surprising in tone, this 1991 release definitely feels more like a mid-80's foray into soft luxury. Oft times travelogue soundtrack and other times tile worthy floor shakers, Utopia mixes physical and mental motion for those wanting to go on flights of fancy footwork or flights of fancy. The female lead vocals help the listener drift away to a lovely place.

Soft and smooth, while still able to touch upon light funk and disco, Shakatak's discography gets a shot in the arm with Secret Records' worldwide release of Fiesta and Utopia. Perfect for some drinks and croquet on a warm day, this 2 CD set is a wonderful re-issue of two hard to find gems. For those who have been spinning Initiations since it's re-release last year, time to take it out of the machine and give these two a spin.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Paul Casey
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