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RANDA AND THE SOUL KINGDOM Put Your Hands Up gets 7.5/10

Randa & The Soul Kingdom
Put Your Hands Up
Independent

7.5/10

After two albums of bona-fide funk gems, Randa and the Soul Kingdom continue to perfect danceable, upbeat funk and soul with their new record Put Your Hands Up.

For the uninitiated, Randa Khamis was born in Jordan to Palestinian parents who fled to Perth when war broke out in the region. After a colourful youth, frequenting clubs and bars in Perth, Randa moved to London where she sang in funk groups and exuded an intoxicating blend of the finest James Brown, Kurtis Blow and Parliament concoction. She then went to New Orleans where she continued her funk education, gaining valuable experience from mentor Eddie Bo, before returning to Perth to put into practice her extensive mastery of soul and old-school R’n’B. In that time Randa’s infectious energy has been routinely hailed as the modern-day Marva Whitney or Anne Sexton, a title she occupies, on this record, with conviction and serious style.

Randa Khamis channels her energy through her incomparably groovy Soul Kingdom, as their deep grooves, tight funk licks and catchy hooks are sprawled all over the 11-track release, and serve as the perfect foil for Randa’s flamboyant and expressive wailing and howling. On opening track and first single Gonna Get Love, the band sound like The Black Keys, before settling into a fast-paced James Brown jive. On the climate change siren 2048, the band embrace afro-beat, as an exotic wind instrument solo dances over the frenetic rhythm.

It’s a welcome deviation from the onslaught of funk, and provides the record with just the right mix at just the right time. Love Me Baby swoons in a seductive, hypnotic haze. The title track Put Your Hands Up is an all-out party, capturing the bands ability to channel the energy and verve of a celebration in full-swing. Add to this, the breakdown/solo which literally sounds like a big room of people having the time of their lives, it becomes increasingly obvious how good Randa and her Soul Kingdom are at getting the party started.

Some particular highlights on the record, most of which are found on the back end of the record, reveal Randa and The Soul Kingdom’s potential as more than just a reliable vessel for funk and soul. On Till It’s Gone, The Soul Kingdom’s indelible groove-mastery bursts out of the speakers, a deep, propulsive rhythm interlocking with velvet-y bass and brass stabs that can’t help but crawl under the skin. The space and clarity of the rhythm section lets Randa’s voice find a more impassioned and strident tone and the lyrics crawl and slither over the groove. It’s an intoxicating mix. On OTT, the band hit their stride with a melodic hook that’s seething with attitude and sleaze and has the style and effortless cool of The Budos Band or The Daptones.

Lyrically, if there is to be any criticism, the tracks leave something to be desired. The content slides between life-affirming positivity, unrequited love-sickness, and an on-the-nose prognosis of the zeitgeist. Randa’s diversity and ambition is admirable, but it nevertheless lacks a certain depth that was what made her predecessors so compelling. It’s this obligation to serve the previous templates of what funk should sound like rather than what she feels like. The constant adherence to rhyme-structure can sometimes lead to awkward phrasing that feels forced, for lack of a better word.

Her words excel when they burst out of her, such as in OTT, when she wails “OTT/ yeah you know me/ OTT yeah you know me,” followed by a refrain that’s drenched in attitude and cool “I’m going to give it to ya/ OTT.” The cool is complete. It’s a sense that I want to believe her pain, or joy, and sometimes I don’t, but only sometimes. It hardly matters though when you’re having this good of a time. And if nothing else, Randa and The Soul Kingdom are the embodiment of a damn good time!

JAMES REDMAN

 

 

 

 

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