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World Music CD Reviews Middle East & North Africa

Various Artists

By Bruce Miller
Published August 22, 2008

Soul Messages From Dimona
Numero Group

In the collected history of the Numero Group’s committed efforts to rescue ragged master tapes—many of which have revealed rare sweet soul gems or forgotten funk grooves from such far-flung locales as Belize or the Bahamas—perhaps no story is more secret than this one. With the Soul Messengers’ output from the mid-1970s as the focal point, this disc follows the band’s travels from Chicago and Detroit to Liberia and, eventually, to Dimona, Israel, where they and fellow bands Sons Of The Kingdom and the Tonistics mixed their Hebrew faith with jazzy funk and proto-disco to create a black Jewish soul music that few knew existed until now. While the recording quality is excellent, the music, as is unfortunately the case with more than a few of the label’s releases, is hit and miss. The best of it is slinky, percolating funk with persuasive gospel vocals, but elsewhere, a remake of Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey” and the slick, fusion-y workouts that conjure Chuck Mangione and other “jazz lite” ’70s contemporaries dilute the album’s overall impact.