listen out for 2003...
Two albums here that have one thing in common, in as much as these fine albums are the third release by these respective artists.
Dennis Taylor's latest offering, I am reviewing from a 4 track album sampler, that is due to hit the streets during October, I believe. If this new Dome Records promo is anything to go by, we are in for a real treat. The title track is so catchy that it begs for a single release. I know that Peter Young at Jazz FM has already made a beeline for the song 'At The Place', whilst the song 'Don't Wanna Give up' is a very nice stepper. Dennis has (and I hope he doesn't mind me saying this) a very 'tender' delivery, almost spoken. These tracks are as good as anything that made Dennis's first two offerings and, all in all, show some early promise, whilst we look forward to the full set of songs. Thank you to Santosh at Dome Records for sending me this fine taster. Can't wait for the album. Excellent stuff.
Impromp2's first album was one of my favourite albums of the Nineties. Johnny Britt and Sean E. Mac's latest offering builds very nicely on their previous two sets. In fact, the kick off starter track 'When Will Things Change?' is one of the best songs I have heard this year so far. Really beautiful harmonies and a hope for peace, perhaps a post September 11th plea? The artistic support line-up here is quite exceptional, boasting the likes of George Duke, Ray Parker Jnr, Boney James, Freddie Washington and James Gatson, no less. This album maintains a very high standard. Favourites? Well, apart from the track already mentioned, the mellow 'I'll Do Whatever', the funkier 'Drama', the melodic 'All The Woman', the very Stevie 'Makin' Love' and the outrageously retro 'Change Comin'. In these days of patchy album releases, it is great to pick up an album and not reach for the skip button throughout. Great album guys.
As a postscript, this album is now available in the U.K. from Expansion Records, and includes bonus material. Release date is 3rd November 2003.
Marilyn Scott is a highly underrated artist...until now, that is. This album is already the album of the week on Jazz FM in London, so news travels fast. Expansion Records are to blame, as ususal. This was a real treat to listen to from start to finish. The set kicks off with the beautiful 'Loving You', which is the reason why I find myself reaching for this CD on a regular basis. The songwriting credits include Brenda Russell, Burt Bacharach, Taja Sevelle, Dexter Wansel, (the incredibly underrated) Jimmy Haslip of the Yellowjackets and Stevie Wonder. Not bad company, eh? In fact, the latter artists song 'Bird Of Beauty' (originally from Stevie's 'Fulfillingness First Finale') is already receiving heavy airplay. I particularly liked the uptempo 'Walking With Strangers'. A great tune. I was already aware of her powerful duet with Frank McComb on the standard 'You Don't Know What Love Is'. If you like your jazz but, not too 'smooth', and your soul not too, 'pasteurised and homogenised', check this album out. This deserves to do very well.....
....and as if that wasn't enough of this Expansion Records advertisement, well I guess you can let me off, as this is an actual compilation carefully constructed by 24/7 deejay, Terry Jones. Expansion are the label, however, this is very much Terry's baby. Village Soul represents the 'anthems' that have become part of the furniture in the mindset of those who attended the Norfolk Village gigs over the last 28 years (Yikes! I was 19 years old at the outset!). The original Norfolk Village pub was based in Shoreditch in London's East End and ran from 1975 up until 1996. This compilation is an essential part of any soul lovers collection, whether you were there or passed up the opportunity along the way. There are contemporary dancers in the form of the sought after Kim English dancer 'Simply Grateful', soul monsters by Mildred Clark ('Keep Trying') and I was delighted to see the excellent Beres Hammond's, Garfield Fleming sounding, 'Do This World A Favour' all included (this track featured at the site a couple of years back). One for the Christmas stocking.....even if it was 100 degrees in London last week! Excellent stuff Terry...and Ralph!
Soul Brother Records are just about the best London based soul retailer (Record Corner in Balham coming a close second). They have a great stock of import material from all over the World as well as having their own record label, that has, in the past, specialised in releasing ultra rare material from back in the day. The other 'string to their bow' is they pioneer the newer soul artists on the block. Malcolm and Laurence Prangell's label describe the Ledisi's and Lizz Field's of this World as 'New Organic Soul'. To me the labelling is a little confusing as, I just see good music as good music, and this is just what we have here. There are, actually, only seven artists showcased here. Each artist weighs in with at least one track (some three) and each are really top drawer. You can take your pick from any of the tracks on show here, they are all excellent. Done a nice job here guys. I found Lizz Fields 'When I See Love' totally irresistable (already a favourite with my wife!) and is destined for heavy daytime radio rotation. If you aren't sure as to where to find that elusive soul song or album, you ought to check out their East Putney based store (and, no I don't get paid for saying that, it's just the truth!). Bring on Organic Soul Volume 4.....
Chuck Mills is an artist a friend of mine turned me onto. Chuck sent me this album a couple of weeks back and everytime I sat down to check it out, the phone went (usually a friend asking me if I wanted to go for a beer to cool ourselves down in the 100 degree London heat!). This album really reminds me of, what the deejays used to describe as, 'little label' around 1988. If you liked the L.R. Superstars and their like, you will go for this set. No lavish orchestrations, no large brass ensemble's, just Chuck and his guitar doing their thing. Chuck wrote all of the songs here, of which 'Whisper In My Ear' is delightful. My favourite cut is the emotive 'She Gave Up (On Our Love)', a real 'little label' midtempo song that is, for want of a better word, really charming, as many of those 'little label' recordings were 15 years ago. I guess we substitute 'little label' for CD Baby, these days. Real nice album Chuck, and as I said, simply charming.
Is it really 13 years ago that the Chestnut Brothers brought us the independent anthem 'Whole Lotta You In Me' under the group name of Brotherly Love? That track featured the late Grover Washington Jnr and was enhanced by the flip 'floater', 'Hey Sweet Lady'. One album followed in 1993, which was quite excellent and has seen a re-release via websites such as CD Baby.
Well I am, as usual, a little late reviewing this album, mainly due to financial reasons, however, some money came in and I ordered a copy of this album...or should I say EP? Back under the family name 'The Chestnut Brothers' (after a decade following their last outing) the duo have arrived back on the scene with this new 8 track offering. Reason why I say that is this set comprises of 8 tracks is that four of the songs on offer are versions of the other four on this set. Make any sense?
Now if either Al or Tyrone get to read this, you guys have to make more music in the future. The reason is, is 'Travellin' On' is the best soul / gospel song I have heard this year so far. In a way, once you have heard the song, you could be forgiven in passing by the other songs on offer here, which would be a shame as these songs are fine offerings in their own right. The song 'One' is a very nice tune, whilst, 'Stop The Violence' and 'Brotherly Love' offer peaceful solutions, politically, for the future. All told, 'Travellin' On' is quite brilliant. Please make some more tracks like these in the future you guys!
Jarrard Anthony is a new artist to me. Jarrard got in touch with me a month or so ago and asked me to visit his website (jarrardanthony.com), which I did. I really liked the song 'Sweet Memories' and asked the man if I could obtain a review copy of his album? Jarrard sent me the set (currently on the JAP Music label) and I sat down with a beer and worked my way through the set. I really liked the first 7 songs, however, when the CD player hit the 8th, I realised that this album would provide some of my favourite music of 2003.
Jarrard's sound is set somewhere between that of Kloud 9 and the duo, Otis & Shugg. Is it that good? Well, a great big YES! The song 'Can't Believe' is pure soul heaven and is followed by two top drawer ballads in the shape of 'Don't Ever?' and 'In Your Eyes'. The real 'tour de force', arrives right at the end of this fine set. The song 'The Dream' is just that. Worth the price of the CD alone. Beautiful harmonies and very, very strong. I was so impressed by these songs that I got on the phone and called a few record company people. Jarrard is currently looking for a distribution deal. On the strength of this set, that won't be long in coming! Brilliant!
Well, as the legal storm clouds raise their ugly heads again over Soulwalking, I guess the only thing I can keep focussed upon is what I have always tried to do...that is help the artist that ought to have greater recognition. Guess while they are giving me a hard time, they are giving someone else a rest?
Deborah Bond is a very exciting new singer. I have to thank Barry Towler for turning me onto this set. Barry seems to be one step ahead of this old fool, and thank heavens for people like him. Deborah's album is pretty solid throughout. The songs are intelligently written and very nicely constructed by the musicians at her label...which is...er, well I am not sure. Best kept secret, Deborah? My guess is DB Records. Deborah's delivery, in parts, remind me of Chaka Khan's. High praise indeed. In fact, the song 'A Message' would sit very nicely on Chaka's 'Whatch Gonna Do With My Lovin' set from 1981. One member of the excellent group Fertile Ground weighs in on tenor sax and the overall effect is excellent in some parts and quite magnificent in others! Check the opener 'See You In My Dreams'. One of the best songs I have heard all year. The closing tune, 'Things Will Never Be The Same' is a song Sade would die for. Really nice debut, boding well for the future for this new songstress and the band. Very nice and a very pleasant surprise.
ChurchHouse Records have appeared on these pages previously. Undra Hill's label already have a line-up of Gospel artists that would be the envy of many other labels. Not that these singers are household names. They are singers, and that is a rare commodity in today's musical marketplace. Eric has a very strong delivery that should make the man upstairs very proud! I am not going to stand on ceremony here. The song 'Read About Me' is one of the finest pieces of Gospel music I have heard in a long while. Eric's fine delivery on the closing cut, 'Died For You' is a very emotive piece of music. You have a very nice label going on here Undra. More? Yes please!
As the title suggests, this is the second in this fine series of unreleased Motown gems from the Motor City archives (they don't call me Surbiton's answer to Sherlock Holmes for nothing!).
Richard Searling is, definitely, Bolton's answer to that particular detective! I thought that he would have a very difficult quest in equalling the first of this series (reveiwed in these pages a year or so ago).
Volume two is filled with the type of tunes that, those who attend the weekenders north of Watford, may well be familiar with. In London, Sixties Soul is, almost, legislated against! Why this should be is beyond this Southern Bar Steward! In fact, being a member of the Northern Soul Web Ring and the excellent Modern Soul Group, I get to see many playlists. In some cases it is embarrassing that not one tune on those lists, have I ever heard of!
Now there may be a hint of the 'Emporers new clothes' to this, in as much as, there does seem to be an element of secrecy and elitism going on here. 'What do you mean you have never heard this tune?' Well, that is because it is as rare as rocking horse doo doo and no-one else has either, even if they claim to have done so! Covering up of labels and announcing the value of a record before the song is played adds to the 'so called' exclusivity of things. But wait.....
...what are the repercussions? All of us want more of the real soul stuff on the radio. Apart from Peter Young's excellent 'Soul Cellar' on Sunday afternoons on Jazz FM in London, there is precious little else that eminates from a complete decade of Black musical output. You can catch a show or two on Solar or 24/7 and Sky. They, however, have their own issues to deal with (financing etc). The appetite of the 'New R & B' set has to catered for. There are many great shows however, most notably Kev Roberts excellent Saturday morning programme on Solar.
The point being is we must join forces with the little labels and artists and fight our musical corner. If it wasn't for the likes of Richard and Ralph at Expansion, there would be very little of any quality on the radio and release wise. No point in 'cream rising to the top' if the industry has put a lid on the bottle.
Enough said. This CD is absolutely superb. Marvin leads us in with the excellent 'My Love For You' and escorts us home with 'Rilleh!', a duet with Oma Page.
Within these musical walls, there are some fine moments. I, especially, liked 'If I Could Give You The World' by the Hearts Of Stone and Barbara McNair's fine 'It Happens Everytime'. One other notable item is the inclusion of the mid-tempo gem, 'Red Hot Love' by the Four Tops. That tune first appeared on a very expensive box set by the guys.
If you are bored with 'smooth' daytime radio or the dross that comprises of the main stations/pop charts, go treat yourself. Albums like these bring you back to some semblance of sanity!
Tower Of Power are one of the most enduring groups of the last few decades. Each successive album has something of merit within it's grooves. This set is no exception.
The thing I really like about this group is that there are no samples, just musicians doing their thing.
The sleevenotes for this excellent album are penned by the Mayor Of Oakland, Jerry Brown, no less, whilst the band have adopted the place as their hometown and the source of their creative inspiration (according to the excellent sleeve notes).
The tight horn section, that has always been the groups trademark, are to the fore on all of the tracks on show here.
For these old ears, the songs 'Could've Done It Better' and, the very Sixties influenced, 'Happy 'Bout That' are future classics in the making. Really nice album, coming highly recommended. Oakland's finest.
Two artists here who are both compared to other performers, however, my belief is they both stand proud in their own right. The reason why I am against musical comparisons goes back to my childhood. The various hits of the day in the Sixties were covered by an awful band called the Barron Knights, who used to cram as many impressions of the latest chart toppers into three minutes of dross.
To say that Frank or Natascha Slagtand sound like Donny, Stevie or Eryka seems to me to take away the performers individualism, even though they are compared with the finest out there. All this makes it easier for the music businessmen to pigeonhole these singers in to the 'smooth jazz' or the 'new R & B' sections in your local store. Make any sense? Probably not! LOL. O.K., so here goes.
Frank McComb is a personal favourite of the new singers to emerge in the last few years. His key changes are, oh my God, they have got me at it now, very like Stevie's, however, when I hear Frank on the radio, I know it is Frank. He has his own take on things. His first Sony outing had some fine moments, in fact, some very, very fine moments. He recorded two albums for Motown, both of which are relegated to their shelves. One of those I was sent and I believe to be better than the Sony album. So Frank is on to his fourth album here, and it is a fine recording indeed.
I love albums that you can put on the CD player, leave, and take off the player once it has finished. You can choose any track from this set and you are on to a winner. Personal faves are the flowing 'Cupid's Arrow' and the rhythmic 'Fools', however, I know over the next few weeks I will have different favourites at various times. Nice one Richard and Ralph at Expansion for picking up this set. The first half of the U.K.'s Soul Music neighbourhood watch! Just go buy this album. Anything with Frank's name on the cover is worth picking up....
......now who is the latest soul woman vocalist to sound like Eryka Badu? LOL. Time for the second half of the U.K.'s Soul Music neighbourhood watch!
Rotterdam resident Natascha Slagtand forms the backbone of Tasha's World. I heard Ralph Tee play tracks from this album on his late Thames Show, which I caught a fleeting listen to in the middle of organising baths and food for my daughter on Saturday nights! I must confess to stopping the chores and waiting to find out who sang the song 'All That's On My Mind'. A beautiful ballad. One glass of wine and back to the grind!! LOL.
Tasha's World's self titled album is a very nice set that I hope doesn't get pigeonholed as well. It is too good for that. Listen to 'Breakfast London Style' and tell me you are not listening to something a little special. 'Stalker' is a very interesting tune, dealing with the tricky topic of infidelity. Brave songwriting and highly listenable.
Dome Records strike again! Nice one...again...Peter and Santosh!! LOL.
Firstly, Dome Records ought to be awarded a medal for gifting us this fine selection of Southern Soul Gems and, also, having the balls to release them in a climate of tuneless Modern R & B, Boy Bands and Gangsta rap.
When you check these various sides, from the last few decades, it makes you realise just how todays mass market has sold out to musical trivia and image, when the real deal is what really sends the shivers down the proverbial spine.
Peter Young, at Jazz FM in London, has put together this fine follow up album compilation, which has been an absolute delight to listen to from start to finish.
There are a few tracks here familiar to these old ears, including the excellent 'Come To Bed' by Denise LaSalle and the late Johnnie Taylor's fine 'Can I Love You'. Real old favourites those.
Of the songs that are new to me, well, 1976's Dorothy Moore collaboration with Eddie Floyd on 'We Should Really Be In Love', really is the business.
Eddie briefly passed through the doors at Malaco at the time and this gem was brought to fruition.
The tracks by Mel Waiters ('I'm So Glad') and Little Milton ('I Wish I Could Be Your Lover') are simply fantastic.
Santosh and the two Peters have done us proud here and long may this fine series run.
Like a breath of fresh air? Rose in the desert? Call it what you will. Music like this will be around a great deal longer than some of todays 'offerings'. Of that you can be sure.
Secondly, Dome have really hit paydirt by signing, in my humble opinion, one of the finest singer songwriters around.
Brenda Russell's first offering for the label is a retrospective of her work since becoming a solo artist back in 1979.
In fact, this CD commences with her evergreen 'In The Thick Of It', taken from that debut set, and moves through her various releases up until the present day.
Of interest to Brenda fans is the inclusion of one new track entitled 'It's A Jazz Day', which, if the streams allow, you can catch a couple of minutes of just below.
Not much more to add, other than, if your old vinyl albums, by this fine artist, are sounding a little jaded, this excellent compilation album will be a godsend. Really nice sleevenotes, by the way.
Nice one Peter and Santosh.
Well, we have certainly hit paydirt here with these two magnificent sets, one from this year, and one from three years ago.
Running this site is a weird and wonderful thing. You get to talk with some great artists and Leon Ware is one. Then you get something arrive that is 'left field' and totally brilliant.
Carol Ware (Leon's wife) sent me Leon's new album. At last the set is complete. I sent Peter Young a copy of the 5 track sampler that Carol sent me a while back. That has had constant airplay on his Jazz FM show, with the track 'Saveur' being particularly popular. I make no bones about the fact that Leon Ware is one of my favourite soul artists. His vocal stylings are one of the real pleasure's of this genre. The album is a real joy with all of the 5 'taster' tracks featured. Of the undiscovered gems 'Finger Party' is Leon at his best. A real return to form (not that Leon is ever off form!) for this great soul singer. The album is now on sale at David Nathan's website (link from the relevant page). Just go buy the album. A great set. Leon is in the U.K. for dates at the Jazz Cafe in June.
The James Aldridge album I had read about in Tony Horn's excellent 'Soulin' magazine. My friend George in Scotland told me that he had a spare copy and asked me if I would like a CD? I accepted his kindness and, when the album arrived, I put on Leon's first! Not expecting anything of any greatness, I put on the album and was totally bowled over. This set is 3 years old and I now find I am kicking myself for not picking this album up sooner. James's vocals are strong and the melodies just match the whole offering. Prime cuts? Well there are several that jump out at the listener. 'You're The Only One' is a magnificent ballad, however, it was the track 'Leora' that had this scribe on the blower to Chris Hill. Chris kept asking me after the tune. A weekender anthem. Best song of the year so far...or should I say of the year 2000!! LOL. A great track that reminded me a little of the Chi-Lites 'Try My Side Of Love'. Nice one James.
Ebonye Alleyne now has 2 45's out on the market...in tiny quantities. The latest 45 has only been pressed in a quantity of 100!
The first single I reviewed here around Christmas time (above) and the latest one has just been released. For some strange reason, Sony, who own these recordings, have decided to ditch an album that would make many peoples 'year end' top spot. The arrangements are fabulous on this set with Ebonye penning all of the songs along with Ian Levine and Clive Scott, bar an unreleased version of the Barbara Lewis chestnut, 'Hello Stranger'.
Of these two new sides, you pays your money, you takes your choice. The top side is pure Detroit Spinners, whilst the flip has echoes of the Stylistics in there. Ebonye's vocal stylings are smooth and effortless. Her melodies are quite magnificent. Real strings, real instruments all topped off with a real singer. Can't say that often thesedays! I do hope that Sony have a rethink regarding releasing this album, even if it makes me appear a fool in forking out £20 for this new single!
There were copies of this single at Crazy Beat Records when I last spoke to them and there are links to them right here:
Their number is 01708 228 678 (U.K. number). If the streams allow, do check this single out. The audio for the previous 45 is right here as well.
I have to thank my good friend Charles Waring from B&S for turning me onto this new, up and coming singer. I guess with all the issues during the last few weeks, this album was 'kind of' a touchstone for me.
So many e-mails and little time to listen to much that had made it's way here. Sure the postbox rattled every morning, with me wondering what to do with the new product that arrived here.
Lizz Wright is only 19 years old. She has a musical timbre far beyond her years. I nearly fell off my chair when I found out how old she is!
Lizz is a very mature vocalist and songwriter. There is a melancholic feel regarding her songwritings, not too dissimilar to those of one Norah Jones, although, whilst Norah has a 'country' leaning, Lizz's sound has a definite R & B foundation.
'Soon As I Get Home' is a song that Anita Baker would die for, whilst 'Blue Rose' has a 'song standard' feel about things. There are hints of Roberta Flack buried away somewhere in here as well.
'Eternity' is my favouite cut from this set that, as I said before, has been of great comfort to this old man.
I believe that we will be hearing a lot more from this young woman over the next few months. Very nice album indeed.
Firstly, I have to say a big thank you to Barry Towler for his review on Ismo Tenkenen's excellent website, Soul Express, for pointing this scribe to this fine album on CD Baby.
I listened to the opening title track and ordered a copy on the strength of that track alone! The CD landed on the doormat this morning. In the meantime, I have been in touch with Marc and his assistant, Pat, who have been very helpful in providing info on the man. Page on him at the site right now.
Marc, apart from being an accomplished flautist, has an amazing list of performers that he has opened for. These include The Four Tops, The O'Jays and the Temptations, no less.
The overall feel of this set is, well, very similar to that of the Whispers. Higher praise than that I could not bestow on any soul singer. If the Whispers are your bag (they certainly are personal favourites at this house!! LOL), you'll love this set. The title track is absolutely beautiful and what follows is of the highest order.
I am sure we are going to hear a great deal more from this performer in the future and to be honest, if there is any justice in the World, he deserves to sell bucketloads of this album. If the streams allow, check the audio here or at CD Baby. That URL is:
Funny old business this Soul Music thing is. Look at that Martin Bashir interview with Michael Jackson. Then there was Prince at the Brit Awards a few years back. Now there is R Kelly popping in and out of the Nick with accusations flying around regarding 14 year old girls. Whatever next? The common denominator is that 'The West' now have a mindset that anyone who is in the public eye is easy meat. In the States it is Michael Jackson, over here it is David Beckham. Everyone wants their 'piece of the pie' and folks like Michael and R Kelly end up defending themselves for behaviour brought on by cultural circumstance. I think I would lose it myself. I am not going to sit as Judge and Jury over these people. As God's son once said 'He who is without sin, may he cast the first stone'. I would have added an 'or she' to that one, however, we seem to take our eyes off the ball and that ball is the music.
R Kelly has recorded some great music, has been attacked by many quarters of society and had his last album bootlegged to the point that he withdrew the set and parts of it re-appear with this new album. Personally, I prefer the man when he is not 'trying to fly' and much more so in his 'Your Body's Calling' mode. This album is worth the purchase alone for the glorious 7 minutes that reach fruition in the remix of 'Step In The Name Of Love'. This will be in my year end Top 5, in spite of his alleged personal foibles. Hell, I liked 'Butterflies' by Michael Jackson, so why not this tune? Robert has matured a country mile since his debut set 11 years ago (yes it is 11 years!). If this album was released by anyone else, he would be proclaimed as the 'discovery of the year'. As it stands, this set's sales will suffer more from his visits to his local Bobby, rather than the musical content. Do you care what Posh & Becks are doing in private? No, you want Beckhan to do his stuff on the pitch and Posh to..........whoops there goes that argument!! LOL. Just go and buy this. That track is brilliant and the rest ain't bad either. Roberts best to date.
Illinois born, Peven Everett's album fell on the doormat last week (thanks Lucy) and I have been taking it for a spin since then. Peven received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music at the age of 17, therefore he is no musical slouch. Now, not wishing to mislead the visitor, if your bag is Otis Clay and Sam Cooke, you will probably hate this CD. Hows that for a good piece of marketing!! LOL. The thing is that this album has a real, for want of a better word, 'nagging quality'. The best way I can describe this set is that the style is set somewhere between Maxwell and those excellent Cafe Del Mar compilations. If you don't know those, then I am stuck! All I do know is that I really like this album and, on paper, I shouldn't. Love it when that happens. On show here, my two favourites are 'Everyday Girl' and 'You Are To Me'. The arrangements are quite sparse and highly hypnotic. Nice one Peven. Thanks for getting, what is left of my old grey matter, into some sort of musical gear! Keep the mind open and the rest will follow...
Incognito are, just about, the finest soul export (that Gordon Brown can be proud of!) from the U.K soul scene. The standard they have set themselves is a very high one and, to be honest, if they are to emulate this set, they deserve to be honoured by the Queen!
That nice Santosh Robinson, from Dome Records in the U.K., called me this week and said that she and the guys at Dome had the rights to release this fine album in the U.K. The date is 17th of March, so I am told, so there are a few weeks to wait, however, the wait will be well worth it.
It is a sad testament to the mainstream music industry here that Bluey had to look to the Japanese Market to find an outlet to, initially, release this fine set of melodies. Well at least Santosh and the staff at Dome have their musical heads screwed on!
Incognito have been 'doing their stuff' for the last 24 years or so. In that time, Lacy Lady deejay Chris Hill saw their potential and, originally, signed the guys to his Ensign imprint.
Right from the outset, Bluey's fusion influences became apparent. I still have their 'Jazz Funk' set here from 1979. In the meantime, and without the plaudits that he deserves, he has developed a penchant for writing a 'good tune'. Sounds a little 'trite', however, in these days of formulised Pop garbage, this is an unusual gift.
All of the recent Incognito output has contained a gem or several and this album is no exception. What sits in the CD player here is a 7 track sampler from the album. I have heard some of the other tunes on this set and, to be honest, there is not a duff cut within this set's musical walls, thus I will not go through a track by track run down. Suffice to say, you need this set in the same way you will need a ticket for Ledisi's upcoming Jazz Cafe gigs!! LOL....which reminds me, that Bluey and the gang are there in April.
Santosh asked me not to add any streamed audio to the site, a request that I will honour, however, the urge to add a tune for you to listen to is a hard one to resist!! There is audio at Dome's own site. Check the link below.
As a postnote, I know that Bluey's partner has not been well recently and I would like to send my best wishes. All things become irrelevant when it comes down to the health of our nearest and dearest.
Great set Bluey.
If you experience a feeling of 'deja vu' reading this article, you are not going crazy! This album has been reviewed here previously on these pages. I am returning to this album for two reasons. Firstly, when Tashan, originally, contacted me over a year ago, he sent me a promo of this fine album. Since that time a lot of water has passed under the bridge and the CD now has a cover. Tashan sent me the newer CD this week. The second reason is that, to this date, this fine collection of songs hasn't been snapped up by a major.
Tashan's own label is called Powerkingdom and the man is, to be honest with you, a real workaholic!! LOL There is another set on the way, along with a couple of dance 12" singles. Tony Horn interviewed the great man in his latest edition of Soulin' magazine and there is another interview in the current Manifesto magazine.
In another era, Tashan would receive the accolades that he thoroughly deserves. In these days, the pop charts comprise of, essentially, nursery rhymes set to a disco beat. Real singers are having to sit on the sidelines waiting for the recognition they deserve. Interestingly enough, I believe there is a real musical hunger out there for the likes of Tashan. What seems to have happened is that many of us feel musically sidelined as well. Somewhere in the centre of all of this are the middle men, who have a penchant for nursery rhymes and Boy Bands. Interesting that one...one compliments the other!!
So what of this album and what transpired with Tashan during 2002? Well, on receiving the first initial copy of this set, I called Ralph Tee at Expansion Records and played him the track 'After Hours' down the telephone. I sent him a copy of the CD (with the thumbs up from Tashan). There then followed a series of 'networkings'. Ralph called Richard at Expansion, who called Tashan and there then commenced discussions regarding licensing the album. Then the Cafe De Soul label enquired after the set. Expansion put out a 'Best Of', without the inclusion of 'After Hours' and Tashan travelled to these shores to play to 2,500 soul fans at the Fleetwood Soul Weekender. The man then played the Fridge in Brixton to a similar number of punters just after Christmas. Who says there is no market for the music we know and love out there?
Now what have I forgotten? Oh yes, the most important part of the story. The album. LOL. When I checked the various playlistings, posted at the end of last year, 'After Hours' made most peoples charts (and not in the lower reaches either!). 'Life Goez On' is, essentially, a concept album, moving through the subjects of Love, Politics and Spirituality. Tashan's vocals are head and shoulders above anyone's in the National Pop Charts.
In the last year I have spoken, on the phone, a couple of times to the man and we have had countless exchanges on our web providers 'Instant Messaging' service. My daughter has even told him all about her latest Roald Dahl book!! LOL. He has become a good friend and I have been pleased to help him, whenever I could, at various stages.
This is a very good album, which compares favourably with much of Tashan's previous musical output.
...you can pick up a copy from Tashan7@aol.com
I have had a sneak preview of Tashan's new 12" singles, which are top drawer tunes. They will be very popular, I believe.
Two albums to bring a bright start to 2003. I get the feeling that this year has 'quality' stamped all over it...even though these two sets have 2002 on their labels!!
Firstly, Vivian Green is a new artist to me. I had sent a promo of this album and shamefully shelved it over the holiday season. Now that I am getting on with some 'real work', I played this album several times. Vivian has delivered an album with some very thoughtful lyrics along with some very nice melodies. Vivian was, initially, recruited by one Jill Scott, no less, and a very good choice of vocalist Jill selected indeed. The album kicks off with the vibrant 'Wishful Thinking', moves into a jazz mode on 'No Sitting By The Phone' and ends up with the majestic 'Keep On Going'. Any album that has my wife reaching for the sleeve, to find out who the vocalist is, must be worth investigating. Vivian is at the Jazz Cafe in March. A good new artist.
Café De Soul are a label that have really come into their own over the last couple of years. Last years chart featured the fine Leena Conquest tune 'The Breeze', which is featured on this fine compilation here in a remixed format. A very fine remix it is too. As I sit penning this review, I must say that there isn't a track, on show here, that isn't of the highest quality. Nigel Bird and Vijay Mistry's label is a breath of fresh air to the U.K. soul music market. Along with the excellent Expansion Label, they provide an optimistic future for all that is best in the music we love here. I love the tracks by all of the artists here. Favourites? Well, as you will know, I have a penchant for anything by the soul singer Donnie (who appears here via the courtesy of The Sirius B Project on the track 'Always Remember') and the melody 'Til Forever Ends', by the singer Corey D. Abrams is quite exceptional. More power to your elbows guys. This is a very fine compilation.
Well, along passes another Christmas and a New Year beckons that, usually, brings a level of deflation after all of the festivities. As is the norm, there were a couple of albums that arrived during the Yuletide period that raised this scribes eyebrows. Happy New Year by the way.
Howard Johnson and Regis Branson are two artists that are familiar to me via their debut duet album from over a decade ago now. Soul Japan sent me this album, which is their second excellent release following their fine 'Project Butterfly' outing last year. Howard Johnson is a fine soul singer, ever since his early days with Niteflyte and his collaborations with Kashif in the early Eighties. This set kicks off with a revamped version of his R & B hit 'So Fine'. This album is not a one track affair, in fact it is a fine all round release. Regis Branson's warm tones compliment Howards and the whole set forms a very satisfying start to the new year. Of the cuts on offer here, 'Still In Love With You', 'Hang Around Me (drop dead gorgeous!), 'It Really Doesn't Matter', 'Just A Chance', 'King Of Fools' (really quite excellent) and 'Every Little Thing' make up a quality package that I would heartily recommend in this time of Worldly change. Music of a very high soulful quality. Buy blind. Enough said. http://www.souljapan.com
Gospel music is something always close to my heart. Let's face it, most of the finest soul singers have began their careers in the non secular field. This CD I was sent by label owner Undra Hill. To be honest, the Yuletide festivities have taken all of my time and I have shamefully neglected this outing. One thing I did do is send Ralph Tee at Expansion Records a copy of this CD. Basically, this is a compilation CD of all of Undra's Churchouse Records artist roster. These singers comprise of Melody Tate, John Knight, Eric Deon, J. Allen Stuart and Kimmi Anderson. One thing that cannot be doubted is the quality of the vocal contributions by all of the various artists. Each and everyone is finely qualified and the 'man upstairs' will be a very happy man. Of the tunes on offer here, the title track is a very fine offering. John Knight's two contributions, namely 'Hold On' and ''I Don't Know', jumped out of the speakers at this listener, however, all of the artists involved here are very worthy artists in their own right. Looking forward to hearing more from this fine independent gospel label in the future. Excellent gospel music indeed. http://www.churchhouserecords.com
The OKeH label has been a favourite amongst Northern Soul followers since the demise of the original label nealy 3 decades ago. The label released product, originally, by the likes of Major Lance, The Vibrations and the late Walter Jackson amongst others. All of these years later, what a surprise to find the imprint re-appearing in the U.K. via the Northern entrepreneur Ian Levine. The first single is from a new singer called Ebony Alleyne. This single has created such a buzz that, when I called Soul Brother to buy a copy, I could hear the shop staff putting by copies for other customers. Is the hype justified? Well, put it this way. Whenever I hear a tune that I am sure I have heard before, but haven't, then the artist has created something a little special. The song would sit very comfortably alongside most of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's Sixties output. The flip is a very nice ballad, that I have included here for you to listen to. I have heard some tracks from Ebony's forthcoming album, which are top drawer. Don't believe me. Grab a stream and take a listen. What a comeback for the label. Ian Levine is reported to have said that this is the best project he has ever worked on. Recorded in Ascot in the U.K. and featuring the The Urban Soul Orchestra, alongside Snake Davis And The Suspicions, Ebony is an artist, definitely, to watch out for in 2003.
Jean Carne is one of my favourite soul vocalists....male or female. Her range is second to none. Just listen to the track 'Completeness' from her 'Trust Me' album. Her output is quite extraordinary. Jean's 'When I Find You Love' set is one of my all time favourite albums. Last March, I was lucky enough to meet Jean at the Jazz Cafe in London (thanks Ralph). I had a bundle of her old albums under my arm and she signed the 'When I Find You Love' and 'Happy To Be With You' sleeves for me. We got talking and touched on her product outside the walls of her own albums. Jean was a pleasure to talk with. Easy going, polite and keen to speak with everyone who wanted to get to meet her. 9 months later and Ralph and Richard at Expansion must have had the same thing in mind that I had. 'Collaborations' is just that. A really fine curriculum vitae of her recorded guest appearances over the years. You get 17 tracks here. No bad tracks. All well worthy of your collection. There are some of the usual suspects here in the form of 'Back For More' (with Al Johnson), 'Let's Stay Together' (with Bobby M) and 'Valentine Love' (with the excellent Michael Henderson). I was very impressed that the Expansion guys 'dug deep' and included Universe's 'Love Is Beautiful and the late Stanley Turrentine's version of 'Night Breeze'. Quality oozing out of every track. There would be, wouldn't there with Jean at the helm? She is back at the Jazz Cafe in January 2003. Can't wait!
Hil St, Soul first came to our attention via Hilary Mwelwa's fine rendition of Stevie's 'Til You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)'. Hilary has a real warmth to her vocal delivery. There is an earthiness that is full of resonance and charm, as well as being very easy on the listeners ear. This second album I had sent a few weeks back and it has been constantly on the CD player since then. I have just been totally lazy in getting around to review this fine album. There are many fine slices of soul on this set, however, I would urge you to go out and buy this album on the strength of one tune, namely the track 'Pieces'. A better song you will not hear all year. Hilary has really matured as a lyricist and this is a fine example of just how far she has come. My wife and daughter love this tune along with this old soul fan. Went down very well on the recent Jools Holland show recently as well. A great Christmas present.
Someone else who has matured since their first album is the singer Jahiem. Again, this is a solid set, which excels on the ballad front. Jaheim really sounds like Teddy on some tunes, even sampling a riff on one track called 'Backtight'. The track that made my ears perk up is track 5 entitled 'Put That Woman First'. A 'real' soul tune. Other highlights are the beautiful 'Special Day', the humorous 'Fabulous' and the very personal 'Everywhere I Am', which may be a reference to the passing of a close relative. Jahiem Hoagland has really matured since his first outing and has created a fine body of work with this CD. Shame about the swearing on one track, although there are 'cleaned-up' versions of this album in your local store. Very worthwhile and as for the 'Woman First' track...if there are any doubters out there.....
Hosting this website is a real hit and miss venture. CD's arrive from time to time, some of which are, awful, some are Macy Gray soundalikes (or the latest answer to Eryka Badu! LOL) some are quite good and some are downright fantastic! This artist I knew about via his collaboration with his wife Brenda from back in the day, whilst he is also a discovery of one Stevie Wonder, no less. I guess that this label figured that there wasn't a market out there for this type of music....LOL, so they contacted me!! LOL. Well, my wife wasn't well, daughter had tonsilitis, so I sorted out the necessary things to help the women I love and sat down with this CD and a beer!! Got really into several of the opening tracks ('Do That To Me' is quite lovely) on this 14 tracker and got to track 13. This has to be one of the songs of the year! Is it that good? Well, believe me it is. What is the feel? Well I guess it is kind of Isley, Jasper, Isley / Gary Taylor at their finest. The whole album is beautifully recorded and delivered and I called Jazz FM, Blues and Soul and Expansion Records about this album and that tune. Don't believe me. Listen to 'Nobody'. Absolutely fantastic. Enough said.
Thanks to Lucy Beer at Elemental Consulting and Michael himself for making this old soulster a very happy one.
Tony Terry is an artist whose music I have regulary purchased over the years. Tony has come a long way from those heady days of his first single 'Fly Girl' back in 1988. That tune was massive on the U.K. soul radio stations and subsequent albums showed a growing maturity that belied the street image that he exuded back at the outset. In fact, today he is touring with Howard Hewett, Phil Perry and Glenn Jones. Enough said. So here we arrive in 2002, some 14 years after that original album release, with Tony having three albums under his belt and here arrives the CD which makes number four (maths was never my strong point!! LOL). After spending half an hour fighting my daughter as she gets to the post before this old man!! LOL, I finally managed to prize the set from her, locked the door and settled down with Tony's latest release. Tony states that this album is his finest to date (thus the title...nothing gets past me!! LOL) and, to be honest, I am not going to argue that point with the man. The album commences with the slowy 'I Don't Wanna Stop' (a particular favourite in this house) and slowly moves up (and down) the gears, culminating with the rhythmic 'Keep On Walkin'. In between there are some fine moments. 'Better Man' is a fine ballad. 'Freaky Little Game' is a nice toe-tapper, whilst 'Every Moment' is a ballad right out of the top drawer. 'Heaven' is a very nice mid-tempo offering. If you liked Tony's previous output, with a touch of Keith Sweat at his best, and a much larger helping of soul, then this should fit your bill. Nice album.
This is an album that I have been waiting for longer than the 8.45 from Charing Cross!! LOL. 'The Colored Section' has been on the agenda of those nice Giant Step people for a couple of years now. In the meantime we have been slowly treated to a couple of three track promo CD's, which indicated that we were about to be in the company of an artist that was a 'bit special'. We have featured Donnie's releases here over the last couple of years and, I have to say this album deserves a 'musical section in black music' all of it's own. 'The Coloured Section', will, probably, be my album of 2002. Lexington born, Donnie sits, vocally, somewhere between Stevie and Donny, a comparison that has been lauded on other artists, however, Donnie's delivery is very unique. This CD is due for an official release around November end this year and I would highly recommend you put this fine album at the top of your Christmas present list. There are 14 tracks on offer here, 5 of which I have already been introduced to. 'Do You Know', most of you will know by now. Jazz FM in London have been playing the track regularly for a year or so now, although the breezy mix on offer here is a different one to the one I am used to and very nice it is too. The title track is a beautiful ballad and 'Wildlife' swings along brilliantly (sure that I can hear Stevie on harmonica in there somewhere). 'Turn Around' is beautifully sung and sends shivers down this listeners spine. THE tune here for me is the fine, fine 'Rocketship'. A superior tune would be hard to find this year. One brilliant album with no duff cuts and nice to know that we have some U.K. input from the excellent production skills of one Steve Harvey. Stevie, I am sure, himself, would be proud to release this album as one of his own outings. Nice one Giant Step. Now where is the cheque book.....
Expansion Records release some great albums by solo artists and groups, however, they really come into their own when they put together a soul compilation and here are two fine examples of exactly what I mean.
The Spirit Of Philadelphia means just that. The compilation isn't a run down of the Philadelphia International catalogue, more a look at the lesser known releases from the Philadelphia area recorded back in the day. Many of the producers and arrangers, from the Philly label, worked on several of these fine singles and albums and included Tony Bell, Thom Bell and Bobby Martin. This is a very nicely packaged album with the sleevenotes being tightly slid into the CD cover case, such is the comprehensive depth that Expansion have gone into to give the listener a greater idea of exactly what was connected with each tune contained herein. The groups under scrutiny here involve The Joneses, Gloria Gaynor, The Futures, The Modulations, Revelation, The Invitations, Barbara Mason & The Futures, Jermaine Jackson (a really pleasant surprise), Little Dooley, Dianne Steinberg, Touch Of Class, The Philly Devotions, Charen Cotten, New York City and a great tune from The Whispers. Personal favourites are the aforementioned Whispers, Revelation and the Gloria Gaynor tune that has a real 'Young Hearts Run Free' tinge to it. I know that soul detective Ralph at Expansion has put a lot work into tracking down the Little Dooley tune. Well done on that one, Ralph. Now could you find me Lord Lucan! LOL. Very nice CD.
The Togetherness 2002 compilation is the third in a series that features the tunes that were popular at the Togetherness weekenders here in the U.K. Deejays come from all over the country to do their stuff at the venue and this is Expansions take on what went down well this time around. The overall feel of this CD is a mix of contemporary dancers, sitting nicely alongside some rare classics from back in the day. I really like taking these CD's for a spin as there is always something there to surprise me (sorry Dusty! LOL). There are offerings here from Phaja, Byron Stingly, Frank McComb, Dionne Warwick, Swing Out Sister, The Live Band, Phyllis Hyman, Fir Ya, Gerald Mallory, Gail Eason, Universal Love, Jan Jones, John Simeone, Troi and Maysa Leak (with her take on Sly's evergreen 'Family Affair'). There are two very interesting unreleased tunes here. Phyllis's version of 'Sleep On It' (which was originally recorded for the 'Can't We Fall In Love Again' LP) and another remake in the form of Frank McComb doing his stuff on Stevie's 'Golden Lady'. The Frank track comes from an album entitled 'The Motown Sessions', that may never see the light of day, which is a shame as the album is the bees knees. Really like the Fir Ya track, although personal favourite here is Universal Love's 'It's You Girl', a tune that was originally a b-side to a TK twelve that sits on the shelves here. A great tune and a CD that ought to be in your collection.
My apologies to you regarding the lack of updates recently. Been in discussion with my webspace providers regarding sound at the site. All, kind of, resolved now. Had to lose the longer audio mixes that's all.
Here are two albums that have been criminally neglected by yours truly. My apologies. Glenn Jones is a fine soul singer. He is another singer who could sing the phone directory and make it sound soulful! This album I was e-mailed about a few weeks back by the record company whose label this set is released on. I sat down when I had a quiet moment and gave this album a real close listen. Glenn has made some fine music over the years and this album is no exception. The first four tracks would grace any 'best of' album that he might want to release in the future. My pick of the bunch is the melodic 'Every Time', although, such is the strength of song on this album, many pundits have plumped for the title track. Highly recommended.
I had an e-mail at the weekend from an India Arie fan who felt I ought to have a piece on India Arie's new set at the site. Quite right she was, too. Goes to show how exasperating it is not being able to access your webspace!! India is one of many fine female soul vocalists out there. In fact, it is hard to remember a better time for the lovers of soul songstresses. So much quality out there. India has a delicate vocal delivery that allows the song to come to the fore, which is a very fine thing in this day and age of over produced and melodiless R & B. Might be a controversial thing to say, however, it is all I take in whilst watching the latest Top Of The Pops (or similar). The first single taken from this album is the infectious 'Little Thing', which makes a passing nod to Rufus's excellent 'Hollywood', methinks. Real nice tune that my daughter has picked up on already. Really like the tune 'Get It Together' from this set and 'Complicated Melody' is a beautifully constructed piece of music. 'God Is Real' is a real nice piece of gospel. A track that Joni Mitchell would be very at home with. This set will be destined for many a discerning Christmas stocking this year methinks! Very nice album and on a major, too. Can't be bad.
Raphael Saadiq's career I have monitored with real interest over the years. I bought the Toni's (Tony Toni Tone) product and liked, pretty well, all of it. They moved from an R & B 'Sly Stone' type of swingbeat outfit, maturing quickly with top drawer melodies such as 'Anniversary' and 'I Couldn't Keep It To Myself' ending up with a fine final live outing that became 'House Of Music' ('Holy Smokes And Gee Whiz' was brilliant). Then everything went 'pear shaped'. Raphael formed the ill fated Lucy Pearl. That was not a bad album although Raphael appeared to have lost the plot. Arguments among group members meant that the dust needed to settle. In the meantime, the record companies tried to pigeon-hole the man into the 'new R & B' section of your local record store. So after all of the antics that would have graced any soap opera, what of this new album? Well, I have had this set on the stereo for several spins now. I really didn't like it at all at first. Repeated plays delivered a new favourite track each time around. Can't help but feel that there is still a Sly Stone thing going on here. The opening two tracks jump right out at the listener, namely, 'Doing What I Can' and 'Body Parts' (a highly infectious groove). 'Different Times' has a nice mid tempo flavour complemented by some very spiritual lyrics, whilst the track 'Faithful' is finding favour amongst the real Soulies out there. The real 'tour de force' here, for me, is a song that makes up a weird fourteen and a half minute section right at the end of this fine CD. 'Skyy, Can You Feel Me?' is a quite superb duet, building into a minor masterpiece, rivalling any of the Toni's best output. Worth the price of the CD alone. D'Angelo makes an appearance on this real grower of an album, by the way.
Leon Ware photo courtesy of Alan Mercer
Leon Ware is one of my favourite soul artists. I have caught his shows, at the Jazz Cafe in London, twice over the years. Without doubt, he has been a major songwriting influence on so many soul artists out there, ranging from Michael Jackson to Melissa Manchester. As you all know, Leon was responsible for Marvin Gaye's fine album, 'I Want You', way back in 1976. Perhaps Marvins last 'classic' recording? Recently I have been in touch with a man called Martijn Delaere who helps with Leon's affairs whilst he is in Europe. Martijn told me of a forthcoming album by the great man and said he had a 5 track sampler that he would like to send me. The CD arrived a couple of days back and has been receiving a great deal of attention from the family here. What struck me firstly about the melodies were a) how 'song led' the tunes are and b) how fine Leon's vocal performances are. The whole thing kicks off with the breezy 'Saveur', which reminded me of the uptempo moments on Leon's 'Inside Is Love' album. 'Underneath Your Sweetness' is right out of Leon's top songwriting drawer. Great melody, beautifully delivered. 'Around The World' is another winner which is the fifth and final track on this fine sampler. Personal favourite here has to be the rhythmic, downtempo, 'Is It Drippin On Yourself', which rounds up proceedings very nicely. 5 tracks and five winners. Really looking forward to this album that is due out later this year, I guess. I will keep you informed.