Soul And / Or Related Artists

listen out for 2008...



• Dionyza - Dionyza


One of the most exasperating things regarding the run in to each Christmas, every year, is that, come early December, you think you have a good idea of your favourite tracks from that particular year. You sit down, compiling your list, burn an 'end of year best of' CD, and then some artist out there comes along and completely throws the list into chaos! Dionyza is this years culprit, and I am absolutely delighted she is! LOL This is a really lovely CD, which, if it had been released back in the summer, it would be in many punters top ten of 2008. I knew the CD was going to be of some sort of standard when it arrived, even before I played it. This is because the set is on the excellent Michael Sutton imprint. Little Dizzy Records. The Angie Whitney album earlier this year was a case in point. An excellent release that one. This set is even better! I know this will make sense to many of you guys out there, when I say this set is very Expansion Records, and very Ralph Tee in style. I am sure Dionyza would admit she doesn't possess a massively powerful delivery, which is a real godsend on this album. In parts the feel is very Maysa Leak in sound. What makes this album a very powerful musical piece, are the very strong melodies on offer here. That coupled with Dionyza's rich harmonic treatment, really brings the album out of the ordinary, and into the extraordinary. Choosing tracks is something I will do, however, the whole set is very palatable in all area's, so when you pays your money, it is up to you to make your own choice. 'Give It To Me' and 'Today Will Soon Be Yesterday' are outstanding slices of modern soul music (in particular the latter melody). 'Practise Makes Perfect' is a song that made the site charts here back in 2005. At that time the host of the song was one LaToya London. The track, back then, I remember thinking that, with a little promotional work, could well be a pop top 20 song, it was so catchy. This take is, if anything, an improvement on that original. Again, it is Dionyza's vocals that add a little extra spice to this particular recipe. Finally, 'If This Love Could Be' could quite easily please any modern soul dancefloor. Retro, with a modern twist. Dionyza has an unusual CV, recording or singing with the likes of Babyface, Jon B and Christine Aguilera! Out in a week or so, go get a copy. Lovely surprise! This and the Tom Jones set! Whatever next! Next month Guns and Roses! LOL.

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• Tom Jones - 24 Hours / Bennson - Let The Love / Brenda Boykin - Chocolate and Chili

Tom JonesBennsonBrenda Boykin

Three albums that I either a) am not allowed to like, if I call myself a Soul Music fan, b) 'blimey, you're a bit late matey', and c) are making some waves right across the Soul Spectrum right now.

Tom Jones. In a way, what is there not to like? Well, in the Sixties, he was the 'white soul brother', however in recent years, he has almost become a pastiche of his very own self! Sure, when anyone mentions the man's name thesedays, the usual response is a smile, followed by 'wasn't 'It's Not Unusual' a great song...sure I saw him leaning over the piano on a recent Jools Holland programme after singing his take on Prince's 'Kiss' for the umpteenth time'! In recent years, much as the music companies and the rock folks seem to have converted the man to 'national treasure' status, that particular take on his contributions to music thesedays stifles the Welshman's musical credibility and diversity outside the business, and that is a shame. New Tom Jones album? Must be Christmas. Bring on Hogmany! All told, I would have passed this album by without a turn of the head in Tom's direction normally. Peter Young from Jazz FM said to me 'have you heard Tom Jones new single'? I hadn't so I went off to iTunes to check the Top Twenty. 'If He Should Ever Leave You', I tried really hard not to like. A girl has got to keep up appearances, don't you know! LOL.The odd thing about the song is it really reminded me of the material Swing Out Sister release thesedays. They may have had some input here, who knows (very much the downside of buying music online. No information. Take note Apple.)? This (and I won't be told otherwise by any diehard Soul Boy), is a glorious piece of Northern Soul. The fact that the Blue Eyed Soul boy was singing this material back in it's ermerging heyday really shows on some of the songs on offer here. I say some, as there are those moments, which Tom has tried utilising on his previous releases recently (an establishament obligation that was unnecessary in my humble....), which are fairly non descript musically, mainly using these 4 minute vehicles to test whether the man can still hit those notes, after all these years. The big change on this set, is his return to the material that crafted the man's career all those years ago. Aside from the single, 'We Got Love' is a charming piece of Soul Music. Delicately sung, melodically strong, and a wonderful return to his soulful roots. 'The Road' is another pure Sixties sounding gem, which I would love to hear that nice Corinne (from Swing Out Sister) deliver her take on the whole affair. The rest of the album is O.K., but not a classic, however, the set is worth picking up for the three 'stormers' mentioned. This set won't be played by the real Soul fraternity out there, as Tom is perceived thesedays as being too mainstream, and dare I say 'old', however, as Monty Python once stated, personally, 'I delight in all manifestations of the terpsichorean muse'....I like a nice tune, and here, you have three wonderful pieces of Blue Eyed Soul. Stick that in your iPod, and remote control it, if you think you are hard enough! LOL 'Tom Jones for Prime Min......', no, I don't think I'd wish that on anyone right now! LOL.

Bennson's album I am a little late with, and that is all Ralph Tee's fault! LOL Ralph kindly sent me his latest Soul Togetherness 2008 compilation (reviewed here), which contained the excellent 'Let The Love' track by this performer, leaving me not following up the interest with the parent album. Slapped wrists here! Bennson is an Australian singer, living in Germany and recording in Sweden. Get's around doesn't he? LOL. Bennson's vocals are very powerful, which, when aligned with some strong melodies and instrumentation, all go to make for a highly enjoyable hour or so at your stereo. 'Let The Love' always was one of the pick of the tracks on Expansion's Soul Togetherness set. You get the original mix here. The song is very 1983'ish in sound, which has been the soulful fashion over the last year or so. People miss the S.O.S Band / Change bands of that era. Artists such as Peo and Mirjam, Cool Million, Swade, Confection and Bennson all go to help fill the void. I must admit that these first attempts of bringing that era into fruition within the new millennium are pretty favourable all told. I was mightly impressed by the moody 'Incredible', the very 1983 pirate radio sounding 'The Greatest', and the very 'Patrice Rushen No. 1' influenced 'Whatever It Is'. All round, this set won't change your life, but it certainly will enhance it! Recommended.

Brenda Boykin? What is she like! Well, to tell you the truth, I can't place her anyplace. Sure, I'll try to add a parrallel melody or artist in order to impart whatever the listener might be likely to expect at each tracks departure lounge, however, this is one set you really need to locate and listen to yourself. What I can say is it is very good and is already making waves in all the right places on the radio dial. Brenda was part of the Bahama Soul Club ensemble and has been utilised on several musical projects as a session artist, with this set being her first foray into the music business as a solo performer. As I said, describing this set is like walking through a descriptive minefield. Parts remind me of the excellent Mario Biondi album from last year, and then Brenda throws you off the scent, with a musical 'slight of hand' and there you are stuck between two speakers listening to a contemporary Soul / Dance tune! I bet there will be a review or two placing the burden of the 'new centuries Nina Simone' upon her shoulders. What a huge task that would be to live up to. Brenda seems to sing whatever the feeling takes her to at any one point in time. I loved the dancer 'Love Is In Town' here. That is her with her Mario Biondi head on, and yet listening to 'He Doesn't Know', and you could well find yourself inside Dianne Reeves territory. There is a song called 'Wonderful' on this set. That'll do for me! Very interesting and highly recommended for the Christmas stocking.

All of these albums are either at iTunes (for the discerning downloader), or Amazon (for those who want to read a little more about the listerning culture on offer here).

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• Soul:ID - Sex, Love and Philosophy / Obie Jessie - New Atmosphere / Deborah Cox - The Promise

Soul:IDObie JessieDeborah Cox

Ann odd trio of albums here. One that is really a 2007 release, one from a performer who has spent 50 plus years in the business, and one singer whom I normally take or leave, but this time releases a set which has some lovely moments.

Soul:ID I wouldn't know anything about of it wasn't for Bill Buckley (ex Blues and Soul scribe and all round nice bloke), who e-mailed me a track off this set and asked me what I thought of the song. The group go by the names of Dad'D, Tchai, V and Urban Deep, all of whom have crafted a very nice piece of contemporary Soul Music. Now come on guys, be honest with me, show me your birth certificates! LOL Surely not! The track Bill sent me was the song 'Even Though', which is a very nice Stevie-esque melody, from an album that was, actually, released a year ago, and is seeing a new lease of life via the Outpost Media people. The album is jam packed with beats and melodies. 17 to be precise, all kicking off with a prelude called 'Youth', which leads nicely into 'Believe', which should get the head nodding! One real surprise here is a very neat little take on Spandau Ballets chart topping ballad 'True'. The band add their own stamp on the song, which embellished a tune I already quite liked by the ex New Romantic guys. In fact, it is when the tempo drops that the music becomes that much more appealing, a fine example is the female vocal led 'Leaving You'. I like this song very much. Favourite? EWell, it has to be the track 'Tender'. As usual with myself, it is the key changes which make the melody. A fine song and album. Well worth investigating.

Obie Jessie deserves respect! Make no mistake. Thesedays some (not all) young folks walk about the place giving other folks some attitude and demanding respect. Respect is earned and does not arrive on tap! Obie Jessie has paid his dues several times over, and that is through hard work and a CV that is second to none. My friend Teira Doom turned me onto Obie's music (although I did have to have a kick start thanks to George Reid in Scotland. Respect to you my friend), and I am delighted she did just that. Teira has been writing Obie's resume at his website (check the link below), and, if the Soul heads out there think they know something about Soul Music, they should read Teira's newsletter. Hugely comprehensive, and intelligently written. Obie's music has several influences. Thankfully he sticks with what he knows best. Strong songs, real instruments, Jazz, Blues and Soul influenced. 'New Atmosphere' is a very interesting set. Almost a Jazz Juice style in many places. Born in 1936 in Dallas, Obie was once in the 5 piece vocal group The Flairs. That was way back in 1955 (a year before I was born!). He was a friend of the late Johnny Guitar Watson additionally. The years haven't blunted the man's musical cutting edge. The title track of 'New Atmosphere' is a testament, not only to the man, but will recruit many new fans to the man's music. A very different, refreshing and interesting album.

Deborah Cox is an artist, who has in the past, been a singer whom I could either take or leave regarding her offerings. They have always been competent and well delivered, but somehow missing that 'je ne sais croix'. This new set has that little something extra, which lifts the album out of the ordinary, and into the 'highly interesting' category. The pick of the bunch arrive one after the other at the beginning of the album. Three songs which are melodic, song led and quite remarkable all told. 'Love Is Not Made In Words' is almost penned in a child like mode. Very plodding piano wise, however, very memorable with the listener humming along as the song progresses (well it did for me! LOL). 'You Know Where My Heart Is' is very very 'Oh People by Patti LaBelle (from some 20 years ago). If you have that song, you'll know what I mean when you listen to this song. Deborah takes Patti's song and sows the melody onto the new soul tapestry very nicely. My favourite song of the three is 'Did You Ever Love Me?' Describing this song is easy all told. If you loved the Taste Of Honey song 'Sukiyaki', well, this sounds nothing like it! LOL, but it is positioned in a ballad sense very near that song. 'Sukiyaki' is nearly 30 years old now. Ballads were penned back then, encouraging the singer to tenderly deliver the message of a broken heart, or regret etc. Today, the music is the same, although today's singers are encouraged to shout the message, drowning the melody and leaving the listener wondering if the singer actually is broken hearted, or are they in actual pain! LOL. Deborah takes the song and almost sings it 'dead pan', which is how some ballads ought to be delivered. Can you imagine 'A House Is Not A Home' sung by the Reverend Ian Paisley! LOL. It seems that some producers think that this is how a ballad needs to be handled thesdays! Wrong! Discipline is the order of some songs, and 'Did You Ever Love Me?' requires discipline and Deborah suitably obliges us, thank heavens. After all the plus points of the first three tracks, I did struggle with the rest of the album. What I would say is, tell me another album out there that has three top songs within it's starting line-up. Not many if you are honest with yourselves. Worth the purchase for 'Did You Ever Love Me?' especially if ballad material is your thing.

All the above albums are available on either iTunes or Amazon right now.

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• Seal - Soul / Mary Mary - The Sound / Little Beaver - Love and Affection

SealMary MaryLittle Beaver

A new album from the artist Seal would normally be received here without a great deal of a fanfare. The brother normally hangs with the Trevor Horn's of this World, who take the Soul out of the singer and place him in some Rocky place, which doesn't appeal to the likes of the regular visitor to websites such as my humble little one. Shame all of that, as I like this guys voice. I like his voice a lot, but up until now he has occupied the same musical spaces that the likes of Joni Mitchell and Pat Metheney reside at. I like both of those artists a great deal, but I like them for what they are, not for any Soulful credentials. I was contacted by a Stateside promoter regarding a different artist, and they mentioned Seal was making a Soul album, which did make me curious. A promo arrived here, which came without any literature (in fact the image here I had to 'borrow' from Amazon). A very unusual album in as much as it has the feel on the man having found his home and he is getting used to his new environment. The nice thing about the set is the use of proper instrumentation, and the choice of material. Sure, we all know these songs, but, in places, these versions come up very freshly indeed. You get 10 tracks here, ranging from James Brown's enduring 'It's A Man's World' to, one of my personal favourites, namely, Ann Peebles desolate personal reflections depicted on 'I Can't Stand The Rain'. This was one of the late John Lennon's personal favourite's as well. Seal also covers Curtis twice on his renditions of 'It's Alright' and 'People Get Ready'. The highlight here for me is the lovely take on the Reverend Al Green's song 'I'm Still In Love With You', where Seal sounds more like Al than Al does himself! Very nice surprise of a set. Hope the man doesn't go back into musical cyberspace again! LOL.

Mrs Erica Campbell and Mrs Tina Campbell (a.k.a. Mary Mary) are always worth listening to, if for no other reason, they are so full of energy, that if the government are looking for some renewable resources, these two could power a whole city single handedly! LOL. 'Shackles' is nearly 8 years old now. Is it really that the actress said to the bishop! LOL That track was undeniably irresistable, and still fills many of the better dancefloors out there. Couple of criticisms now before I give these women the props that they definitely deserve. The energy is one thing, however, it can mask the music a little. Tommy Sims utilises the 'spiritual volume' button without veering away from the melody. That may be something worth thinking about as, when the music is allowed to come to the fore here, the album really becomes a desirable 'must own' piece of music. The second piece of 'constructive comment' is, many more deejays will play this set repeatedly if the rap content was taken out of the mix. As I said, when the music is allowed to come to the fore, it is on a par with anything else on offer out there. 'God In Me' is an intense song, where the women's voices come centre stage, and what lovely voices they both posess. The same can be said with 'Boom', the very melodic 'I'm Runnin' (very old Jackson 5 sounding in parts) and the mid tempo 'Seattle'. On Jazz FM this Sunday, Ralph Tee played the track 'Dirt', which is the killer track undoubtedly. Very tight rhythmically, very naturally delivered. I can here these women singing this around their homes whilst going about their daily business. Takes the album out of the 'ordinary' into the place where the listener will want to add the word 'extra' to the word. Nice album.

Little Beaver is an artist whose first entered my vinyl collection 34 years ago! Very bold! That was with his evergreen classic 'Party Down'. What a great track that was, and still is. In fact, the aforementioned track makes an appearance on this 'new set that isn't a new set....but it is!' LOL In fact, this album see's Little Beaver in the studio back in the late Nineties, but only having his efforts see the light of day a decade or so later. Quite why this should be, who knows. More recently, the man has been working with the UK singer Joss Stone, which may account for the reason these songs haven't seen the light of day for these past few years. He has simply been too busy? Who knows? One thing I would say, is this is another one of those 'I never knew he still had it in him' releases! This is a very fresh sounding, very Little Beaver sounding album, meaning he has stuck with what he knows and is comfortable with, and thank heavens for that. 'She's Gone' surprised me as I was expecting to hear the man playing guitar over the of Hall and Oattes song, however, this is a brand new tune, which is a real peach of a song. Little Beaver covers the tune 'Rock Your Baby' very nicely and sticks with his Miami roots with 'Keep On Partying', which is almost the George McCrae track revisited. This album divides itself into two sections of long and short versions of the material on offer, all of which make for fascinating listening. Of the melodies here, well, if you like the sound of George Benson's 'Breezin' (recorded in a Miami type vibe) 'A Little Something Nice' really is a delight. I have to thank Peter Young at Jazz FM for buying me a copy of this album, giving me a real nice release to post at the site, and putting some royalty money into Little Beaver's own bank account in the process! Check Soul Brother for copies of this excellent release. The previous two albums are both available at Amazon or iTunes. You pays your money, you chooses your format!

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• Nikka Costa - Pebble To A Pearl / Various - Soul Togetherness 2008 / Various - Ralph Tee's Soul Ecstasy

Nikka CostaSoul TogethernessSoul Ecstasy

Three quality releases that arrived in a huge wave of offerings to tempt you to part with your hard earned cash on the run in to Christmas. Certainly with the economic misery there is around, I can't think of a better way of escaping the doom and gloom within this great selection of albums.

Daily, e-mail arrives here asking me whether I would take a listen to this album or that and, following some great releases from the likes of Angie Stone and Lalah Hathaway, I did take an interest in this new release on the resurgent Stax Records label. Looking at the cover I wasn't too sure what to expect. Some music positioned somewhere between Joss Stone and her namesake Sly? Well after the first couple of tracks, there certainly was a deep south Janis Joplin stylee going on here. Not quite to my liking, but certainly full on R & B. What really took the interest arrived with track three. Blimey, Stevie has recut 'Boogie On Reggae Woman'! LOL. This really is so authentic in sound (and as downright funky as the Stevie melody), however, this is a new song. I guess I am showing my age, in as much as, if I was 30 years younger thesedays, this would sound as fresh as a daisy, as I possibly might not have heard Stevie's glorious original. Having been ever so slightly critical, I can't help but really liking this track. Nikka uses her vocal range cleverly and doesn't burst any blood vessels in getting her musical output right out there, which is in itself a Godsend. Nice to be able to hear a singers voice, rather than be hollered at. LOL Check this track out at iTunes or some other retailer that allows you a listen before you buy........and while you are there, don't leave without listening to Track 9, which is a fabulous song entitled 'Without You'. This is another tune that reminded me of a song called 'Anytime' by the UK combo Kokomo (around 1975 that song). Lovely Southern Soul midtempo gem, which is very much a 'miss at your peril' melody. The whole album, which compliments each of the previous releases for this great label, is of a very high standard .Positive, melodic and full of energy. A very nice release indeed.

You can pick this set up from Amazon here.

The next two releases are from the excellent U.K. label Expansion. The label is so prolific at the moment that the releases are falling through the door faster than I can type! LOL Thanks Ralph!

Soul Togetherness 2008 is one in a series, which reaches back to the beginning of the Millennium, all of which highlight whatever has been 'doing it' for the UK Soul Scene followers that particular year. The nice thing about these albums, for myself, is they often feature many of the songs that are listed throughout the year here, with any I might have missed being picked up by Expansion, thankfully. Makes my life easier here, I can tell you! One such track that falls into the latter part of that description is the lovely 'B-Side Of Love' by the excellent Gina Foster (who recently collaborated with Swing Out Sister on their fine new album release). This is a great, happy, song, which I missed out on through pure laziness on my part, as the track came out on a vinyl 45, which I was too lazy to go looking for! Slap wrists! Absolutely delighted that Expansion allowed me to get my mucky mits on a copy! Talking of 45's, the same applied to the wonderful Peo feat. Mirjam dancer 'Tonight'. Another irresistable hook which I did get on the case with back earlier this year here. First time on CD here? Probably, and worth the entrance fee alone. Grear dancer. These sets incorporate a couple of old 'rarer than rocking horse doo doo' sides each year. This years winners include the great stepper, by Richard Stepp (pardon the pun) in the form of 'Caught Up In A Whirlwind', along with the great toe tapper 'Cuz It's You Girl', by the Blue Eyed Soul ensemble, the James Walsh Gypsy Band. Another tune! Of these older songs, my personal favourite here is the Jean Wells gem 'What Have I Got To Lose'. What with the newer selection, which include the excellent Bennson, Sunburst Band and George Benson's much overlooked 'When Love Comes Calling', here is a selection that has everything for the more discerning iPod. Hugely recommended stuff.

You can pick this set up from Amazon here.

Sticking with Expansion, Ralph Tee seems to have spent so much of his working life embellishing the careers of artists and Soul folk out there, that he has completely overlooked himself, and his own take on the music that has helped him keep an interest in this music over the last 4 decades or so. Here Ralph has placed his own personal hallmark on a great 16 track selection, featuring his own selection of songs that helped lay the foundations of his own tastes and the subsequent company (which still flies the flag of the real deal to this day) namely Expansion Records. Expansion release only material which contains music of the highest quality. The fact that Ralph grew into this music in 'time tandem' with myself, I guess would give us both similar tastes. One deejay did once say of Ralph that 'if I want to know what I will be playing on my show in six months time, I listen to one of the shows Ralph is deejaying on at the moment!' O.K., stop rambling Toby, and tell us what's on the CD! LOL. Well, I'll add some links below (and above) that will give you a complete listing. Of the tracks that I can say 'This really is a great track isn't it?', include both Ronnie McNeir recordings ('The Good Side Of Your Love' and 'Is This What Happens To A Love?'), 'Here We Go Again' by the Isleys, the instrumental (and always superior, in my humble....) version of 'Never Had A Love Like This Before', by Tavares and the unusual inclusion of the Damaris Carbaugh version of the Johnnie Taylor evergreen 'What About My Love'. Nice version indeed. All told, an album with no filler tracks and an excellent insight into the man that is the Soul engine of Expansion Records. Looking forward to Volume 2, Ralph! Obviously, highly recommended.

You can pick this set up from Amazon here.

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• The Chestnut Brothers - RetroSoul / John Legend - Evolver / Maysa - Metamorphosis

Chestnut BrothersJohn LegendMaysa

If I thought the previous three records were good, then they really were the appetizer for the main course, which ought to make the 'which record should I buy for my friend this Christmas'? question, answered completely!

Al and Tyrone Chestnut, are a very talented singing, songwriting, production team. Born in Columbia, South Carolina and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, they came on the scene, in the U.K. way back in 1990, with their double header 45 'Whole Lotta You In Me' / 'Hey Sweet Lady', and proceeded to release a couple of albums throughought the Nineties and into the Millennium, with this release, entitled 'RetroSoul', arriving on these shores in 2008. Those who bought the previous mini album hailed the song 'Travellin' On' as one of the great Soul songs in recent years. Is there anything as good on the new set? Well, yes there is! The song 'Choose Your Destiny' will be one of my two top melodies this year. The other being Lalah Hathaway's majestic 'That Was Then'. When the Chestnuts hit form, boy do they hit form. 'Destiny' is pure optimism and the song had me motionless when I first heard the track. Mid tempo in a 'Galveston Bay' vibe, and this is why I love this music so much. If I had my way, this would be precribed as an antidote to all of the bad news that is around at this time. Wall to wall repeats on daytime radio. The rest of the album, even without this track is very strong. 'Mountain Of Love' is a gorgeous song, as is 'Come To Me' and 'Not Ready For Love'. If you only have a slight passing interest in Soul Music, you HAVE to have this album for 'Choose Your Destiny'. Immense, essential, unmissable and downright wonderful. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! LOL.

...check digstation for copies...

John Legend has travelled his own interesting journey within the new millennium. He began with a very 'street vibe' with 'Get Lifted'. I think the fact that 'Ordinary People' has now become a Soul standard, is probably more of a surprise to the man than it is to the rest of us. Classic Soul music. John's second outing 'Once Again' moved the man into several different genre directions, pretty successfully, and now we have 'Evolver', which is just that. An evolution of sorts. The evolution takes John back into the true Soul Ranks and there are a couple of real corkers in the overall ensemble. One thing that is apparent on all of John's albums is that 'I am sure I have heard this before somewhere'. That is no bad thing in as much as that is the benchmark of a song that is destined to become a standard. When Stevie wrote 'You Are The Sunshine Of My Life', at the time, I remember thinking I had heard the song someplace else. The melody is, in fact, filling a void that was waiting there to be filled. The two real killer tracks here are two midtempo offerings, namely 'Good Morning' and 'Take Me Away', which I cannot find fault with either. Both a real delight and very song led. This is one of those albums where you look at the starting line-up and see the likes of Andre 3000, Brandy and Kanye West and think, yikes!, however everything on this album is beautifully recorded, not following todays two dimensional format, and you can pick up without fear of being let down by the man. In fact, I would say this is probably an improvement on his last album. Long may John Legend be around, if this set is anything to go by. Available from Amazon shortly.

One other artist who doesn't make bad records, is one Maysa Leak. As the Expansion blurb states (that comes with the promotional package), when you hear Maysa's vocal delivery, you know exactly who the vocalist is. Maysa really is a one off. A diamond in amongst a sea of forgeries! LOL. Her albums are them one's that, when they arrive here, a) I know what I am about to hear is quality, and b) my instinctive reaction is 'Oh good, another Maysa album'. On 'Metamorphosis' the woman has recruited the likes of Rex Rideout, Chris 'Big Dog' Davis and the excellent Angela Johnson on songwriting chores. The rhythmic patterns that seem to suit Maysa's vocal stylings seem to be those of a Latin stylee. This is delightfully showcased on the breezy 'Higher Love'. Some nice accompanyments from the fine fusion artist Najee. Maysa co-writes a nice tribute to her friend and Incognito collaborator, Bluey, on 'Let's Figure It Out'. The overall feel of the album is downtempo. Don't know about you, but this place is where Maysa is at her finest. The tender, whispered quality of her vocal stylings are the juxtaposition to those of todays 'Soul belters'! Long may that be the case. Favourite tune? Well, if Stevie had heard Maysa singing 'I Can't Help It', he may have reconsidered giving Michael Jackson the song way back in the day. This tune did not make the Shanachie version of the album, so make sure the copy you pick up is the Expansion version. Lovely album Maysa.


note: The Chestnut Brothers have advised me that the album will be ready for retail on, or around, November the 4th. There were some typo issues with the sleevenotes, that's all. You should check their own website, CD Baby, Amazon and iTunes for copies after that time.

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• Raphael Saadiq - The Way I Like It / Wayne Brady - A Long Time Coming / Jennifer Hudson - Jennifer Hudson

Raphael SaadiqWayne BradyJennifer Hudson

Three real corkers for the oncoming festive recession! Yikes! All doom and gloom out there isn't it? The money men deciding whether to put a colt 45 to their heads...or ours! Hopefully it is the former and not the latter! LOL. At least we can escape the bad news and bury our heads in the music, which has, thankfully been more consistent than the housing markets throughought 2008.

Raphael Saadiq is many a Soul Fans favourite singers from the last 20 or so years. The Toni Tony Tone albums were, in most part, nothing short of magnificent, and I wasn't expecting a new album from the man, and then this weird and wonderful set arrived out of the blue. I use the term 'weird and wonderful' in as much as, this is the album that Norman Whitfield, Smokey Robinson and the Temptations never released! Many Soul fans look back with rose tinted glasses to the golden years of the 1960's, probably never thinking that that style of music would never be recorded again. Well it has! Real instruments, Motown arrangements and, well I am sure Raphael would admit himself, this album is an unashamed pastiche of that particular Soul decade. Personally, I find this album completely irresistable. For many Soul folks this will be their album of the year. 13 three minute songs that will delight those purists out there (who will probably pick holes as to why Raphael had the nerve to step into territory that is the domain of those who were there at the time, and no other...'now where did I put my original Frank Wilson 45'? LOL). This is also a timely release, mainly due to the recent passing of Norman Whitfield, whom would approve of this set immensley, I am sure. My personal favourite track here features the U.K.'s Joss Stone, with Raphael taking on the 'am I Smokey Robinson, or am I Eddie Kendricks?' lead vocals on a tune that sits snugly half way between 'Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)' and 'My Girl', namely 'Just One Kiss'. Completely outrageous, recommended and wonderful. Buy yer mum and dad a copy (after you bought a copy for yourself!).

Wayne Brady is a new name to me. He is currently signed to Peak Records and, (unless your knowlegeable guys know different), this is his debut release. The title song is a very faithful rendition of that chilling Sam Cooke melody 'A Change Is Gonna Come'. Funny song that one. Whenever I hear Sam doing his thing, I get stopped in my tracks and I get a chill going down my spine, almost as if someone has just passed away. As Bobby Womack told Sam, 'that song had a feeling of finality about it'. Very, very civil rights, sixties stylee, when the force of equality had become completely irresistable and even those who wore white robes knew that the change WAS gonna come. Wayne has assembled a very nice opening chapter to his portfolio, and I get the feeling this man will be around for a long while to come. Wayne covers Stevie's song 'All I Do' very competently. Very nice song that. One of Stevie's melodies that, you feel you have heard the song before when you first hear it, only later to find out that it was just waiting to be written on the man upstairs playlist, and Stevie had his name on the chore sheet! Now, what do you think of a Soul Singer recording a decent version of the Fab Four's standard 'Can't Buy Me Love'? No, me neither, however, Wayne has transformed the song into a real gorgeous smoocher! Some real nice harmonies on this song. Almost unrecognisable from the original. I think I prefer this to the Beatles version ( and that's saying something, as I love the Beatles music!). Favourites? Well this the sort of album that everyone will have their own favourite. Mine is 'Sweetest Berry', which is so very 'song led'. Very highly recommended.

Jennifer Hudson has the huge hype, that she creditably lived up to regarding 'Dreamgirls' (and her namesake Jennifer Holliday), and, now, maintaining the highs that she undoubtedly deserved from all the plaudits and punters alike. Is this new album any good? Yes it is. Jennifer has sensibly steered away from the 2008 vocal gymastic olympics (LOL), and has recorded a competent set of contemporary Soul Music, recorded completely within her range. Sure, this album isn't a new 'Rapture', however, in parts, it is very good indeed. The album opener, 'Spotlight', is a very nice modern 'mover', which will appeal to many a daytime radio deejay. My personal favourite is where Jennifer heads full on into Shirley Brown territory on, what ought to become a Soul Music standard (with the assistance of one Fantasia Barrino) on 'I'm His Only Woman'. They used to write Soul Music this way, and now, today, they do. Listen to this and you'll find yourself in real 'Lord have mercy' territory! Fine stuff indeed. Jennifer adds her Dreamgirls rendition of 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' for good measure. Best desciption of this set is Shirley Brown, crossed with Mary J. Blige. Not a bad place to lay your career foundations. Jennifer Hudson is a very good singer, of that there is no doubt. The woman has a very nice disposition and I wish her well in all her future musical adventures.

Check Amazon for copies of all of these sets. Not hard to find, and not too expensive either.

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• Various - Soul Unsigned Vol.1 / Marc Evans - The Way You Love Me

Soul UnsignedMarc Evans

The albums are coming thick and fast, as the autumn season (sorry, Fall in the States) sets in. All gearing up for the Christmas market and the lighting of the blue touch paper for the outlay for that particular time of the year. If anything good comes out of the current financial turmoil out there, perhaps we may look more to the value of our gifts this year, and not so much the cost? Just a thought.

Digressing, as is my usual achilles heel (and want), these two albums are both fine examples of the sub-genres which fall underneath the Black Music umbrella. This CD is the initial album release by the Soul Unsigned guys. I say 'guys', however, the album is really one man's crusade, namely Phil Driver, whom I have been in touch with for while now. Vested personal interests? Sure, but they ain't financial. My interest have always been in helping the smaller artist bring their music to a wider audience. Phil's efforts are pretty much the same. He has another string to his bow in as much as folks can check his excellent Solar Radio show, and not have to just rely on folks like myself and these writings. I find this album hard to review, in as much as I want to love every track on this set, but I find myself holding back the enthusiasm 'reins', in order to be honest with the review. After the initial 'Go boy / whoaaah boy', I find myself simply liking this album and the charm of those who dare to make music that isn't of the usual formulae to success. If you have ever bought an album on the strength of the reviews here, you'll know where I am coming from musically. Melody reigns, rhythm compilments, vocals enhance the whole shabang. This is a lovely album. Certainly not 'in your face'. The artists don't shout at the listener. They charm those who love real Soul music, and long may this label continue to assist these great folks. People who have something to offer in a World that expects a great deal, for very little effort. Favourite tune? Oh, alright then. 'Gently' by Groove's Back Productions Ft. AmariM. That is a real peach. A highly, highly recommended, intelligently compiled, set of songs that would grace any collection. Great stuff.

Marc Evans album really took me by surprise on first play. 'The Way You Love Me'? I've heard that song before! LOL Ron Hall released the song a couple of years ago, coupled with a Tom Moulton mix. Marc's take on the song is very similar in the man has my undivided attention! LOL That was (and now is) a great dancer. Peter Young (from Solar and the new Jazz FM) had a spare copy of this album, and thought it might appeal to me, which I can tell you, it certainly does. This is a set that is an out and out dance album. If the Sunshine Band are your bag, then this album will be somewhat of a delight for you. PY played '(If You Want My Love) Put Something Down On It', on his show last week. Bit of a killer dance tune this one. I have listened to quite a lot of dance music over the last couple of years, and with much of the product, one thing has become glaringly apparent. These dance record producers have simply run out of ideas. Some tracks sound as if the guys have gone into a recording studio, turned on a drum machine, and then gone down the pub leaving it to run for half an hour or so! LOL Marc Evans has grabbed hold of the beats, fused the sounds of days gone by, and treated us to one of the best dance albums I have heard in a while. One to .get the party started right'. Loved the 'tongue in cheek' reference to 'The Sound Of Defected' (coupled with the modified TSOP logo). Recommended dancefloor fodder.

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• Kenny Lattimore - Timeless / Leigh Jones - Music In My Soul / Don-e - Natural

Kenny LattimoreLeigh JonesDon-e

Those of you who have kids will know all about the various demands that schools put upon parents. Much of the time it is the mundane books/uniforms etc stuff that we have to deal with as 'uncool parents' (according to our kids!....they can go and 'jam up the pump, Daddeeeoh!' this weekend as far as this old hip-replacement dude is concerned! LOL). My daughter has a penchant for singing and performs solo's at her school every Christmas, if the spirit moves her. One year it was a Des'ree tune, this year we are being asked regarding which song she ought to be looking at performing. The very first choice I suggested was Elton John's underrated melody 'Come Down In Time'. I gave the school a CD of the song to listen to. I then came across a songbook of Elton's songs in a local charity shop. 'Come Down In Time' was the first music sheet in the book. Took that as a sign that that ought to be the tune. Summer holidays passed and the matter was raised again. On the mat, yesterday, fell Kenny Lattimore's new album, and lo and behold, this man is a singer after my own heart! Kenny beautifully interprets that song on his new set, 'Timeless'. This is an album of just how to construct a collection of cover versions, without including all the schmaltz ('I Will Always Love You' etc). Kenny seems also to like my favourite Stevie song, 'It Ain't No Use'. Sure there are other Stevie melodies that shout from the rooftops, however, I have always found this song so personally pleasing. Almost throw away in concept, conversationally delivered, about a very depressing, failing relationship, however, something about the song is very cheerful! Don't ask why, what I do know is this song has been largely ignored, and (along with Stevie's majestic 'Seems So Long'), always will be. I like everything on this set of songs. Kenny covers 'You Are My Starship' very creditably. His delivery reminding me of the version my friend Nathan Heathman used to deliver during his live performances. I suppose Kenny's boldest cover here is the Fab Four's song, 'And I Love Her'. He does a very nice job with the song as it doesn't initially seem to convert to a Black Music style from it's original incarnation. Kenny makes the song work well. As I said, this is how a cover album ought to be constructed. Personal, respectful to the original, and not over complicated. 'Come Down In Time' is a classic song without question. If you get a spare few cents, download Elton's version and Kenny's. They will become favourite's within your collection, in my humble..... A very fine release all told and one for the Christmas stocking. One of the man's finest thus far.

Many of you guys will know of Nolan and Crossley from back in the day. 'Salsa Boogie' has become a rare groove in many Soul circles. Raymond Crossley has been in touch here over the last couple of years. He and his people are real nice and they update me as to whatever Raymond is currently working on, and I, subsequently, update the guys page at the site accordingly. These guys hang around Soulwalking when the spirit moves them (Hi Darlene! LOL). During the last update Raymond's colleague/friend Darlene Black asked me if I had heard the latest project that Rayond was working on? The singer is called Leigh Jones. Darlene and Raymond mailed me a copy of the CD, which arrived here yesterday. The set has been on heavy rotation in the house, with the occasional stop off to listen to Kenny's 'Come Down In Time', before getting back on the Leigh Jones highway again. This is a fabulous album. Parts of this set reminded me of some of the jazzier material that Chaka Khan has recorded over recent years (especially the 'CK' set from 1988). Leigh doesn't bust every blood vessel in her body to hit the American Idol notes that some folks try to reach. She knows her range and utilises her vocal parameters to their fullest extent within her performing boundaries. Very important for an artist to do that. Anyone can shout and holla, however, folks tend to make more of an effort to listen to those who speak quietly and clearly. Berry Gordy has been so impressed with Leigh that he has placed his years of experience and expertise behind this woman's career, and I can completely undestand why. One factor that may work against Leigh, in an odd way, is her looks may give the impression that this is all the company think will sell the album. I have often said that thesedays the stage has become a catwalk. Looks preside over substance in todays market. Leigh is a songwriter as well as a vocalist. Sure, she ticks the box dealing with the visual department, but take time to check the other boxes that also receive the seal of approval. She has a strong vocal delivery and she hasn't chosen the easy route to stardom here. This is a strong album of new material (bar a lovely version of the DeBarge's 'All This Love'), penned by Leigh, along with the likes of the excellent Bruce Fisher and brother Raymond, of course. This is a very, very good modern Soul album. Very much Patti Austin meets Alicia Keys. Two tremendous releases to kick off proceedings. Thanks Darlene and Raymond. You guys have done yourselves proud! Leigh Jones? Watch this space.

How do you follow those two fine albums? Head for home ground of course. One of my favourite home grown artists over the last 20 years is a certain Don-e. Don't confuse this guy with the fine U.S. artist Donnie, both of whom have made it through the doors of the fine Dome Records imprint, with some excellent releases. Don-e is a fan of Stevie. I don't have to ask him. It only takes a listen to a few key changes to see the guys are right out of the same mould musically. Many of you guys will remember this man's impressive debut album 'Unbreakable'. A remix of the title tune circulated shortly after the album release which is, probably, my favourite U.K. melody to date. A beautiful song. That nice Santosh at Dome has given Don-e a place within the artists roster at Dome, which sees this new album 'Natural' hit the streets for 2008. It is great to hear this guy back in the recording studio, with this set proving the man hasn't lost anything in the songwriting or singing departments over the years. I think the thing I really like about Don-e's delivery is it lacks the 'musical urgency' that does run through much of the musical released output this side of the pond. It seems at times as if we are almost, trying too hard to emulate the brothers and sisters recordings in the States. Don-e, almost lazily, wanders through his writings, embellishing the material with his rich textured vocal harmonies , which, if you are not in the middle of a musical rush hour, makes the journey very pleasing indeed. Tunes? I loved 'Love Shine In', 'Stay a While', his ballad-esque take on Bob Marley's classic 'Waiting In Vain', 'You and I' (beautiful, and not the Stevie tune) and the uptempo title track 'Natural' (not the old Bryan Powell song either). Thank heavens for Dome and Don-e. Musical marriage made in heaven and reincarnated in West Sussex and 'unbreakable'! LOL. Highly recommended.

Kenny Lattimore

Leigh Jones

Dome Records

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• Leon Ware - Moon Ride / Yamama'Nym - Soularevolution / Tyree Neal - All Grown Up

Leon WareYamama'nymTyree Neal

Leon Ware is probably best remembered for 4 classic late Seventies albums, along with penning the complete 'I Want You' album for the late Marvin Gaye. Funnily enough, Leon has some 10 additional album contributions for his personal curriculum vitae, 'Moon Ride' being his most recent. One of his U.K. promoters played me his song 'To Serve You (All My Love)' way back in 1997. The melody finally has made a piece of recorded media some 11 years later. Leon, thesedays, works on an Apple Mac computer, constructing his compositions in a very different way to the pen and paper method of some 30 years or so earlier. Leon's music has always been highly textured and benefited greatly from the orchestrated arrangements that complimented his earlier material. His writings, almost, deserve the treatment that a group of live musicians bring to the man's melodies. Having seen Leon live over the last few years, well, this backs up my personal sentiments, IMHO. This new set is a delight, of that make no mistake. It could be even more stunning with some additional string arrangements, however, I am nit picking, all told. Leon is one of a few singer songwriters, whose music finds merit in all surroundings. On 'Moon Ride', we are treated to 12 new melodies, all of which would be the pick of any bunch on a lesser performers album. Leon's voice is still as strong and sensuous as it originally appeared on his earlier album offerings. The title track is a very haunting opener, 'Blue Dress' is a very catchy, almost reggae style number in delivery, with 'Just Take Your Time, showcasing Leon's very 'song-led' style of songwriting. Leon has been taken under the wing of the latest incarnation of the resurgent Stax label. They are certainly flying the flag for the genuine Soul performers out there thesedays. 'I Never Loved So Much' is a personal favourite on a very strong set of songs, from a vastly underrated songwriter.The album features contributions from the likes of Onaje Allen Gumbs, Amp Fiddler and James Ingram. Wonder how much it costs to hire a string section thesedays?..........

Yamama'Nym have to be the best named band, currently out there. Takes a while until the name rolls off the tongue, which it ought to by now, as this is the third offering from this group (unless you guys know something I don't know). In the same way Fertile Ground made some waves on the Real Soul circuit some years back, Yamama'Nym are currently doing likewise amongst Soul followers. If you can track down the group's albums, all of them have something or other interesting going on within their respective musical environments. Sure, some retailers will place the band in the 'file under New R&B' section of your local store. Shame about that pigeon-holing, is, blink and you'll miss the group, and this rabble are another band who we will wonder 'quite why weren't they a bigger band back in the day?', in a few years time. The group feature several various vocalists (male and female), including Sam Prather, who also has some solo material circulating out there. The Fertile Ground comparison is not too bad a description regarding whereabouts this group are, stylistically, coming from. The songs that set Yamama'Nym apart rom the rest of the homeboyz and girlz are the likes of 'Cali Buddy' (very old school in sound), Tracie Thom's fronted 'Why', 'Good Love' (with the help of the S.O.S. Band's 'Weekend Girl'), the, personal favourite, killer 'You Still Are' (featuring Wayna, Stephanie Matthews and Clarence Ward) and the melodic 'Love You From A Distance'. All in all, a real nice 19 tracker, which deserves your closer inspection.

Tyree Neal is coming from a similar place to that of Omar Cunningham (whose album was reviewed a couple of months ago at the site). Very Southern in style, encapsulated in his his 'Let's Do It Again' sounding 'Party On The Weekend' opener, which really does set the party off very nicely indeed. Great that there are younger singers out there who are prepared to take a chance on some real music rather than going down the safe, formulated route to success. 'Whiskey & Beer' reminded me it is two years since I allowed any of the intoxicating stuff passed my lips! LOL Very nice, uplifting song. You can tell Tyree had a ball recording this stuff. When the man lets the tempo drop a beat or two, he cuts it with the best of the Southern posse on the ballad front. Check 'Trouble'. Very moody. If Johnnie Taylor was still with us, this would be the sort of record the master would be recording in my humble.... Very nice set from a new singer to these old ears. Recommended.

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• Peven Everett - Sincerely Yours / Noel Gourdin - After My Time

Peven EverettNoel Gourdin

The guys take centre stage right now (step aside sista's!) with two very strong offerings from varying facets of the Soul Spectrum.

Peven Everett is an artist I have been keeping my eyes (and ears) out for, for a long time now. Very interesting brother in as much as, if the spirit moves him, he can release six or so albums in any one year! Peven is a classically trained musician, who runs several labels, each corresponding to a musical genre he has begun to master, instrumentally, at any one point in time. He has a Rock label, a Jazz label and a Soul label, in amongst all of these stylings. The Soul label, obviously, is where I look to to see whatver the man is up to at any one time. I reviewed his first release on this label some six years ago. His last offering ( 'Power Soul') contained a real 'sleeper' of a song called 'This Just In'. That is one tune I always hit the repeat button on the player here for. What a tune. Peven's new album has another of those barnstormers entitled 'Miss Chicago'. On first listen I thought 'that was nice', on second listen I thought, 'no this song is better than I first thought'. Third time around and I was hooked, along with my line and sinker and anything I could get my hands on at the time! LOL A Soul classic with a Jazz influence and a sprinkling of 'You And I' (by Sean Oliver) thrown in. Only downside of that track is it does distract the listener from the rest of the album, which is quite remarkable, all round. It is my belief that, when the music industry finally catches up with the material recorded over the last few years, folks will see Peven Everett as an artist who should have....ought to have....and didn't at the time. Watch his space! Available from Amazon soon.

Noel Gourdin is a new singer to this old fool.No it's not that woman from the old soap 'Crossroads'! LOL The only 'soap' around here is sitting typing this stuff up right now! LOL Noel is signed to Epic for this fine release. Best description of the man is, well, a cross between Phil Perry and Dwele!, although he does have a very song led style of his own. As with Peven's album, one track spoils the attention span, however, that song arrives right at the end of proceedings, which means the album sets the scene for the finale. The opener 'One Love' is melodic and certainly gets the toes tapping. There's some familiar sampling on 'Better Man'. Can't quite work out the sample and is. Very 'You Don't Know My Name' (Alicia) in feel, 'Sorry' is a lovely ballad (very nice harmonies on that song), whilst 'Too Late' reminded me a little of the material Otis and Shugg released a couple of years back. The finale samples Norman Connors/Michael Henderson/Jean Carne's evergreen 'Valentine Love' really cleverly. The song really suits Noel's vocal delivery. Very Ralph Tee in sound, if that makes any sense (Ralph runs Expansion Records, along with Richard Searling in the U.K.). If you've heard Ralph deejay on radio, you'll now what I mean. His taste and mine, well, sing from the same songsheet! Tune is called 'Make The Most' and I would certainly encourage the listener to do just that. Two very strong albums here, which both come with the stamp of approval....and that stamp is first class! LOL

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• Touch Of New York - Touch Of New York / Lamont Dozier - Working On You / Lori Dow - Love Changes / Mose Stovall - Groove U

Touch Of New YorkLamont DozierLori DowMose Stovall

Touch Of New York were, originally called The Strangers. Remember the excellent dancer 'Step Out Of My Dreams'? That was seldom off my stereo back in 1983, and now the group has reached their 25th year. Although the line up has seen some changes, the original band members consist of Mike Acompora, on sax as well as keyboards, Gary Maranga on guitar, Joe Iannotti on drums and Richard Lagnese as band leader, composer, arranger as well as keyboard player. The name change has been a recent aspect to the group, bringing them well into the new millennium, along with this fabulous new independent release, which I picked up from, although I know some of the better retailers out there have begun to stock this gem. All told, this is a very strong album. There are no filler tracks. The instrumentation is real and comptetently delivered by all concerned and is just about everything you would want from Soul Music in 2008. Alright in my books, in every department, so unreservedly recommended. Ignore at your peril! This is a wonderful album.

Lamont Dozier, as you will know by now, walks on water as far as I am concerned. He could release an album he might consider to be sub standard in his own opinion, and it would still be my favourite release of that, or any year. Back in 1981, Lamont had departed company with Warners and released this one off set for Columbia Records, which, at the time was received without any fanfare, and was largely ignored until later in the decade when folks began looking for rare albums and songs. Rare Groove was born and Lamont finally received his props for this fine set of songs, one of which is my personal favourite song by the man. 'Starting Over (We've Made The Necessary Changes)' is pure Soul gold. I think the thing about this song, for myself, is the effortless way the track is delivered. The harmonies are rich and lush. The melody is so strong that the vocal journey has already been made simple during the 'pen to paper' stage. When Lamont sings 'We're starting over, we're in clover', he sure ain't wrong. So is the listener. Of the other tracks on offer, 'You Make Me A Believer' is the song many deejays home in on. 'Cool Me Out' was a twelve back at the time. Bernadette (the model on the sleeve) is today married to Sugar Ray Leonard. Something Lamont imparted, when Charles Waring and I met Lamont back in 2004. A big thank you to the man for making this wonderful album, and a big thank you to Ralph Tee for having the dedication to Soul Music in re-releasing this set on Expansion. A must have album.

Lori Dow and Mose Stovall are two further artists that owe a great big thank you to Di-Lee and the Soulchoonz folks. Both release fine albums for the label, and both of which I can heartily recommend to you guys. Lori Dow hails from the Boston Area, where she can be seen performing regularly live. Her first album was called 'Unconditionally Yours', and earned her an Urban Music Award in 2006. Now with Soulchoonz in the U.K., the woman returns from the recording studio with 'Love Changes' tucked under her arm. Of the songs on offer, Lori's take on Mary J's 'Love No Limit' is borrowed, and made very much the woman's own. 'Love Again' is bright and breezy, the title track is another very nice stepper and 'Dear Lord' reminded me very much of Teena Marie at her mid tempo finest. My personal favourite in Lori's latest songbook is 'Until I Found You'. Something personal within this song I suspect. Comes across that way, and is the pick of this fine bunch overall in my eyes....sorry ears! LOL. Recommended.

Mose Stovall hails from Birmingham, Alabama, and began his singing career in church at the age of 12. He has sung for the Birmingham Civic Opera, Birmingham All City Choir, and The State of Alabama Choral Ensemble. Mose is certainly one of the many Southern Soul singers out to make a mark with his own musical curriculum vitae, and this set will certainly enable him to do just that. Very much in the Willie Clayton stable, Mose carries the torch for those who still yearn for the real deal out there, and more power to this brothers musical elbow in my humble. In a way, if you only have a partial liking for Soul Music, you can't help but like this material. It is irresistable and moves the listener in all the right places (and in the best possible taste! LOL). 'Groove U Baby' is a fine starter for ten (or should I say 11 in this case!). 'Been There Done That' has a very 'Cheatin' In The Next Room' vibe throughout, 'Sneakin' is just about as deep as this man's personal business gets. Very nice melody, beautifully understated, and delivered with that full on deep Southern delivery. The man is hurtin and we know so because we have all been there at some stage or other. Perhaps the most radio friendly track here is the aptly titled 'Dance'. Very catchy. An album that is absolutely charming, therefore, if you are into your Southern Soul, this is pretty essential.



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Trina and Webster

• Angie Whitney - That's What Love Is All About / Shophia Nelson - Woman In Love

Angie WhitneySophie Nelson

A few years back, I was in touch with the excellent Michael Sutton, who had a fine release out at the time, and told me he was working with some new artists, one of whom has surfaced here in the form of this Californian based songstress, Angie Whitney. I, actually, didn't know Angie was associated with Michael. This album was recommended to me by a woman called Lucy from her Elemental Consulting marketing company. They said they'd send me a review copy of the set and here it is in all it's glory. If you got to listen to Michael's fine 'Hopeless Romantic' set, from a few years back, well, the overall sound here isn't too dis-similar in feel. Very melodic, nicely arranged, cerrtainly not in your face, and a very welcome relief from the Madonna 'tick tock' song I have had to put up with over the last week or so on U.K. radio! Sales of aspirin were increasing, despite the credit crunch, around that place last week! LOL. If you long for the sounds that eminated from the better radio stations in the Early Eighties, you will know where I am coming from regarding this album's 'sound'. Angie has a tender delivery, which she doesn't spoil by bursting every blood vessel in her tonsils! Her voice is strong, controlled and very easy on the ear. Songs? 'Overnight Success' is pure '1982' in my humble...Lovely song. The title song is a lovely key changing ballad. Personally, I am a sucker for key changes in melodies. Why I love Stevie's music. He'd have been proud of this song, as would Phyllis Hyman, who I can hear singing this song on the new album she is making in the 'other room', bless her. Nice to hear Angie taking on the standard 'Love Me By Name' (covered beautifully by Patti Austin on Quincy's 'Stuff Like That' album in 1978) and beautifully delivered here. There are some straight ahead Jazz songs and a lovely duet with Michael Sutton on 'Sweet Love Affair', probably my standout track here. Very nice set indeed. Check Michael Sutton's site for copies.

Sophia Nelson hails from Accra in Ghana. This African songstress has found a welcome home at the excellent Soulchoonz label, which is fast becoming the place to head for the thinking person's Soul Music performer here in the U.K. If it wasn't for Ralph at Expansion, Santosh at Dome and Di-Lee at Soulchoonz, we'd all be spoonfed 'tick tock' by Madonna all day long, and that isn't good for anyone's well being! LOL. This set isn't Sophia's first foray into the world of Soul Music. An album entitled 'Lotty' hit the streets a few years ago. This is her follow up set and very nice it is as well. Sophia has, actually, sung alongside Celine Dion, who must have been very appreciative of Sophia's vocal labours. Sophia's vocal sound is very U.K., if that makes any sense. Less laid back than the States brothers and sisters stylee, however, perfectly complimentary for the distinctive U.K. Soul style. Here, I loved the title track from this set, which is titled 'Price To Pay' by the CDDB web folks who write out your i-Tunes tracks for you. The album is definitely called 'Woman In Love', and that is the fine, aforementioned song (which is probably my favourite track on show here). Very summery indeed! 'Parisian Night Style' is very Bluey and Incognito in feel, which is a very high compliment indeed. 'Mystic Melody' is an old Grover Washington Jnr song, which is another real highlight on this very strong album. More power to your musical elbow Sista! Nice album.


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• Jimmy Abney - Return To Forever / Ashanti Munir - Balance

Jimmy AbneyAshanti Munir

The fact that Jimmy Abney's new album is on the Ministry of Sound website, as a digital download, perfectly illustrates the diversity of the folks this set will appeal to. What I would say is that, even the most diehard Northern Soul fan would find something to please their ears on this album. It is the first truly great album of 2008. Of that there is no doubt. Oddly, I was recommended this album by a guy who is heavily into 'rap music' (now there's a contradiction in terms if ever there was one!). He likes the gold toothed guys who 'boast with beats', which is all very nice, but really ought to be very much their business! LOL All I know about Jimmy is he has recorded as a session singer, notably with the Winans and Kenny Lattimore (Chanté Moore's hubby). This album demonstrates how an artist can cross the many musical divides within Soul Music, and come out after the final rinse, unscathed and truly smelling of audible roses! It isn't often in any year that a set arrives that is truly a winner regarding everything held up for scrutiny. This is a real peach of an album that I defy anyone to dislike. Richard Searling will love will Pete Tong! What is the overall feel of the album? Here's the recipe! LOL Very Marvin (circa 'I Want You'), thus, very Leon Ware, very Mr Fingers, very Earth, Wind and Fire rhythmically. My personal bonus ball was seeing Jimmy treading boldly into Rod Temperton territory, covering George Benson / Heatwave's 'Star of The Story'. All told, if you have a family relative whose birthday is just around the corner, who is either, old, young, into Reggae, into Soul, into Northern, into House, just go buy them this. The diehard Eagles fan's out there? Well there are certain parameter's even Jimmy can't meet....for everyone else.....there is this absolutely essential beat box of delights. The sound of the summer of 2008 and out on Yoruba Records. If you won't buy from the 'Monstery of Sound', I know Amazon have copies. Try Soul Brother as well.

Poor Ashanti Munir! LOL How does a girl follow a review like that? Well, I have placed the woman's new set along with the, probable, album of 2008, so all I can so to her is, you are on the starting grid, so 'go girl!' Ashanti's dancer 'I'm Staying Home Tonight' is a song that I loved when I first heard it on Peter Young's now ex legendary Soul Show on Smooth FM. Quite what the station is doing to itself is very much it's business, although I do know that Peter's show is sorely missed by those Soul followers who still retain a musical pulse! LOL For everyone else...there's 20 golden greats at the station, so I'd reach for your i-pod comrades.! LOL Soulchoonz's Di Lee sent me Ashanti's album a while back and I have been very slow at taking the album for a spin. This Boston based singer has won the 2002 Apollo vocalist competition at that particular legendary venue a few years ago. I like Ashanti as she is about as busy on her MySpace webpage as I am, which isn't a lot, therefore we both appear to have very few friends (which I am sure is the case as far as I am concerned!), however, Ashanti won't have long to wait for her lists to grow on the strength of this album. A very nice debut, which I can heartily recommend, positioning itself someplace on the Soul music shelf, alongside Cynthia Jones, Sir Wick and Peo featuring Mirjam. There was a very accurate comparison with that of the fine Lalah Hathaway, made by my good friend Barry Towler. Nice one Barry. Unreservedly recommended release this one. Thanks for sending this Di-Lee.

Some related links:

ministry of sound

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• Chante Moore - Love The Woman / Rhythm All-Stars - Rhythm All-Stars / Soul Unsigned - EP:002

Chante MooreRhythm All-StarsSoul Unsigned

Chante Moore arrived on the Soul Scene in the early Nineties. Her, George Duke produced, album 'Love's Taken Over', has passed into the Soul Music Hall Of Fame here in the U.K. What a great set that was. A couple of very nice albums arrived, followed by a couple that were widely ignored. Whether they deserved the reservations some folks had about those releases, well all I can say is, the woman set us such high standards at the outset, that following on with a series of classic albums, would have been a very tall order. Anyhow, all these years later, following several albums and a marriage to her fellow Soul mate, Kenny Lattimore, Chante has arrived at Peak Records in 2008. 'Love The Woman', first of all, I would say is her best release since hear earliest offerings. There are some 'contemporary R&B ' moments, however, when the album reaches it's high points, it is just about as good as anything on offer out there, for us Soul people. 'It Ain't Supposed To Be This Way' and 'Do For You' are really lovely slices of the real deal. The killer song is, actually, the shortest song on the set. 'First Kiss' is a faultless song, vocalised in a samba style, which suits Chante's tender delivery perfectly. A real summer gem for 2008. Do go check Chante's new album. She is back on form and deserves to sell many units of this fine set. It's on Amazon right now.

The Rhythm All-Stars set is another release promoted by the excellent Mike Ward and his In Da'Soul folks here in the U.K. I was sent a track from this album a while back. That was a really gorgeous ballad entitled 'I'll Work For You', which reminded me a great deal of those 'little label' releases from the mid Eighties. Blink and you'll miss 'em! LOL The All-Stars look like 6 gangsters (the old school kind!), who I wouldn't like to get on the wrong side of (especially on St. Valentine's Day! LOL) They really do deliver the Soulful side of the scene beautifully, very much in a Johnnie Taylor stylee. Apart from that previously discussed lovely ballad, 'Hold Me' is another sure fire winner, as is 'Backstabber', which is just about as Soulful as the genre can get. The bonus ball is a very pleasing version of the Bobby Caldwell chestnut 'What You Won't Do For Love', all of which make this set an essential purchase for the Soul purist.Out on Jomar Records.

You may have a feeling of deja vu regarding the cover of the E.P. Soul Unsigned 002? I reviewed the first release from this series earlier this year, and the excellent Phil Driver, from the label, has taken 4 new artists under his Soulful wing, namely, Moses Mayes, Mothergroove, Candycream and Lisa Couto & Most People. All of these guys are struggling to get their music to the masses, with the likes of Phil being musical goldust in these people's eyes. When the music gets rolling, it is difficult to understand why these folks are having problems releasing material and finding labels, as of the tracks on offer here are quite excellent. Moses Mayes song 'Tell Me' is a shuffling dancer, that sets the overall feel of each of the tracks. Very Incognito-esque in parts. Very song led and very danceable. To cherry pick a track would be unfair on any of the artists involved. Suffice to say, there wasn't a track I didn't like, and if I hadn't been sent the E.P., I would have gone out and bought one. Can't say fairer than that. More power to all your musical elbows guys. I know what it's like for folks creating music thesedays. Bear in mind it is easy to criticise and harder to create. If your heart is in the music, folks pick up on that. You'll all do fine in my humble opinion. Check these sites for a copy: / / /

Soul Unsigned

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• Alex Lattimore - Promise / Dreemtime - Dreamy / The Sunburst Band - Movin' With The Shakers

Alex LattimoreDreemtimeSunburst Band

Alex Lattimore is a new artist to me. I heard a track that Peter Young played on his legendary Saturday Soul Show on Smooth FM, and became curious with this, almost Jon Lucien soundalike, singer (based on the track I heard). I went off to CD Baby and picked up the set, and, boy, was I pleased I did. There is something very Norman Connors, in the overall feel of this Soul/Fusion set of melodies. The most accurate description I can give of the overall sound and feel of this set, depends mainly as to whether you can remember the T.C. Carson album of a few years back. That received an Expansion Records release, and is very similar to this new album release from Alex. The man hails from Chicago and sang with the Giant Step records band, Jiva. He also performed with the the Chicago Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, Sherwood Conservatory Brass Ensemble, Roosevelt University Jazz Band, and the University of Chicago Chamber Orchestra. Not a bad pedigree is it? 'Sunlight In The Rain' was the tune PY turned me onto regarding this singer. On further investigation, well, there are no duff tracks on show here. Sure, he may be almost too good for his own musical boots here, however, I defy any true follower of the genre to dislike anything on show here. A very solid and highly recommended set. (nice version of Keni's 'Rising To The Top' here, Alex, by the way)

Dreemtime are another band, whose recording I picked up from CD Baby, whilst checking out Alex's set. Do go get any musical downloads from CD Baby rather than any of the other leading download websites. The quality of the mp3 files are as near CD standard as you are likely to get online. Any of you guys remember an album by Maya Azucena, which featured on these pages a couple of years back? Well, the Sista is back and in fine vocal form, as part of this ensemble. The New York based group are fronted, vocally by one Ashanti J'Aria and Jessie Colasante, and are ably assisted, musically, by Klive D'Farley and Paul Ogunsalu. One nice surprise was to see the excellent Soul Unsigned promoter Phil Driver penning his thoughts on these guys page at CD Baby. Phil is performing a great service for many of the unsigned Soul artists out there, and more power to his elbow, that's all I can say! This set? 'Drive Away' is a killer tune. Lovely vocal harmonies on that dancer. Did raise a smile when I added the songs to my iTunes player here. The host website have these guys filed under 'Electronic' LOL. Guess everything is up for grabs descriptionally thesedays. This is a Soul album to these ears, unless the guys in the white suits are hanging by the front door! LOL. Not an album of the year, however, certainly well worth investigating. 'Drive Away', 'Slide Here Next To E' and 'Baby So Fine' are worth the price of the entrance fee alone.

The Sunburst Band are a vehicle for, just about the best dance entrepreneur around, Dave Lee (a.k.a Joey Negro). If anyone was to ask me, 'what is the best dance album you have heard this year?', well this would have to be the set I would point out. Dave really does have a fine knack of recreating the dancefloor sound of days gone by. Halcyon days as they say. He even dares to kick of proceedings with Ashford and Simpson's socailly aware 'Rough Times'. What a great take on that old chestnut. How the man had the brass neck to cover the Thin White Duke's song 'Fashion' really takes some doing. The joke is the interpretation works very well! LOL. Of the originals, well, everything is noteworthy.The toe tapping began with track one and finished on track 17, without any let up! 'Our Lives Are Shaped', 'Sitting On Top Of The World' (with it's very Tony Rallo sounding intro), 'Put A Lyric In It' and 'We Can Live Forever' are all full on dancers of the highest quality. The tempo only ever lets up on the Roy Ayers-esque title track. This is a very fine example of modern dance music. One piece of advice is, don't buy a download of this album, as this style of music really does benefit from hearing the music in it's full CD quality. Check Soul Brother etc for copies. Highly recommended.

Soul Brother Records

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• Lalah Hathaway - Self Portrait / Cynthia Jones - Gotta Soul / Calvin Richardson - When Love Comes

Lalah HathawayCynthia JonesCalvin Richardson

I think that, even the most staunch critic of Black Music out there, would acknowledge the major influence of Donny Hathaway regarding this genre. He was a Soul Music master, who, for reasons of his own, found the planet a home that didn't suit the brother. Hell on Earth? Who knows. He left us with a beautiful body of music, and one hell of a Soul singer as a daughter. Lalah Hathaway has become a Soul veteran in her own right over the last 20 or so years. Her body of work is now the current talk of the Hathaway family 'Soul Town'. Sure, Lalah must have been influenced by her Dad. All kids do, and let their parents know by knocking every thing us old girls hold dear, musically! LOL. As usual, I will go 'off subject' to make an 'on subject point' regarding one song showcased here. Last week I attended another family funeral. My wife's mother passed away. Luckily the postman was late with this album, before I left, as a certain tune, namely 'That Was Then', would have rendered me completely useless throughout the melancholic proceedings. Funerals are part of life. Same as births, marriages and taxes. Soul Music reflects the varying shades of emotion that folks experience and it moves us, if we allow the melodies to do their thing. 'That Was Then', on this new Stax release from Lalah, hit me someplace which left me in a very reflective mood. It also decided at the same time what would be my favourite track this year in my very humble..... What manifests itself as a majestic bonus ball is Lalah Hathaway could sing our latest electricity bill to me and exude Soul from every unit that I have used over the last quarter! LOL. This album is, overall, well....gorgeous is an over used word thesedays (normally to describe a Pop Idol wannabe, who may look the part, but sings like a cat whose tail some person has just stood on!), but 'gorgeous' this set is. Give me a traditional Soul Singer everyday. Lalah Hathaway is an American national treasure, whose music ought to be on every radio station across the planet. 'That Was Then'. 'It was like a lifetime passed through my fingers'. For Donny? Possibly. Sure suited my disposition last week. What a great song. Recommended, of course, and then some. Check Amazon for copies.

Cynthia Jones really surprised me with this album. Before I write anything else, do look at the cover. What do you think you are going to hear judging by Cynthia's album cover? She is certainly pretty striking visually. A Gospel album? No, surely not. But this is on Kingdom, and that is a Gospel label. Subject matter. The man up in the sky? Well, yes. Subject matter? Well Cynthia deals with all sorts of global issues. She deals with the starving, folks with the A.I.D.S. virus and the planet. This album was a really lovely surprise. Another album folks will be talking about over the coming months, and at the time the year end charts are accumulated. Cynthia has a deceptively strong vocal delivery. Sure, she can holler, but the powers of gentle persuasion take centre stage here, and more power to the woman's elbow. The title song here 'Gotta Soul' manifests itself 3 times, each tastefully delivered, with the Two Step remix, probably making most of the better radio stations I reckon. 'Taste and See' will win over any doubters that this woman is very much the real deal. Breathtaking. Perhaps the best description of this album is what the set, actually, isn't! It's not New Organic. It's not another Erykah wanabee vehicle. Certainly ain't hollered and is very, very song led. Watch Cynthia. She has certainly got my attention. Hope you like this set as much as I do. Check Amazon, again.

Calvin Richardson hails from North Carolina. He is the half brother to K-Ci & Jo Jo of Jodeci fame. I believe this is the man's third outing, which has been a while in the making. I wasn't sure whether I would like this set, however, the label Shanachie, has released a few gems over the last couple of years, so I took the plunge, and all told, after I surfaced from the musical ocean on offer here, I had quite enjoyed the dip! LOL. Calvin possesses a Southern delivery to his vocal curriculum vitae, which, when the spirit moves the man, is very appealling. The tune I homed in on here, was actually recommended to me by the ex Blues and Soul scribe Bill Buckley. If Bill tells me something is great, invariably it is. I respect Bill's opinons a great deal. 'Sang No More' is a single, I do believe, from this set, and this is the song in question. Lovely swaying melody, that you can't help but tap your feet to. The album is very strong (and retro in places) throughought. In any other month, this would be the best set around at the time. Hope Calvin doesn't mind, but the Sista's are in the Soul hood here, but I am sure they won't mind if this brother tags along. Nice set Calvin. Amazon is the place again.

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• Incognito - Tales From The Beach / Omar Cunnigham - Time Served / Chestnut Brothers - Whole Lotta You In Me

IncognitoOmar CunninghamChestnut Brothers

Incognito are a great live band. In fact many of the recent releases by this evergreen U.K. Soul group are very much geared to the live performance, and thus have a 'recorded in one take' feel regarding proceedings. Jean Paul 'Bluey' Maunick has been one of the U.K.'s finest equal opportunity Soul performer employers over the last 30 years or so! LOL. All told, the man is a nice bloke, who certainly can write a toooon! In recent years he has worked alongside the tremendous Maysa Leak, utilising the woman's beautiful vocal abilities within his recordings. Maysa's tender delivery juxtaposes Bluey's 'everyone get out on the dancefloor' grooves, with this album being no exception. What you gets for your money is a 15 tracker of an album, no fillers, just Bluey doing what he knows best, and, in the process, pleasing many a punter out there. Recorded in several locations (including London, Italy, Germany and Indonesia) the bittersweet Maysa collaborations are perfectly illustrated by the second track, 'I've Been Waiting', with Maysa's almost whispered delivery countering Blueys slamming bassline (which reminded me very much of Herbie Hancock's 'Just Around The Corner' from a few years back....those were the days when I would go out dancing and the body more or less remained in one place....thesedays it has a mind of it's own! LOL). Bluey dips his musical toes, at times, into Stevie 'key change' territory, as is the case with the Tony Momrelle led 'When The Sun Comes Down'. Tony is another guy who owe's Bluey a beer, as I believe Tony will become a regular favourite on London's Soul scene over the next few years. 'I Remember A Time' is another gorgeous, Maysa fronted melody. She does have a very appealing voice. I do like this album a great deal. There are some lovely liner notes, which will guide the non U.K. listener to a greater understanding regarding whereabouts Blueys team are coming from musically. Very much a put on and leave on album, uptempo, song led, melodic and pretty much everything you would want out of a modern album in 2008.

Omar Cunningham's fourth album is probably the man's most consistant thus far. Omar occupies the same Soulful territory that the likes of Sir Charles Jones do Stateside. Not aiming for the commercial market, however, utilising todays musical rhythm's to embellish the traditional grass roots sound. Thank heavens for the likes of Omar. Not sure if this album is autobiographical regarding the album title? Far be it from me to tread on any toes as far as folks personal dealings. What I would say about this set is the whole album is, as with Incognito's U.K. niche, very much a Soulful state of the art in Omar's own musical backyard. Omar has a lovely Southern feel to his voice, which hits the spot for this old Soul boy. Certainly, he won't be short of new recruits to the 'Cunningham sound'. My bone to pick with Omar is, he stuck the killer tune on track 2 of this album. Wish folks didn't do that as I have to hit the repeat button on the player here, thus making the album around 2 hours in duration, by the time I have reached the last song! LOL Well that takes care of 'That's My Jam' (track 2), but what of the rest of the set? All told this album is very radio friendly. You just need to listen to 'This Old Music' to understand my ramblings. 'Ain't Nothing Changed' is a top drawer Soul Stepper. Check i-Tunes and play the tune. I am sure you'll want the song, if for no other reason, to reassure yourself that stuff of this quality is still being recorded thesedays. 'Could You Be', well, the late Johnnie Taylor would have loved to add this to his latest release, if the brother was still around thesedays. 15 tracks of the real deal. One of 2008's best real Soul albums.

And finally...well, the Chestnut Brothers are back, albeit via a 4 track E.P., so hopefully, an album won't be too long in following on. Back in 1990, the guys recorded under the name, Brotherly Love. One of the songs on the new 45 is a new take on their old recording 'Whole Lotta You In Me'. That originally arrived here on the flip of a 12" single called 'Hey Sweet Lady', and featured, at the that time the saxophone of the late Grover Washington Jnr. The guys followed up their single with a self titled album in 1993, which also contained 'Sweet Little Rita' and 'We Ain't Gon Never Stop', two stunning Soul tunes. 'Peace Suite' followed in 2006, highly sought after for the excellent 'Travellin On'. At CD Baby, both of these albums are still available, and both are a must have. In fact, if you don't like these albums a) what are you doing on this website?, and b) if you are into Soul music and still insist you don't like these albums, I'll do what Bill Cosby once did (in an attempt to get to the front of a very long queue) and spray shaving foam around my mouth, develop a limp, and walk up and down Surbiton High Street shouting 'you're all gonna die'! Those albums are 'essential' purchases. CD Baby promise a new album from the guys soon. I do hope so, however, in the meantime, check the guys website and do pick up a real nice remix of what has become a modern Soul classic over the last 20 or so years.

relevant links:

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• The Embers - The Show Must Go On / Nhojj - Soul Comfort

The EmbersNhojj

The Embers are a great group. I have been in touch with Charles Wallert (the group's Producer) for a few years now. Their previous CD ('Beach Music'), I featured at this site a couple of years ago. A year or so later, Charles e-mailed me a single, entitled 'Last Time I'm Saying Goodbye', which was attached to his note. I didn't listen to the song for a day or two, and afterwards kicked myself for a fortnight for not doing so! LOL. The Embers may, to some folks, represent a bygone age. That is on listening, of course, true as their set up is traditional in many ways. Group vocals, real instruments, real strings and each melody very 'song led'. Judging by the e-mail I get from you guys, you long for this sort of music as well. If you yearn for the days when your speakers were filled with MFSB, The Detroit Spinners (or Emeralds for that matter), then this group are for you. It almost embarrasses some folks admitting that they like music made in this traditional format, mainly, I feel, feeling that they are somewhat comprising their musical values and, basically showing a listening side of themselves that is 'too old', or perhaps 'middle of the road'. Well, all I can say is this certainly isn't too old for these ears (and I get to listen to and consume many varieties of product out there). Indeed the younger generation are nowadays looking (and being urged to look by their tutors) retrospectively towards the times when a songwriter and performer did their own thing, wrote their own music and weren't ashamed of doing so. Look at the likes of Amy Winehouse, Duffy or Adele. All very retrospective in their own ways, citing the likes of Etta James, Ann Peebles etc as their musical influences. Thank the man upstairs for that. The Embers album is a delight from the opening bars until closing time. Nice to see Jimmy George receiving some props as an unsung songwriting hero. 'You're The Reason' first appearred on an old Carl Anderson album from 20 or so years ago ('Pieces Of A Heart'). You get the 45 in all it's glory as part of a 12 piece set of musical jewellery. Quite magnificent all told and available from the excellent Soulchoonz people right now..... is this very interesting artist called Nhojj. How does a bloke pronounce that name? Well, I have taken the 'Dodge' City route in this house! LOL Funny that the name is actually a variation of the name John, if spelt in reverse. Looks like a case for the X-Files team, Mulder and Scully! LOL. Looking at the sleevenotes, I believe the man is from New Jersey and has musical influences as diverse as Stevie, Donny Hathaway, Seal and Bill Withers. That would hint that the material may have some substance. That it certainly has. When Di-Lee (Soulchoonz) sent me a copy of the album last week, I got stuck on track two! The repeat button was on big time! This is a track called, simply, 'Music'. Some folks describe these songs as 'toons'. Well I am not going to argue. State of the art in 2008. Nhojj has a very appealing vocal styling and is a very competent songwriter, penning the whole show himself. The album, overall, has a semi-acoustic feel to it's Soulful proceedings, which is very pleasing on the ear and culminates in the glorious anthemic 'Peace and Blessings'. A barnstormer of a song from a very worthwile effort. A highly recommended offering for 2008.

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• Liberty Silver - At Last / Lori Jenaire - Lori Jenaire / Various - Soul Unsigned Vol.1

Liberty SilverLori JenaireSoul Unsigned

What a funny old year 2008 is turning out to be. I figured back in January that the only good thing to happen this year would be the current resident in White House might be put out to pasture, and we may have a brother running the most influential country on the planet. Instead we have two things to be thankful for in 2008. The second being the relentless stream of quality music eminating from every Soulful global orifice out there! That told you, didn't it! LOL.

Well, whilst we wait for Barack to win the most votes...(and still lose out to Hillary, as the folks in Florida can't count as most of them are drunk, loud, British and staggering around Disney World! LOL), we are being treated to a real peach of an album from Liberty Silver. The track 'All In My Mind' a friend e-mailed me as an mp3 last weekend. I liked the song so much, I bought the set from CD Baby as one of their high quality downloads. 'All In My Mind' is a killer cut, of that there is no doubt (thanks for the tip, Tim). The set at CD Baby's site allows you to stream some of the tracks, although, as one visitor to the page stated 'the tracks that you can't stream are stronger in places'. Couldn't agree more comrade. In fact I would say that the whole album shows no weaknesses. 'You're The Only One For Me' is pure quality Soul. Very Expansion Records, if you guys know what I mean. This is the type of album Anita Baker ought to be resurrecting her career with. An album that demands the listeners attention. Liberty's vocal stylings are richly textured and tenderly delivered. Real timeless Soul music which I can heartily recommend throughout.

I seem to remember an album by Lori Jenaire from 1992. I think there was another set a couple of years back (with a similar cover), so this could be the woman's third outing? I am sure someone out there will correct me. This set is another real release of substance for 2008. Lori has an earthy delivery, which is very easy on the ear and can take an old standard (as she does with the Mama's and Papa's 'California Dreamin') and move it to a completely different level. This song must be part of the school curriculum as I hear the song at nearly every school I have to attend in my role as a parent. I know that Peter Young (Smooth FM) was drawn to the song 'Unexpected Storm' on his Saturday Show. The song the late Phyllis Hyman never recorded! In fact Lori sounds so much like the woman that it could almost be her! A killer of a tune. As with the Liberty Silver album, this is a very much complete set of songs. Nothing offensive and very commendable all told. Check Lori's website at:

Soul Unsigned are a new label to me. A deejay called Phil Driver got in touch with me and told me about his show on Solar Radio, where he focuses on much of the newer material and performers out there in todays marketplace! He showcases talent from all the four corners of the globe, all waiting for a deal and owning a portfolio of music which they want to share with the rest of us. The music does need to be approached with that in mind in as much as the listener is getting a sneak preview of what is to follow, so don't expect a full on Quincy Jones production, however, do expect some of the best singer songwriters about to hit the scene. The bridge that Phil is building with this label is a very worthy cause and can be heard online via the link below. The first release on Phil's Soul Unsigned Records label is available now and can be picked up through outlets such as Gary Dennis's excellent Crazy Beat outlet. Check here as well: The first release features four new artists, that can all be heard at the website and on Phil's radio show. They are Harambé, Felix, Excellent Gentlemen and Groove's Back Productions Featuring Amari M. A very interesting new venture, which I will be watching closely over the coming months. Phils' Solar Radio show is here, go check it out!:

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• Swing Out Sister - Beautiful Mess

Swing Out Sister

A few days ago I was talking with a deejay friend of mine, both of us agreeing that it was a shame that there wasn't a new Swing Out Sister album. The track 'Let The Stars Shine' was a particular favourite from that, 'Where Our Love Grows', 2004 outing. Later last week, out of the blue, Corinne (from the group) e-mailed me and said they had a new album and wanted to send me a copy. Talk about co-incidence! LOL. This set sees the guys taking control of their musical destiny. No major label involvement as far as I can ascertain. Corinne and Andy are two really lovely people. Not just saying that as they turn out cracking albums and then have the nerve to send them my way (LOL), but having bumped into the guys a couple of times, their disposition is such that, you feel like you have hooked up with old friends.

I think the two are on tour in Japan presently, a country that has unashamedly embraced the duo, and for that I am most grateful to those punters from the 'Land of the Rising Honda'! The album is currently released out there, however, check Amazon for localised copies. The Japanese have excellent (and particular) tastes, which you also find in Europe, however in the U.K., this is seen in ever decreasing circles. My belief is, in the U.K. we like to be told what to like. Part of an overall lifestyle that looks very pleasant, but is without emotion, which is why you guys visit this site (I hope!). You look for something more that will move you and, perhaps, might make you want to dance? Well if you trust my opinion (even partially), you must have one of the best albums of 2008. This is simply that.

Although there are 12 tracks on offer here, two are remixes of two songs that passed the finish line a few minutes earlier. 10 songs comprise this wonderful latest set of gems from, probably, the U.K.'s most Soulful export over the last 20 years or so. At their outset in the late Eighties, the melodies were crafted for the top 20. Pop songs with a hint of Soul. Nowadays the groups music has matured to a point that there is so much of the real deal involved within each composition, that, as with Dusty in the Sixties, there won't be anyone disputing the credentials of this ensemble. Listing favourites is a futile exercise as, with repeated listens, the front runner changes position at random. At this point of writing 'All I Say, All I Do', is on repeat, however, any of the other melodies could easily emerge as a favorite at some stage down the line. If you don't buy any other CD, on my recommendation, this year, do make sure this the exception. An absolute barnstormer of an album, which ought to make the country sit up, take notice and, hopefully, question why there isn't more up to this musical standard out there right now. Wonderful and absolutely essential.

Corinne sent me some further album information: 'Beautiful Mess was produced by Andy, a first since the Vivo album we released a few years back. Amongst the tracks on that album was 'Expect A Miracle', co- penned by Andy and Gina Foster.
Gina co-wrote three of the tunes on this album with myself and Andy: 'Butterfly', 'Something Everyday' and 'My State of Mind'.
Her vocals feature throughout.The rest were written by Andy and myself.'

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• Trina Broussard - Inside My Love / Angela Johnson - A Woman's Touch Vol. 1 / Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Pt. 1 / Vladimir Cetkar - We Will Never End

Trina BroussardAngela JohnsonErykah BaduVladimir Cetkar

Trina Broussard's album has been some nine years in music's waiting room. In that time, there have been copies floating around, changing hands for tidy sums, with folks wondering whether the set would ever see the light of day. To bring home to the slightly older music collector, the amount of time that has passed since the initial tracks were laid down, well, the time period is the same duration that seperated the Beatles 'Please, Please Me' and 'Abbey Road' albums. Time sure does pass more quickly as we grow older, however, that time period did open my eyes...and now my ears! Firstly, we have to thank the Expansion folks for persevering with the pursuit of this lovely album, and it's final official release. Now we can all hear the set as it was meant to sound in all it's glory. Trina is a fine singer, much neglected and highly desirable in the music marketplace as it stands thesedays. Trina is not only a fine vocalist, she is also a competent songwriter, working alongside many of Soul Music's household names, including Rahsaan Patterson,and Trey Lorenz. There are melodies here, additionally, penned by Alicia Keys and Minnie Riperton with Leon Ware. The set even contains one of the best Christmas songs I have heard in ages, in the form of 'It's Not Really Christmas'. 'Sailing' had made a couple of Jazz orientated compilations in the recent past, as has the excellent 'Why Do I Feel So Sad'. Ralph Tee at Expansion e-mailed me and said simply 'Have just sent you the lovely Trina Broussard project'. Amen to those sentiments Ralph. This album really should be filed under 'classic'.

Angela Johnson has been part of the Dome Records family for a few years now. She is a competent singer and songwriter, whose melodies are consistent in quality and delivery. Angela is joined by the likes of Frank McComb, Marlon Saunders, Eric Roberson, Rahsaan Patterson and the excellent songstress Maysa Leak for this latest set of Soul's finest. Angela's vocal style seems to lay down several patterns and weave them together texturally. This would, you might think, over complicate matters, however, in a quirky way, things function in the opposite direction. This is illustrated perfectly in the album opener 'Dream Flight'. Indeed 'Here I Stand' follows in a similar vein. The Maysa duet 'More Than You Know' is a gorgeous ballad (one of the years best so far), with the Frank McComb collaboration on 'Play' moving up a fear gears very nicely. A slightly more reggae influence is drawn upon for the infectious 'Get Away', a duet with the excellent Gordon Chambers, and the fine Julie Dexter contributes vocally on the harmonic 'How Sweet Life Is'. One of Dome Records finest releases. Well worth tracking down and adding to your musical arsenal.

Erykah Badu's new album raised an eyebrow here as I put the CD in the player and I thought the company had sent me a copy of RAMP's debut 1977 album! That is because track 1 is the song 'Amerykhan Promise', which featured on the aforementioned set and is faithfully reproduced here as a starter for Erykah's latest musical platter. Funny thing with this set is the 45, entitled 'Honey', doesn't make an appearance on the copy I have here. Erykah loves rocking the boat, leaving the listener never sure exactly what is coming around the next groove! The opener is a fine song. It always was and this simply enhances the beauty of the original. One word I definitely would not use regarding this set is 'instant'. This album requires several rotations before it begins to sneak up your trouser leg! LOL. Do persevere as this is probably Erykah's most interesting offering thus far. 'Master Teacher' is very wacky and I loved the track 'Me'. Great psychedelic shuffler of a song. Erykah's vocals are not as prominent as on other sets. The album sets a mood which runs throughout proceedings. Highly recommended.

From the major label performer, to the artist, from this batch of new releases, who comes from the 'place least likely'. O.K., now if I were to say to you, I am going to play you a track by a man from Macedonia called Vladimir Cetkar, you would probably expect some ethnic folk singer, performing a song passed down by generations, which is going to make you reach for the skip button on your stereo and avoided like the proverbial plague! LOL Well all I can say is 'hold your horses'! This set is about as good a fusion album as you'll hear all year! Vladimir has relocated from his Macedonian roots and has been attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston. This set is, actually, a second offering from the man, whose inspiration, he tells us, comes from the likes of George Benson, 70's dance music and Mauro Malavasi (Change etc.). This second set from the man, to this listener, has a 'U.K. 1981' vibe running throughout. Check CD Baby and stream a track or two. I think you'll agree. No enormous mainframes of computer technology here, purely fusion played exactly how it used to be delivered some quarter of a century ago. The music is, as he describes it himself, 'easy on the ear', drifting in and out of Roy Ayers seventies territory at times and steering well clear of the 'elevator' at all times. Well worth investigating.

CD Baby

Dome Records

Soul Brother Records

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• Dianne Reeves - When You Know / Carmen Lundy - Come Home / Sir Wick - An Interpretation Of A Universal Language

Dianne ReevesCarmen LundySir Wick

Dianne Reeves and Carmen Lundy are like musical comfort blankets to those folks out there who look for consistancy in an artist. In many ways, if you are under the age of twenty, female, and are looking for vocalists to educate you in the vocal performing arts, you could do a great deal worse than go beg, buy or borrow and album or two by these women. Many major mistakes made by emerging 'wannabee's' involve trying to make an impression through vocal gymnastics with volume. Something to be avoided for two reasons. One is that the listener may not be able to understand exactly what is trying to be articulated. The second is it usually ends up with Simon Cowell telling you how much you digust him, whilst all around are booing the bloke. In many ways he is not incorrect in his interpretation, but, come on Simon, there are ways of letting a girl down more easily! LOL.

My confession with Dianne's set is the cover! It isn't the one that will eventually accompany the finished product. Blue Note have held that close to their publishers chest, so in the best style of a well known kids show, 'here's one I made a little earlier'! Got to have something to look at, haven't we? That aside, musically, this is as consistent an album as I have heard from Dianne (and the woman has been pretty prolific over the years). This is a 10 track gem of an album, many songs of which comprise of cover versions. Dianne has an almost innocent honesty in her style of vocalising which does make the listening experience a very personal one. Her take on the Temptation's chestnut 'Just My Imagination' is a good illustration of that point. Delivered simply, clearly, allowing the melody to take centre stage, which, after all, a song such as this richly deserves. The same can be said for her take on Minnie's evergreen 'Loving You' (which did have me wondering how she would achieve the vocal heights of Minnie's original high notes). Dianne keeps you on tenderhooks on that one, leaving the listener thinking, 'well she's given up on that one then', only for Dianne to do the business right at the end of proceedings! All told, if you like Dianne Reeves, this will not disappoint. If you have never heard of her before, put down the Rhianna album and listen to a real singer! (love to hear Dianne trying to cover 'Umbrella'! LOL Perhaps not!).

Carmen Lundy is another singer that doesn't have to 'bellow' at the audience in order that she can attract the listeners attention. Her singing style is tender and very unique. You will know what I mean if you have any of her previous outings. Differently to Dianne, Carmen concentrates mainly on original material (with only her take on 'Nature Boy' veering from her own personal songbook), which may not place the individual tracks in the 'standard' category, however, these tracks have an almost 'storyteller' quality running throughout. A musical patchwork. Part of a fuller tapestry. Nice to have two albums that the listener can place in the player and leave be, whilst working, writing, cooking...whatever. 'Lost In San Raphael' eases the listener into Carmen's latest journey nicely, 'Come Home', 'Heart Of Gold' and 'Afrasia' are all delightful. Proabably the most radio friendly is the uptempo 'Lil Lu', which ought to please the jazz dancers out there. All told, a highly recommended and consistent set from a woman of real artistic substance.

Sir Wick is not an individual, but an ensemble brainchild of one Chad 'Sir Wick' Hughes, who instigated this combo back in 1999. They are certainly, a new group to this old listener, who caught the track 'Thank You Lord' one Saturday night on Peter Young's Smooth FM Soul Show here in London a couple of weeks ago. Had me scrambling the Net, eventually finding a copy at CD Baby online. I figured the album may be a one tracker, but what the hell, that song sounded so great it would be worth the outlay solely for that gem. Since that day I know Soul Brother in London have imported copies, so U.K. based folks can track down the album a little more easily, and I can thoroughly recommend you do just that. This is certainly not a one track album. In fact, if you stream the songs online before you pick up a copy, I can guarantee you'll want a copy as well. This is such an uplifting set, the sort we do not see that often thesedays. The opener, 'Seal My Heart', certainly illustrates that case in point. Recommended tracks? Well, certainly the two I have already mentioned. To that starting line-up you can add 'I Can't Wait', 'Uncomplicated', 'What Am I To Say', 'You Are My Everything', 'Wick's Groove', to a very strong and consistent teamsheet. None of that lot left on the bench! The rest aren't half bad either. Go buy a copy, cheer yourself up and help the man make another set of this quality. Mighty fine indeed!

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• Reel People - Seven Ways To Wonder / Mary J Blige - Growing Pains

Reel PeopleMary J Blige

Reel People have released one album, according to one usually reliable online source, however Amazon have some 5 other releases on sale, and that doesn't include this gem! LOL. The duo of Mike Patto and Oli Lazarus really have found a niche in the U.K. Soul Music marketplace, with a portfolio of work that is quite remarkable, and this new set further embellishes that fine Curriculum Vitae.

Enlisting the likes of the excellent Omar, Joy Rose (the very underrated) Tony Momrelle, Tasha D'Mour, Dianna Fearon, Darien, Mike Patto and the last, but not least, Vanessa Freeman, the guys have showcased just about the best emerging U.K. based talent around in 2008. Omar, sure, you'll remember him from the 'Nothing Like This' days of nearly 20 years ago. Stevie heard his song 'Music' and took a shine to the guy's vocal prowess. My claim to fame is that I have, I believe, Omar's first 12" single here. A song called 'Mr. Postman'. If your New Year still hasn't kicked in and you are waiting for the first main 'must have' of 2008, well you would do well to give the guys new set a listen. Very uplifting music, which will 'do it' for just about any Soul music fan out there, whether you are U.K. or U.S. based. 'Outta Love' features Omar and is already creating waves on the better London radio stations, and quite rightly too. One of Omar's finest. I think probably, the best way to describe this set is, this would probably be blasting out of every pirate radio station, in the capital during the mid Eighties. 'Amazing' is such an infectious track, 'It Will Be' is a lovely, Stevie-esque song, which does make the listener 'wonder' whether the album is a tribute to the man subliminally. Not sure of a release date here, however, do check Soul Brother and Amazon for copies of this album. You certainly will not regret it! Highly recommended.

Mary J Blige is an artist I really like. Odd that as she is considered a pioneer of much of the radio fodder we are spoon fed down the cable channels on the Black Music Networks, much of which is based around beats without melody, with the listener only remembering the song if it had a crazy title about, say, 'umbrella's' as the subject matter! LOL Say no more. Mary is in a different league. She is humble about herself, her abilities, and even her looks, in interviews I have seen. As far as her latter personal criticism is concerned, well she has no worries there. She has that ingredient that makes her different from the crowd, and that certainly ain't no bad thing. Vocally, she is unquestionably, one of the best Soul songstresses around. You hear Mary on the radio and you know exactly who the singer is. The voice is very distinctive. The copy of this set I am looking at here is the U.K. release of the album, and that is for one very good reason. Firstly, of the songs that lead up to the notable item, the most interesting here are the mellow 'Hurt Again', the very retro 'Till The Morning' and the 'steppy' 'Fade Away'. O.K., what is likely to win the attention of this old fool everytime? If anyone tells me a Soul artist has covered a Todd Rundgren tune! LOL. Todd is an odd Rock artist. On one hand you have an AC/DC style performer, on the other there is one of the best Blue Eyed Soul songwriters over the last 40 years. 'Hello It's Me' has long been a personal favourite song penned by Todd. There have been many versions over the years, perhaps with the Isley Brothers rendition being the one most Soul fans recollect. My personal favourite take has always been Todd's own original, mainly as the man understood that the song needed to glide effortlessly, almost whimsically, along, without complication and allowing the melody to shine through. Todds has been my personal favourite take, although Mary J.'s version seems to understand the sentiments I have just expressed regarding the song and Todd's own interpretations musically. Don't mess with it, just let it find it's own level and run with it. Here, Mary has achieved the high point in her career thus far. The song is so good, the companies have tried to bury it away on a U.K. version, so fewer folks as possible can get to hear it. That's the way we do it here in the U.K.! LOL Nice one guys. You'll have to go a long way to find a better song this year. Miss 'Hello It's Me' at your peril! Mary? The woman can do no wrong from now on! Essential, and available everywhere.

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• Tony Fields - Elegant Lady / Izzy James - A Call To Conscience

Tony FieldsIzzy James

Two albums from Independent labels, one of which I heavily featured below in the previous review, the former being an artist who got in touch with me and sent me his new album.

Tony Fields is a new name to me. Guess the man was wandering round the Internet, and stumbled upon this funny old website. Tony kindly sent me his album and said a couple of kind words about the place, bless him. Tony has spent two years working on this set, and gigging around Michigan. In 2005, the man won 1st place in the adult male division of The USA World Showcase at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, NV., no less. The music on the album is very ably constructed and delivered by Tony, with an overall feel of the 'little label' recordings of the mid Eighties. In fact, going straight for the tuneful jugular, the song 'New Girl In Town' would have received massive airplay back in those days from the best Soul music deejays out there (Steve Hobbs, Peter Young, Robbie Vincent, Richard Searling etc). There is a market for real quality out there, despite the majors trying to persuade us otherwise. I love this song, which will make my year end without any hesitation! Tony has reserved a large percentage of the budget here for the beautiful packaging, which enables the listener to get to know the guy a little better. Of the other tracks on offer 'Creepin' On The Down Low', 'Elegant Lady', 'Come With Me' and the excellent 'Touchin' Kissin' all run 'New Girl' a close second in the rankings in my humble. Very nice album, well worth investigating. Tony's website address is below.

Soulchoonz hit the spot again here with a new artist to this listener. Izzy James set can best be described as an album that would have received heavy daytime exposure on stations such as Jazz FM here in London some 10 years ago. Thesedays, the powers that be have chosen a downward spiral of fodder, basically, that your mother would like! LOL. I know that one of London's premier Soul radio deejays has already given this set the thumbs up, and who am I to argue? If you got into the Armsted Christian set from a few years back, you will want to take this album for a spin. New Jersey based James Isreal McLoryd has recruited quite an ensemble of fusion artists, including Chuck Loeb, into the ranks for this fine debut. Favourites? Well, all of them! LOL My personal pick of this litter are the melodic 'This Way', the totally brilliant 'Stand Up', the mellow 'Could It Be You?' and the harmonic 'You Make Everything All Right'. Quite, honestly, there really isn't a duff tune on here at all. Rhythmic, song led, and of the highest quality. Soulchoonz link is below.

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• Satya Project - Shine A Light / Confection - Confection

Satya ProjectConfection

One of the U.K.'s most underrated Soulful distributors are a company called Soulchoonz. I am regularly in touch with a Director there called Di-Lee. She is very personable and sends me either finished copies of their latest projects or a URL where I can download a track or two to listen to. Soulwalking being an independent website, I guess Di-Lee appreciates that, when I say I like something, I actually like the recording and I am not going through the 'making the right noise' motions regarding what is on offer. Sure, artists can't be all things to all people. If I don't appreciate one set or other, there is always someone out there who does, therefore, I do recognise it is easy to criticise, but harder to create. Criticism is certainly not the order of the day with these two fine offerings, which will serve to cement Di-Lee (and Soulchoonzs') essential role in, not 'keeping the faith', but spreading it!

The Satya Project is a lovely album, reminiscent of Incognito at their finest in parts. With Marcos Sainz and Juan Galiardo ably steering the vehicle in a musical Souflul direction, this set is a real delight. Nice to see some vocal input from the excellent Kelli Sae on some of the songs on offer here. As you can judge by the guys names, the duo are Spanish based, so it was a real pleasant experience listening to some Meditteranean vibes contributing to the overall feel, of what will probably be an album in many folks top ten's when 2008 reaches its final days. Juan actually sent me a copy of this set from his San Roque base, which was a real nice personal touch. Picking a tune from this album is hard, as the overall offering is strong throughout....but you know I am going to shoot my best shot and hold 'Dearest Sun', 'Nothing Getting Me Down', 'The Sweetness Of You', the beautiful 'Sarve Shaam', and, my personal favourite 'A New Paradise', all to account! A lovely, strong album I hope will sell well for the guys and give Di-Lee some props she well deserves......but the woman is not finished there.....

Confection's self titled album was recorded on the other side of the World to my house!, however, the whole shabang could have been recorded anyplace, globally. Last year, a small buzz grew around the Swade album, which I was sent from Paris, and I reviewed here. What that set and this one has in common is it scratches an itch for many folks (in the best possible taste!), in as much as they both filled a musical void for many fans who look back to the days of the early Eighties citing the likes of Change and the S.O.S. Band in their 'they don't make them like that anymore' viewpoint. Swade's set reminded me very much of the two bands mentioned, whilst Confection's set will bring some musical relief to those folks who loved the Kashif/Evelyn King/Melba Moore/Howard Johnson sound that the former artist assisted nearly 25 years ago. 1982? I was 25 that year and danced to all of those sounds back in the day. Those days I could dance across the floor like Muhammed Ali....thesedays I look as if I am having a fit! Is there a doctor in the house! LOL. Confection would have had a field day way back then with this set. In todays pasteurised, homogenised download this, or upload that, they provide some welcome relief for us forty somethings, and also introduce a style of music that the younger listener will find vibrant and fresh as a daisy! Got your dancing shoes on? O.K. 'I Choose You', 'I've Gotta Thing (4U)', 'Feel It Comin' and the very Soulful, Glenn Jones'y 'You Got The Love', will all have you getting out your old ripped jeans (with your kids making a fast beeline to the front door in embarrassment!). The tempo drops down a gear or two for 'Fantasisin' and 'Lovers Or Best Friends', both of which will please the Loose Ends fans out there. Two albums ignoring the trends and just doing their own thing. More power to the Australian's and the Spanish out there, and to Di-Lee for having the confidence and belief in running with both of these excellent sets. Highly recommended.

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• Impromp2 - It Is What It Is / Lamone - Eclectically Speaking / David Nathan - Dedicated To Soul Compilation

Impromp2LamoneDavid Nathan

Happy New Year! Always nice to begin a New Year strongly, musically, and these three offerings meet all the prerequisite requirements very nicely. Sure, you may say, well, we are all spent out as a result of Christmas, however, there must be a few folks out there with those record tokens burning a hole in their Yuletide pockets? New Years resolutions? My one is 300 dpi!

Impromp2's fourth album arrived before the Christmas festivities, and I have held reviewing the set until the post Christmas period, in order that the guys receive their 'review dues'. It is hard to believe that the guys first album hit the U.K. streets over a decade ago. Each subsequent release has maintained the high standard set throughout, with this release, possibly, exceeding the peaks of the duo's previous offerings. In a way, it is hard to categorise the guys, with Motown leaning towards the Jazz Section of the Soul Store, although, most purists would agree the guys fly the flag for the Soul fraternity. The nice thing about Impromp2's albums is the listener can put the CD in their chosen player and leave the set on without interruption. The guys almost construct a 50 minute musical groove, which is easy on the ear, outside of the elevator, and full on in the song led department. The guys offer up their own take on Brother Marvin's 'You Sure Love To Ball', simply entitled 'Luv 2 Ball', and very nice it is too. The almost rapped intro title track harks back to the guys initial 1996 release in overall feel. If you are feeling a little in need of some real Soul to cheer you up in the dark early days of January, you would be well advised to search out a copy of this set. Highly recommended.

Lamone's 'Eclectically Speaking' album was recommended to me by the excellent 'artist in his own right and Emotions number one fan', Dwayne Palmer. Dwayne sent me a couple of CD's, all of which I liked, however, the man was quick to point this reviewer in the direction of this set. Lamone's album boasts artistic contribution from the Jazz artist Najee, no less, and the two songs that feature the man certainly are standouts. As an overall album, this has a nice vibe running throughout. The Najee cuts are the melodic opener '(For You) I'll Go There', which is one of the best songs I have heard in a long while. The second Najee tune is the infectious dancer 'Your Eyes', which is, probably, about as good a dancer as you'll hear throughout 2008. Excellent stuff and highly recommended. Thanks Dwayne. Happy 2008 comrade.

David Nathan seems to have been part of the structure of Soul Music for decades. His pages in Blues and Soul are legendary, and thesedays David runs his own online store, with this release seeing the light of day via the excellent Expansion label here in the U.K. Looks like this may be one of a series based around David's website/store, which can only serve to further the Soulful cause. Below are a list of the tracks on offer here. You pays your money as to favourite songs. Some of these are either ultra rare, or hard to find unreleased tracks, finally seeing the light of day here, thankfully. That is certainly the case regarding the much overlooked songstress Trina Broussard. Quite why the general public are being spoonfed karaoke from sub standard vocalists via pop competitions, when there are real gems carrying the 'genuine' hallmark out there, is beyond me. Of the 'previously unreleased tracks', well Dionne Warwick's, Angela Bofill (both brilliant!) and Aretha's contributions really standout. Nice to see a track off the Mtume album 'Kiss This World Goodbye' here. Bought that album 'blind' back in 1979 because I liked the cover! LOL The vinyl is of a similar high standard! Another blinder from the guys who aren't 'keeping the faith'. They are spreading it!

Listings -

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• Marvin Winans - Alone But Not Alone / Alicia Keys - As I Am

Marvin WinansAlicia Keys

Two Yuletide offerings, the first an album that is probably a superior offering to the latter, the latter being Alicia Keys fine new set, which really lays the foundations for things to come regarding this artist.

Marvin Winans album is a Gospel set, although, it takes a listener a while to work out that point. As I have mentioned regarding Gospel music, you either takes it or leaves it. Personally, if you give the genre a miss, you are missing out yourself, sometimes in a very big way. Marvin has leaned towards the message side of Gospel here, leaving the soapbox to the heavens to others. The man is onto a winner in this house, as with the recent Darlene McCoy set, Marvin has wisely enlisted a certain Tommy Sims to the teamsheet, and, as you might suspect, the end product is more than just noteworthy. Folks say to me thesedays 'albums aren't the same anymore. One track and the rest is rubbish'. Not the case here comrades. This is constantly remarkable throughout. Tommy even lends Marvin the title track to his 2000 album 'Peace and Love' as one of his many gifts which comprise this fine set of melodies. The album is an album of many favourites really. Buy this and you won't regret it one little bit. If I was being held up by Mexican bandits in Surbiton High Street (highly likely thesedays! LOL) and told I had to choose a tune or two, well, the title track is wonderful, the song 'I Still Believe' is so infectious, 'Come In Out Of The Rain' is so uplifting, well you tell me yours. Bet it will differ from my choices. One of the best of 2007, no question.

Alicia Keys is gorgeous. It almost diverts the listener from the fact that behind the beauty, there is real substance. The woman is almost a 21st Century Roberta Flack, with the promise of a classic still to make it to tape. This set is a real grower. Guess the most immediate track has to be the 'Teenage Love Affair' melody, cleverly sampling the Temprees 'Girl, I Love You'. Played this set to my daughter (who is an Alicia expert! LOL), and she chose 'Like You'll Never See Me'. When I first heard 'No-One' I though not much of the song. That opinion has changed in my mind, as the album creeps up on you after several spins. Sure, this will make many a Christmas Stocking. All our kids friends Mum's and Dad's will be happy to see this album in the house. The acceptable face of Modern Soul Music. Alicia would make a great music teacher. As I mentioned, the woman has an album of the stature of Carole King's 'Tapestry' in her. Whether that will see the light of day, is more down to time, than actual fact. All I can say thus far is 10 out of 10 for this years work. More of the same please! I defy anyone not to be happy being given a copy of any Alicia Keys album this Christmas (most of you will have her two previous sets). Alicia is welcome round here anytime she likes....although the woman would have to behave herself! LOL......

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