listen out for 2010...
Three albums, which will be on many folks Christmas listings, and quite rightly so.
Jazmine Sullivan's album is out now on J-Records, and with a line up of producers, including Ne-Yo, Los da Mystro, Ryan Leslie, Lamb, Missy Elliott and Salaam Remi, the listener might suspect that this will be an album of new R&B beats, which will allow Jazmine to exercise her vocal dynamics, but be lacking a little in the melody department? The good news is that is very much, not the case. One of the few great things regarding the passing of time, is that folks mature, and the likes of Missy Elliott and Ne-Yo begin to develop some depth to their efforts. That is very much the case with Jazmine's set. The bonus ball is that Jazmine posesses a very lovely voice. Warm, Soulful and a huge range thrown in for good measure! Daytime radio will necessitate the couple of R&B beat tracks, which tghis release acommodates, however, when the tempo drops a little, Jazmine's vocals are well on the rise. '10 Seconds' beautifully showcases Jazmine's Soulful pedigree. Very old school in sound. The killer tunes here are the, very catchy, 'Stuttering' and my personal favourite, 'Excuse Me'. If you liked Alicia Keys' 'You Don't Know My Name', then this song is for your shelves. Very nice, and a much more Soulful album release from this fine singer.
Eric Benet's set sees the light of day for the Reprise imprint. Eric is many Soul fans favourite pick from the Modern Soul crop, and whether previous releases might have left the listener wondering a little, this set will certainly put those fears firmly to bed. Quite what happens sometimes with some singers can almost be viewed with amazement. All told, I knew Eric had it in him....but now it is out of him! Eric is in a very retro mode for this, certainly his finest release, to date. 'Lost In Time' is very a very descriptive title for the new set. The man has recruited some great artists to help him on this new album. Chrisette Michelle, Ledisi, (his daughter) India Benet, Eddie LeVert and Faith Evans (who has her own excellent album out right now), all of whom are making fine contributions to this excellent release. The Philly influenced, Eddie LeVert collaboration 'Paid', is already making waves on the better radio stations. This will, of course, not be a hit where it will get to the masses, however, in the current musical environment, that is a kite mark of quality in todays tuneless primetime televisual programming. It is a genuine pleasure to hear Eddie in such fine vocal form. 'Trials and tribulations' is an often overused phrase thesedays, however, in Eddie's case, that is a very accurate description relating to his recent family matters. Certainly have the greatest respect for the man. Eric's album certainly is no one track outing. In fact, Chrisette Michelle's duet, 'Take It', is probably the best track that she has out on release right now...and it isn't on her current album! Very much of a Stephanie Mills feel at the start of this track. Another killer tune is Eric's duet with his daughter India Benet entitled 'Summer Love', which his fully of melody, as is the duet with the brilliant Ledisi. Some very nice Stylistics/Delfonics-esque ballads on offer, all of which go to make this album an essential purchase.
Eumir Deodato de Almeida, is an artist who albums I have been picking up since 1976, when the tune 'Peter Gun' became big on the dancefloors here in the U.K.'s better clubs at the time. The interest amongst fusion fans became sparked, and punters began to look retrospectively at the man's earlier material. Paul Murphy turned people onto the likes of 'Super Strut' in the late Seventies/early Eighties, whilst Deodato's career became a 'career of two halves' seeing the man concentrating on some interesting production chores, working with the likes of Kool and the Gang and, later, Bjork! Deodato has now journeyed full circle, with a new album out on Expansion Records. Eumir Deodato...renaissance man! Eumir has returned with a cracking new fusion set, featuring various artists including a (welcome return to health for) Al Jarreau, Londonbeat, Billy Cobham, the excellent Airto Moreira, long time collaborator, John Tropea and Novecento. The Al Jarreau combination on 'Double Face' is very radio friendly. Certainly Jazz FM will be heavily rotating this tune, and quite rightly so. 'I Want You More' is another fine mid tempo offering on this fine 9 tracker. Deodato's resume is so diverse that, unlike many of his contemporaries, he can record almost any tune in any style, and make it function on whatever level the melody settles upon. This is an issue that many long term fusion performers have struggled with, however, in Eumir's own way, whatever he decides to do, it works. After all we are talking about a man who has taken us along a road which has stopped off at 'Also Sprach Zarathustra', 'Peter Gunn', 'Whistle Bump', 'Get Down On It' and Bjork! Can't say this man is not diverse! Very fine release, from a very nice man.
Al Olive's album is an album which I have been waiting for for a while now. Ever since Expansion included his song 'Slow Down' on the recent 'Soul Togetherness' album, the song has become my favourite song from that album. This week the parent album appeared on CD Baby, so I bought a copy of this set, entitled 'Dream', which follows on very well, promise-wise, from the standard 'Slow Down' laid down. The album is released by Al himself, who, I am sure he would not mind me saying he must be Luther Vandross's number one fan! If Luther had released this album himself, he would be mightily impressed by Al's songwriting talents. The title track here, is pure Luther, as is the delightful 'Do It Again'. I believe 'Beautiful Stranger' is a single forthcoming from this album. One thing I would say about this album, is it is very radio friendly. I wonder whether the market is subtle enough to entertain this artist in a major player role, which is a shame, as Al deserves to be a major player. Go on, please prove me wrong! If you don't believe the man is deserving, check 'L.O.V.E' or 'Bye Bye', which are about as good as Soul Music gets in 2010. Lovely music indeed. Do go check this album at CD Baby. Al Olive is going to be a great singer in Soul circles. I hope that the pop market takes a leap of faith and runs with this guy. Hugely recommended, and a perfect remedy to any turgid radio that may be lurking on many major stations out there!
Soul Talk backed Keni Burke on his recent U.K. appearance at London's Jazz Cafe. When I first listened to this album, I quite liked it, but decided to return to the set over the following days to see if the album grew on me....which it certainly has done! I can now understand Keni's liking for these guys, who performed excellently live. Of the radio tunes already taken for a spin on the better radio stations, 'Really Don't Mind' is already making waves. Retro, but not a duplication of things past. The song has an almost Tower Of Power vibe running throughout. Soul Talk take the James Taylor evergreen 'Fire and Rain' and give the tune a newer aspect, which is very pleasing. 'Loving You' has a very nice mid-tempo vibe, very song led, which is always a bonus ball in a song. 'Guess You're Leaving' is similar in song strength and melody, however the song which provoked me into writing this review is the song 'I Want It'. I listened on my little DAB radio to Peter Young's excellent Jazz FM Saturday show, whilst en-route to go meet Randy Muller last weekend. This track jumped out of the radio, and had me reaching for the volume dial in order to find out the song was a tune I already had in my iTunes here! Nice when that happens, as it is a gentle slap on the wrist regarding taking a little more time to listen to an album. Thus this set makes an appearance here. Very nice release...and it is British!
Jameil Aossey is a new name to me. In fact, I wouldn't know anything about this album, had not Jameil got in touch with me a couple of weeks back. Folks send quite a lot of music here, and, what with the time it takes to deliver a 'hard copy' of the music from the States, I had almost forgotten about this album. The set arrived this morning and I took the set for a spin after finishing up some regular work. Problem with the written word, is the listener has no idea as to what lays in wait, lurking in that little jewel case! Im lose count of the times that a set yet to arrive is described to me as 'Da Bomb', only for me finding myself trying to diffuse the album once it has arrived here! Not in this albums case, however. To best describe this album accurately, I would point the listener to that first great Imprompt2 album. A Soul set, partially rapped, but done so in a way designed to keep the music prominant, and this album certainly fulfills every promise. This album was a delightful relief to the one track releases, which I must confess, were hard to get through, in order to get to that killer tune. Jameil has come up with a set with a great many great songs, and for this I am eternally grateful to the man. He is from Ohio, if you wondered. He's the CEO of his own company Aossey Entertainment, no less. Which track did it for my old ears? About 12 on this 12 tracker. 'Memories' did immediately, but you can pick any tune, all told. A truly lovely album, which certainly shut me up, following my Opinion page rantings!......
...and just like London Buses, along comes another very nice album. Floetry go by the name of Floetic Soul thesedays. In fact, two became one, and Natalie Stewart, from the duo, who brought us 'Butterflies' back in the day, is now flying the 'Floetic' flag, and very nicely she is doing so, all told. Natalie has enlisted the likes of Musiq Soulchild, (the wonderful) Lalah Hathaway, MC Lyte and Raheem DeVaughn. She is now recording under the Shanachie Records umbrella, delivering this fine 13 track album release. Natalie has a very lovely voice, showcased beautifully on the very harmonised 'Need You'. A track that sounded very acceptable to begin with, however, when the harmonies kick in, the song moves onto another level. The opening song 'Breathe' is rapped in a style not dissimilar to Jameil's delivery....which in turn is best described as very Impromp2 in overall feel. Great opener followed by the duet with Raheem, which is very pleasing. Very complimentary vocally, without descending into an American Idol style song stand off! Those of you who loved those Floetry albums, will not be disappointed by this set. A bright example of the sort of music that the awful talent shows should be promoting. Class in every sense of the word....
...and talking of class, Quincy Jones is 77 years young this year. What makes me very jealous of the man, is he looks younger than I am! Mind you EVERYBODY does thesedays! This album is 'old ground rediscovered', for want of a better description. His production skills are now legendary, and quite rightly so. He is a very wise man, who many younger folks ought to take time out to listen to, especially when he speaks of an artists musical development. A very articulate man. This album features far too many musical 'heavyweights' on the scene thesedays for me to shopping list these folks. Quincy is at a level where he can cherry pick any artist to appear on any release he decides he wants to construct. If you are looking for new material, you will be disappointed, however, the album is in no way a set that should be ignored. Mary J. Blige's take on, the earlier Patti Austin vocalised, 'Betcha Wouldn't Hurt Me' is 7 minutes of very nice Soul Music. That was originally on the album 'The Dude'. The track I really love on this album, is the tune that Quincy has completely gone back to the drawing board with. 'You Put A Move On My Heart' is a favourite amongst musicians, however, unless you know this Rod Temperton penned melody from the 'Joint' album, or via the Mica Paris original, this could come across as a new song to the listener, as he really has changed the song's direction. A ballad that has become a mid-tempo song, ably steered in the right direction, vocally, by the excellent vocalist Jennfer Hudson. Here's a woman who definitely does not require any vocal coaching! This is a cracker of a song. There is an album with some bonus tracks floating around, one of which is an outrageous version of 'It's My Party' sung by Amy Winehouse. Well worth a listen. All told, a must buy, if for no other reason, it is newish music by Quincy Jones. A living genius.
The wonderfully named 'Charles 'Big Daddy' Stallings has appeared on these pages in the past. He has three albums to his name, which appeared in 2004, 2007, and now this release on the independent Tai Jeria Record Company label. Although a lot of folks out there knock the Internet, with it's pastuerisation and homogenisation of the musical genre, one great string to it's technological bow, is it does bring folks together. The label is based in Baltimore in Maryland, and would have, probably, never made it to the U.K. shores had it been released 30 years ago. Thesedays, although in my books vinyl is still king. I have just about been won over by CD, and the PR folks at Tai Jeria Music kindly sent me over this album, which has some liner notes, which all go to help the listener get to know the artist a little more. It's here where mp3 is left wanting, although that format has it's place I guess. Big Daddy's albums don't always appear to be what is on sale to the customer. A shelf stacker in the music department at your local store, would put this album (just by looking at it) on the same shelf alongside Muddy Waters and the real Blues guys. In many ways, this album has more in common with the likes of the late Bill Coday and Johnnie Taylor. Going straight for the jugular, the song 'I Wanna Dance' is an absolute Southern Soul classic. If the aforementioned Bill Coday's tune 'I'm In A Midnight Mood, In The Middle Of The Day' did it for you, then so will this cracker of a song. Almost distracted me from a very fine album, and an improvement on the last Big Daddy release. Charles' delivery is best described as 'charming'. There is an almost innocence about his music, which is completely unpretentious. It is what it is. The man delivers 18 slices of Southern Soul at it's finest. 'James' brought a real smile to my face, as this is the man paying homage to the Soul Brother No.1. Charles dips into Jazz and the real Blues genres throughout an album which really was a refreshing set, juxtaposing the larger label converyor belted-out output. Check 'I Wanna Dance' at Amazon. It won't disappoint. With reference to Peter Young at Jazz FM's excellent Soul Cellar, this is Cellar with modern Soul sensibilities. Nice album Charles.
Karen Clark Sheard's album is about to disappear off the radar without making any waves at all, which is a shame, as the set contains another Modern Soul cracker, which will disappear in the wake of the 'Mother Album', 'All In One'. Something that can't be allowed to happen, as this is Gospel music, with a huge helping of Soul Music thrown in. Karen's album is out on the Gospel based Karew Imprint. She has recently been making inroads into the movie business, whilst keeping the music career ticking over very nicely. The set opens with the very funky 'Prayed Up', which is just about as state of the art as you can get if it's kind in 2010. This album has a very Tommy Sims overall feel to proceedings (if you remember him and his fabulous 2000 album 'Peace and Love'). 'Hold On' follows on in a similar vein, whilst 'Blessings' has a Shirley Brown-esque vibe. The killer track (which doesn't get under your skin on the first play....but boy does it after a few rotations) is track 4, titled 'Made A Choice'. This is a fabulous piece of music, majestic in it's composition and delivery. I wonder sometimes when folks are recording their albums, they are aware of that 'special song' which is the tune they are likely to be humming on the way home from the studio? This is that track. Best Gospel song this year so far. If you have some decent headphones, do put them on and turn up the volume, as there is so much going on here, and it also assists the listener in appreciating just what a great singer this woman is. You'll find yourself hitting the repeat button again and again. 12 tracks on offer here. Not a one track album, but one track is head and shoulders above the others and certainly is making tidal waves in this house! Recommended.
Some things related to this music I find curious, some things are interesting, some fascinating, and some completely scary! The latter matter of fact, is the uncanny parralels in musical taste that I share with Ralph Tee at Expansion Records. Sure there are some minor fluctuations along the line, however, by and large the connections are pretty sound. I think Soul folks who know Ralph will agree that they too have similar tastes. I experience the same musical connections with Peter Young and (the recuperating from illness, get better soon comrade) Robbie Vincent. All three are Jazz FM deejays here in the U.K. Ralph, PY and Robbie have immaculate tastes in music, however, Ralph has a the great 'string to his musical bow' that he has a label, which can bring this great music to the hugely underrated listening public out there.
Expansion is essentailly a two man business, with Ralph handling the scene in the South Of England, and Richard Searling doing likewise in the North of the country. Richard has a short three track segment on Ralph's Sunday shows, and annually, they both put their heads together and come up with a winner of a compilation regarding the better releases around from the previous 12 months or so. Soul Togetherness compilations have been released for over 10 years now, with each album improving on previous releases. This new set features the mix of new and current spins from the Modern Soul circuit. 15 tracks in all, a few of which have already been given the thumbs up at the site (Jonathan Butler etc). With each album release there are always gaps to be filled from my personal wants lists here, a couple of which are real delights on Togetherness 2010, especially the lovely 'Slow Down' by Al Olive, who could have recorded this song back in 1982. Certainly would have made huge waves back then, however, people have become so entoxicated with the fascination of the technology that creates the music, they forget the music itself, so we listen to anything, rather than particular things. Al Olive will not make the charts here, but Susan Boyle will! Kicking the soapbox aside, do go and seek out this album. If you can't afford everything you are after right now, then whatever you spend your money on, make sure it is of the highest standard, as this fine release certainly fits the bill...
...returning to the similarities in tastes, well I believe that Keni Burke's 'You're The Best' album is Ralph's favourite from the last few decades. It's mine as well! Back in 1981, I was aware Keni had released an album on George Harrison's Dark Horse label, as it followed a year on from the Stairsteps '2nd Ressurrection' set from 1976. That was an incredible album, which the late Dave Godin championed in Blues and Soul magazine at the time. The Keni album I never saw in any store on it's release date, although copies emerged during the early Eighties, so I finally picked up my copy back then....and then this album arrived in 1981. At the time I was going through a very distressing seperation, which left me open to all sorts of personal doubt, coupled with very low self esteem, and then Keni's album came along. I bought the set and have loved every millimetre of every groove on my vinyl copy ever since. Keni touched on so many positive notes (pardon the pun) throughout the album, with perhaps 'Paintings Of Love' (which Ralph also refers to in his excellent sleevenotes) being the nearest thing to Soul perfection in my humble opinion, along with being my own personal antidote to depression as well. 'Incredibly uplifting' is not an incorrect description for the song, which is criminally short, and is sung almost as if Keni had penned it as an after thought. The album also houses the writings of one of the most underrated songwriters around, namely Todd Rundgren. Todd has always been seen as a bit of a heavy metal geek, however, when he puts his Soul head on, he is a genius. 'Love Is The Answer' was originally recorded by his band Utopia, although most folks will be aware of England Dan and John Ford Coley's take on the tune. Keni takes the song to another level. 'Never Stop Loving Me' and 'Gotta Find A Way Back In Your Heart' would break many a lover's heart. Sheer beauty. Keni could never top this album realese, although a year later, in 1982, he gave it his best shot and recorded a Soul classic in the shape of 'Rising To The Top'. 'Changes' also featured the radio friendly 'Hang Tight', and a very underplayed, gorgeous ballad called 'One Minute More'. The man shut up shop for many years, although Ralph did coerse him into making an album called 'Nothing But Love' during the Nineties, later going on to pen tracks for Walter & Scotty (whom he had previously written for when they were part of the Whispers 1970's manifestation 'Can't Do Without Love' etc) and Kalvin Bishop. There was even a pink 45 called 'Love Is Alive In My Heart' which was a pretty good tune. In fact, I believe that Keni has enough self penned material out there on other artists, to record the songs himself and release a new album. Pigs might fly? Who knows. Keni is playing a one off show in London at the Jazz Cafe next weekend. Ralph's birthday, my wife's birthday, and we get to hear the great man singing live! Wonder if he'll do 'Painting's Of Love'? Not a new pair of albums, but a timely new release, reminding us that, in this, iPod this, iPod that, download this, download that, file share this, file share that, society we live in these days, we should do exactly as Mr T keeps telling us and 'get some nuts sucka!' Real music's true message was once described at Motown as 'it's what's in the groove that counts'. Berry Gordy's very wise words. If you do not own copies of either of these albums, it is essential you buy this CD........now!
One album, and two mini album releases here, all of which are well worth checking out.
Any Will Downing album release, almost throws a gauntlet down to a Soul reviewer, with the challenge 'criticize this set if you dare', and of course, no-one does, as Will's album releases are about as consistent as politicians breaking their electoral promises! I make this Will's 15th album release, and proof of the consistency pudding, is that, over his near 25 years in the business, he has relocated labels a mere 5 times or so. His take on Coltrane's 'Love Supreme' has now become embedded into many a superior Jazz radio station over the years. Will has had health issues recently, which paused his career for a couple of years, however, his voice is so strong thesedays, no-one would have ever known. This is Will's third outing at the Peak imprint, with Rex Rideout, Chris Davis and Will himself taking on the production chores.This set comprises of various aspects regarding personal relationships. One thing I would say about this album, is it does benefit from a few spins. In fact, I am beginning to be of the mind that this album is his best in a long while. 'Feeling Alright' is probably the most commercial track on show here, although, this is a release that needs to be heard in it's complete majesty. Majestical is a good overall description of this album. Will Downing albums all come with a complimentary kite mark of quality, and therefore, every home needs his albums. I have them all here, by this fine singer (even his fine Christmas album) and so should you. Not much else to say other than after reading this, head off to Amazon or iTunes. A very fine album.
Orly hails from New York and has this 6 track EP ready for retail at CD Baby. More than that, I am sure there must be online regarding this singer. I put this CD on the player here and ran through the tracks fairly quickly at first, although one track forced me to return to the repeat button several times over. 'The Way' really reminded me of another song which really began to haunt me. This is a lovely samba'ish track with echoes of the quality of 'In The Thick Of It' hanging around someplace within the song. Orly's vocal delivery has it's own strength and tenderness juxtaposing the melodies on offer here. This really is a cracker of a track, which you should try to track down and check out yourselves. Quite a lovely tune. Check out CD Baby for a quick listen. Very nice CD throughout, filled with very strong songs and hugely appreciated in this neck of the Soul woods!
I hold my hand to my heart, swear on the Bible, and truthfully state that Marilyn Ashford Brown is one of the nicest artists that have ever been in touch here, your honour! This ex singer (part of the group Sass back in the day), sent me her album a few months ago, which I really loved, and reviewed here. In 2010, Marilyn has taken the set, cherry picked 5 tracks for remix puropses, and the result is this great EP of material, which will please many Soul folks out there immensly. The mixes are all very tastefully handled, some of which are covers of the evergreen dancers 'You Know How To Love Me' and 'Can You Handle It'. The track that really caught my attention is her remix of the song 'You'll Never Find, Another Love Like Me', which on first look I took to be a remake of the Lou Rawls standard, although I was very much mistaken. This is a really cracking song, delivered in a very much S.O.S. Band groove, and featuring Marilyn sounding very Stephanie Mills in parts. After the first opening bars, the song hooks the listener, and this particular catch was on the player here for the full 7 and a half minutes. This EP is dedicated to the memory of Rodney Brown and Willie Lester, who graced us with their production skills back in the days when men thought they were men (lunatics according to some feminists), a woman found solace in the recording studio, and songs had melodies you could hum back after the song had finished! This is a great release. A slice of the real stuff!
Three albums here, all of which have a common thread running through them all. I am late in reviewing all of them! They are all too high a standard that I let any of them pass without a thumbs up from this website.
Kem is onto his third album outing, which Motown have picked up on, and it is great to see such a legendary label sticking with the standard, rather than the 'norm' out there. 'Intimacy Album III' does what it says on the label. Easy on the ear, which suits Kem's vocal timbre very nicely. The opener, 'When I'm Loving You', is almost a track of the year in many folks books I am thinking. I know Ralph Tee has been spinning this set whilst I was out of town. Bought a DAB radio in the hope of hearing Ralph and PY in Cornwall, but the signal wasn't willing unfortunately. Ralph posts his lists at the Jazz FM website, and he is one of the few deejays whose tastes I refer to post show (PY and the recuperating Robbie Vincent are two others). This is a lovely set comprising 10 songs, is very mellow throughout, and my personal favourite track is 'You're On My Mind'. Very bold of me to go straight for the musical jugular, however, the opener and this track do stand out on this set, however, I would add to that, that there are no sub-standard songs on this album. A very fine release, beautifully sung and constructed. Hugely recommended.....
...as is the Chris Youngblood album, which did take a while to arrive here. My poor communication to blame, however, the album was well worth the wait, as it is a cracker, and it is British I believe. 30 years since the music eminating from these shores sounded so musically infantile retrospectively. Thesedays we can give as good as any other part of the world, and if anyone contests this matter, I would point them in the direction of a certain Mr Youngblood, and this fine release. Sure we are influenced by Black America. These guys are the originators, and deserve every accolade placed in their inbox. Leroy Hutson is one such influence highlighted by the opening title track on this set. I am sure Chris won't mind me remarking on the similarity to Leroy's 'So In Love' with Chris's own song 'In Love With You'. As was the case with the Kem album, this is a gorgeous opener to a 15 track menu of some of the finest Soul Music you'll hear this year. This album is released on the excellent Soul Unsigned record label (as is the next album reviewed here), which seems to be a label which has found it's feet very quickly on the U.K. Soul Market), a label run by Phil Driver, who I have to thank for sending his material this way. The material is of the highest quality, therfore the final tapestry is hugely pleasing. The tracks that really hit the spot here realize several in number. 'Without You', 'Spend Your Life', and, the wonderful, 'All Over Again' (a cracker). A fine album, which will please many folks out there. Recommended unreservedly.
Phil's label makes another appearance here, showcased by the third in his series of releases featuring the best material recorded and released by the next generation of Soul singers out there. Phil is invaluable to myself, as, the amount of music sent here can at times leave this listener a little 'beat weary'. Phil and his team give me the nudge I need from time to time, to return to albums which I have skipped over, without paying the due attention which I ought to give to these great people. Comes from being a one man band I guess? On this album there are 16 'ear picked' songs from Soul Unsigned, which are always of the highest standard. It's why I regularly review these releases here. I loved the Reneda track here, which I remember listening to earlier this year. Missed me then, but hits home right now. Picking the ripest fruit, from a dish that is full of the ripe stuff, is not an easy task, however, Nate White really did make me reach for the volume dial, as did the Kenny Wesley song 'Serenity'. 'Dance My Love With You' by Ebony Evans was another killer song as were Me'Na's lovely 'Deja View' and the Neo-Jazz Project, Mamayo, Papik and, the wonderfully named, Marshall Badger's lovely 'He Did It All For You'. I can imagine the Jones Girls giving this song the full on Philadelphia International treatment. A very nice set of songs (as always), from a great label, represented by Phil Driver (who is a very nice bloke, all told!).
All the above albums are all on sale at Amazon right now.
Phil Driver and Bill Buckley both kindly sent me some further information regarding Chris Youngblood. Here is a link to Bill's site, and the bio Phil sent:
Hot on the heels of what were some quite remarkable major label releases, CD Baby are the order of the day for these three albums, all of which bring hope in the latter part of the year for the creative side of Soul music. The nice thing about CD Baby, is the quality of the download, which is superior in standard to many online retailers, is cheap, and is comprehensive regarding the artists and their influences and origins. You gets your music straight away, which is always a welcome bonus ball!
Carmichael hails from Georgia, and has a couple of album releases at CD Baby right now. This newer album is actually a double album, which won me over completely with the opening track 'Always Come Back', which is just about as good a song as you'll hear all year. The similarities with Will Downing are noted at CD Baby, which stand up in the quality stakes very nicely. I am not a great fan of descriptive labels, as you guys will know by now. Only two types of music, all told. Good and bad (dependent of the listener of course). This is a very good double album. Nice instrumentation, some vocal clarity going on, and strong songs. Lots of musical nooks and crannies to dip into. Peter Young played 'That's My Song' on his show last week.Sounded very radio friendly indeed. A very interesting new set, which, if you liked the Darien album from last year, you'll like this. No one track album here, methinks! Recommended.
Lenny Hamilton Jnr hails from Tennessee, and is noted by CD Baby as a guy whose music you'll like if you are into Dwele, John Legend and Musiq Soulchild. Now I don't know if it's me, but I know and really like those guys music, but this isn't anything like their material! I can, however, hear a Jimmy Abney/Peven Everett thing going on. The music is subtle throughout, however, what really gels this set together are Lenny's vocal harmonisings. Very softly and thoughtfully delivered. This album, you need to work on a little, but work on it is a recommendation, as it certainly is a grower of an album. Moody in parts and I found myself hitting the repeat button several times on several tracks. In i-Tunes, as you'll know, the software lets you know which songs are the ones you have listened to the most frequently. Mine are tracks 1 and 8, which are entitled 'The One' and 'I'll Wait' respectively. Two really great tunes. There are 17 in total here, one of which 'Nothing 2 See', I can imagine hearing turning a few heads when rotated at the better Soul stations. There's a Jazz feel to this song. Very clever stuff. A very complete album, which is a set that is consistent, which is all that anyone can ask for in these days of one or two track album releases (present company, at this website, excepted)
Dionne is another CD Baby online musical resident, whose address is shown as 'United States'! That narrows the search down! She was actually born in Texas, and Dionne used to be known as Deedee Kirby, her website states:
Online comparisons are with Ledisi and Jill Scott amongst others, although, Dionne sounds as if she and Adrianna Evans may have shared a recording booth at some studio someplace. She has a similar vocal delivery, with a good CV of written musical matter to accompany her abilities. This is only an eight track release, which is a shame, as I would like to have heard a slightly broader spectrum of her work, although, for now, this album will do very nicely. 'For Sure' will grace many a radio station, and comes in two mixes on this nice little album. Loved the track 'Lucky' which is another catchy little number. A very nice taster for what will arrive in the coming years, I am sure, from a very talented young woman. As I mentioned, all three albums are all of a very high standard, available at CD Baby, a website which nutures the new, and that can only be commended wholeheartedly.
Isn't it typical! As soon as I complete a CD Baby festival of new releases, I find, probably, the best album release of the year at this great retailer. To let you know how much I like this album, I bought the download, liked it so much, I bought the CD, which is winging it's way here as I write! CD Baby told me they loved me! More than I get from Agnes at the transport cafe round the corner when I pop in for a coffee! So what the fuss? Well, out of the 15 tracks on offer here, perhaps two are 'middling' types of melodies, but not bad. 13 are winners all the way. Two are currently on repeat since the album arrived here. These are easily, year end top 10 songs, namely 'Want To See The Sun' and, the very Robbie Vincent, 'Catch My Fall'. Of Dorian, well I do know a little. This is a Blue Eyed Soul release from the son of the rock artist Gary Wright (who recorded the song 'Dreameaver' back in the day). Dorian has toured with Teena Marie. That quality has rubbed off on this wonderfully sung album. The overall sound is Stevie (isn't every album these days), although Dorian obviously has some of the early Seventies Isley Brothers albums in his collection at the family home. Peter Young told me Gary Wright pennded a song for the group Sisters Love back in the day, so Soul Music must have a good home in the Wright household. This album is out on L Records. To be honest, if you don't buy anoy other album this year, make this the one you do buy. It is a real cracker, make no mistake.......I'm off to play 'Catch My Fall' again.....echoes of that Hudson Young track Robbie used to play back in the day.......you can, listen to, and buy this album here:
Quite what Aretha Franklin and Jerry Wexler would make of Janelle Monae, who knows? The artists share the same label, namely Atlantic Records. Jerry would probably rise from his grave, shout 'More Bass' (reading from his headstone) and slip back into his enforced retirement thinking to himself 'what on earth was that I just heard'! Sure 'Archandroid' isn't the sort of album title which would grace Aretha Franklin's portfolio, it would probably have a Northern Soul purist reaching for the garlic and crucifix and would make many a regular visitor to Soulwalking wonder whether I had completely lost the plot! Still, in the best possible 'Field Of Dreams' scenario, she recorded the album, and it lured me in. Why? Not sure, but this Kansas based singer has created something of a masterpiece of it's kind. 'It's kind' meaning 'of itself'. Sure there are hints of Stevie, Charles Earland, Perri, Judy Garland, Grace Jones, The Mama's and the Papa's, Sade, in fact a whole bunch of influences from all across the convaluted musical landscape. The main influence which drew me in is that of Todd Rundgren. Todd used to make albums which had tracks on that I really hated, however, those tracks were interspersed by some songs which are classic melodies over the years. 'Hello It's Me' was covered by Mary J. Blige recently. Keni Burke recorded 'Love Is The Answer'. This album reminded me a little of his 'Wizard A True Star' set (which featured a medley of Curtis Mayfield, Delfonics and Miracles songs). With 'Archandroid' you pays your money, you takes your choice. In my humble opinion, an album which asks questions of the listener, is an album to be cherished. Lots of relevant quotations are appropriate here. 'Breaking eggs to make an omelette' is one which springs to mind. Janelle's set has some moments which I found absolutely absorbing. Haunting in places, beautiful in others, and missing me completely in parts. Something for everyone one....and no-one on the Soul Scene. Janelle has links with the rapper OutKast, and has sung on his albums. 'Archandroid' is a three piece suite of an album. Lots of overtures, snippets and influences. 'Locked Inside' is the single due, I believe. I really liked this tune. I shouldn't and I don't know why I do. You'll have to preview the album at i-Tunes to hear what I hear. I really liked 'Neon Valley Street' and the jazzy 'BaBopBye Ya' finale, although the killer track here is, the, oh so Stevie, 'Say You'll Go', which is uncannily like the man's tune 'Rocket Love' (from his 'Hotter Than July' album). Beautifully sung. Soul music? Who knows, but beautiful it certainly is. This is a groundbreaking set, which many Soul folks will shy away from. It will make you feel uneasy. That is called change. It certainly made me examine whether I pigeonhole music too much. Purists shouldn't fear this album as this represent's real musical progress, as I mentioned. The thinking music person's music, if you are into Rock, Soul or Jazz. Quite an effort and well worth the journey from Kansas to the turntable or i-Pod.
That line from the song 'Our Love Is Here To Stay' (from 'An American In Paris') ought to read 'In time The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar will tumble, they're only made of clay.....but Incognito's high album standards are here to stay'! George Gershwin would rise from his grave! Bluey's 30th anniversary album release sees the group maintaining such a high standard, it will be hard to maintain this over the next 30 years! Dome Records are the shrewd investors in the group's enduring career, and are really following on in style from their excellent Drizabone release back in June. The group really pushed the boat out this time round, enlisting assistance from the likes of Mario Biondi (who we have been supporting here at this site for nearly 5 years right now), Leon Ware, Chaka Khan, Tortured Soul, Ursula Rucker, Al McKay (Earth, Wind & Fire) and Stuart Zender (Jamiroquai). Not a bad few signings for the new season! Mario sets the set off with his very nice cover version of the Boz Scaggs evergreen 'Lowdown'. The song suits Mario's vocal timbre effectively, ably assisted on vocals by a certain Chaka Khan (who still sounds as fresh as she did way back in the Seventies!). '1975' is a vocal interpretation of Bluey's introduction to the music scene back in the day, very nicely articulated by Joy Rose. Bluey's regular team clicks into gear with Maysa enriching the song 'Your Song, My Sky' beautifully. What a great singer she is. Leon Ware's expertee's sees the light of day on the mellow, mid-tempo 'Line In The Sand'. Chaka's second tune, 'The Song' really suits her fluid delivery in style. Tony Momrelle deserves a mention, especially for the song 'Make Room For Love', a song which showcases Bluey's ability to tailor a song for a specific vocalist. Very impressive stuff. Made me laugh, when I picked up the liner notes to find out who the great mystery vocalist was on 'Tell Me What To Do', only to find out it is Bluey himself! Goes to show the calibre of the man, when he can vocalise this well, and bring in others, to construct what amounts to a hugely talented United Nations of Soul vocalists. Highly impressive as we have come to expect, and then some. Favourite tracks? Sure. Any between 1 and 16! Hugely recommended.
The Philly Fusion Project are a new group to these ears. I picked up their album from Digstation, after a site visitor recommended the album to me, so I am not sure of the label. Glad they recommended this set, which I thoroughly enjoyed, pretty much from start to finish. Nice to know that there are albums around, which are not just one track offerings. So many songs will go missing this year, as the overall release is not of a high standard. Real shame. The Philly Fusion Project features vocals from 'The Amazon' Vikki Wright, bass, Warren 'D-Dog' Davis, and the drums of Andre 'Bam Bam' Adams. There are 13 excellent grooves here, which are 'heavily bass-binned' from the outset, kicking off with the great, almost scatted tune 'Cognitive Sexuality'. Not to dissimialr in style to Incognito's album, there are hints of the Marcel and the Truth outing from a few months ago thrown into the pot here. 'Bump' does exactly that to the speakers here, smartly followed by the ballad 'How Does It Feel', which is quite enchanting. Vikki has a very understated vocal styling, which doesn't 'belt', but charms the material to the listeners ears. For a threesome, the sound here is very impressive. Fully and tastefully performed throughout. Probably, my favourite song here is the mellow 'Midday' with the lovely flute insertions throughout the song. Lovely stuff. 'Fantasy, Closer To You', and 'The First Time' run that track a close second. 'Warren's Groove' completes an album which is a very strong set, with each musician complementing each others abilities with humour and harmony. A very nice album, and a very solid set throughout. Recommended and at Digstation right now.
Joy Dennis has, probably, recorded one of the songs of 2010 on this set. In fact, she must be so sure of this song, she has it lined up to be the forthcoming single from the album. The song 'He Awaits' is Soul perfection on so many levels. It would suit any R&B chart, on any listing, sit alongside any Beyonce song, Alicia Keys song, alongside the new Jonathan Butler set, and it would sit on any Moderen Soul fans shelf....without hesitation! The strength of the track reminded me very much of the Sunshine Anderson single from a few years ago. 'Heard It All Before' has a similar vibe, although 'He Awaits' has a Tom Browne side to proceedings. Some great trumpet on this song, which really gives the song 'muscle'. Watch this track make waves, that's all I can say. R&B is an often utilised way of describing many aspects of todays music. Folks like Mayer Hawthorne (who I do like by the way) are dropped into the R&B shelf, sitting alongside albums like Joy's. 'He Awaits' represents the Brothers and Sisters flexing their musical muscles. When you hear the song, you'll know what I mean. The album, by the way, ain't half bad either. The title track is a lovely piece of Soul Music. Joy delivers with immense and yet supressed power, well within her dynamic vocal boundaries. Hugely refreshing. Almost all of the songs on offer are 'preluded', so Joy's curriculum vitae definitely does demand an introduction! As with the Catina Rosemond album, these are quickly becoming the left field, surprise sets of the summer of 2010. All told, I can't think of a better album to 'rattle those bass bins' to their optimum this year. Soul music of a very high standard. Highly recommended (especially for the single). 'He Awaits'...and so do you now!
Drizabone's 'Real Love' used to be pioneered by Steve Hobbs on his Jazz FM Sunday night shows, some 20 years ago now. Wasn't immediately taken with the track back then, but boy did it creep up on me very quickly! Bought a white label of that single, never realising that later the song would chart nationally. Steve's show was essential listening for myself back in the day. Man with very good taste. Drizabone moved on to writing and production chores in the following years, producing one song, by Angie Giles, called 'Submerge', which I could never understand why that track wasn't a huge smash. Ended up criminally in many a bargain bin. If you ever find that track....Thesedays the guys are in the excellent hands of Santosh and Peter Robinson at Dome Records. Dome handle many great artists, some of whom I have featured here (Angela Johnson, Incognito etc.). This album was a very nice surprise, when the CD arrived a day or so ago. Really enjoyed the album. Of the two original guys who made up the early incarnation, Billy Freeman is running the show thesedays. Billy has a very good take on many of the better aspects of Soul music, whether it is within todays market, or retrospectively. I bet that many a track you guys appreciate, this man does as well. Nice thing about this album is my old hang up. The better tunes have to be 'song-led'. Not a lot to ask, and this album fits the bill perfectly. The best illustration of this on show here, is the song 'Girlfriendz'. Not cheesy, but simply a lovely vibe. Very summery and hugely rememberable. 'Never Gonna Stop The Groove' sounds like a Robbie Vincent show tune from around 1982. Another killer tune. Billy has enlisted two great songstresses in the shape of Anneka Johnson and Nataya, who are the perfect vehicle for the Drizabone sound of 2010. 'Lovin' U' is another wonderful slice of Soul Music (featuring the wonderful, and underrated, Keni Stevens), and then there is 'Slow Luv (All Through The Night)', which really is a great song. The purchaser even gets a new take on 'Real Love', which sounds live here. Very nice new version. These albums have a great deal to offer edicationally for the younger aspiring musicians out there. 'How do you define a track as being song-led?' Well, sit a student down at the keyboard and ask them to compose a song.....but it must be one minute long or less. Certainly concentrates the mind, melodically.
Catina Rosemond's album came as a total surprise to me. The sleeve looked like it may be one of those urban CD's, which will have a lot of beats and the obligatory rap thrown in on occassion! Instead, here is a Gospel album, not sounding like a Gospel album at all, and in parts sounding almost Anita Baker-esque. I think Catina's Mom and Dad played her some 'tunes' whilst she was an adolescent. She has certainly got my vote as one of the best new songstresses on the block in a long while. This album is released on Selah Jah Records (a new label to me), and features 14 great songs, which vary from 'the very listenable' to 'the absolutely essential'. Going directly for the musical jugular, well, the song 'Draw Me Nearer' did exactly that. Lush arrangements, very much in the Anita Baker/Rapture format. In fact, I think I can envisage Catina putting on 'Seems So Long' on the stereo, with a little help from her parents back in '86! Catina has a hugely competent vocal quality to her delivery. The harmonies are quite exquisite here, with my only complaint being that the progress throughout the rest of the album floundered somewhat, whilst I tried to resist that dreaded repeat button. One of the years best songs so far. The other saleable aspect to this musical property, is the other deejays out there will no doubt find another song which will be more suited to their tastes. Lot of very nice pieces of Soul music on this album. Of these, probably 'Glory', the wonderful 'Come Home' (VERY 'Caught Up In The Rapture'), the radio friendly 'All Night Long' and the epic title track, which starts out as a tune Nikki Giovanni would appreciate, I am sure. This song has echoes of the Jones Girls evergreen 'Life Goes On' about the overall sound. Very similar 'heavenly' female vocal textures. There is something here for any Soul fan, and thank heavens, literally, for that. The early summer drought has passed!
Carmen Rodgers folks got in touch here. Very nice woman called Nurisha, who was steered in my direction by that very nice Joerg Michael Schmitt, whose tastes are something any Soul fan could rely completely on. Nurisha is promoting this fine new album from Carmen Rodgers, which is out on Candigirl Music (I think!). The files here are mp3 versions, so the PDF files are my informational reference point. If I miss something, my apologies. I believe a CD is on it's way, so I am looking forward to that immensly, as this album is very nice indeed! The flyer refers to 6 tracks, although I have nine here to review. Nine tracks with a lovely vibe running throughout. The tracks may not be in the correct order, however, title-wise 'Tell Your Story' reminded me very much of Lalah Hathaway's recent material. A song with an almost 'earthy' delivery (if that makes any sense). Great song. 'Home' has a Stevie feel to the proceedings. Very song led and delightful. The other two killer tunes, on a very strong album here, for myself, are the drop dead gorgeous 'Better U Than Me' and the melodic 'What Hurts You', which, all told, is my favourite song on show here. Another tune for 2010. Soul swaying at it's finest!. Thanks Nurisha and Joerg. That's what I call team-networking! Great album, Carmen, and nice to see my friend Ronnie Foster helping out on proceedings!
Two performers walked into a bar, one turns to the other and says, 'I am sure I've been here before'!! Carole King and James Taylor worked at the Troubador, way back in the day. Back in 1971 to be exact. Don't laugh, but I bought 'Tapestry' and 'Sweet Baby James' back at the time, along with a pair of two tone purple loons, which had a 'V' on the knee cap! Dare I say 'Daddeeoh'. Hilarious! As the Seventies moved along, and Soul Music grabbed me by the 'vuvuzela's' (South African football horns, which will help boost the sales of aspirin during the World Cup!), Brother James and Sister Carole remained in my record boxes. I remember looking at 'Tapestry' and thinking 'what is there not to like about this album'? I think a great many Soul artists thought exactly the same, judging by the amount of artists who have recorded songs from this set. Brother James? What's not to like about him either? He is just one of the nicest human beings around, still holding his own vocally, and still capable of writing a tune. So this album arrives some, well, 40 years down the line, and we see these two geniuses hanging around in bars again! 'Don't I know you?' They still have their band member mates here, for what is a simply lovely album, which, probably as a solo CD set, might make the most diehard Carole King and James Taylor fan think twice before picking up, however, what tips the album in the favour of the retailer, is the inclusion of the show on DVD to create a 'media matching pair'. The liner notes describe the overall event beautifully, and I won't patronise you by going through the songs on offer here. You will know them all. Your Dad will, too, and Fathers Day is almost upon us....then there's Christmas, and that birthday etc. As I mentioned, what is not to like about these two old Blue Eyed Soul singers (which is how I see and hear them myself). Out on Syzygy Productions. A simply lovely album from two like minded soul's, who have remained best mates all these years. Nice to have constants around whilst everything else changes around us in these troubled times.
After a very quiet couple of weeks, finally something to write home about! Seriously though, I think we must have been spoiled by the standard of the material out there over the last couple of years. The recession seems to have dragged us all down a little, however, there is nothing like some quality music to lift the spirits, and these four fit that bill very nicely!
Jonathan Butler is back, and is back in very fine form indeed. I am a little late in reviewing this album, so my apologies to all concerned! 'So Good' is out on the Mack Avenue Records label, and features the likes of Angie Stone amongst others! The title track of this album featues three mixes on this 14 track set, and has to be one of the finest examples I would play to anyone trying to create the best in Soul music in 2010. Very Benson-esque in many ways. Just a great piece of music. 'You've Got To Believe In Something' is another, slightly slower song, nicely delivered, reminding me of a song, which skips my mind right now! 'Factual' is another winner, very song led, as is 'Feels So Good', which has echoes of those great Craig T. Cooper albums from 20 or so years ago. Very classy stuff. A very nice suprise sees the involvement of Angie Stone on the ballad 'Be Here With You', which really finds her in fine voice. Two styles complimenting each other very nicely indeed. Other tracks which hit the spot were 'I'm Right Here' and 'Color Green' (excellent). If you liked the last Benson album, you'll love this set, which has everything that album contained, with, perhaps, a little more. Recommendation without hesitation!
Surel hails from Dallas, and, as this album indicates, her music is steeped in Gospel. She is 24 years old, and is the youngest daughter from a Christian family. Surel has performed with the Rance Allen Group, no less, before taking a solo route in order to further her career. 'His Bride' is released on her own label, and is currently retailing at CD Baby. Some great music here, sung competently, and very melodically. Gospel with a hint of the modern soul styling, epitmosed by the lovely 'Wait For The Son', a song that Deniece Williams would have loved to get her hands on, I am sure. 'See My Faith' is a fine tune, not hollered, but articulated. As you know, I am not a great lover of the song that is 'shot from the lip', but more 'negotiated' with the listener. This is a lovely song. There were moments which missed me slightly on this album, however, the songs I have mentioned, do warrant your attention, in my humble opinion. Nice album.
Cheneta Jones hails from St. Louis. As with Surel, she has a musical history hugely involved in the church. Cheneta sang at school and as a solo artist sang in various R&B groups. She was the winner of KATZ Hallelujah 1600's Praise Alive Talent Search 2008 and has performed for many gospel acts, including Fred Hammond, John P. Kee, Donnie McClurkin, Deitrick Haddon and Lisa McClendon. This release sees the light of day on her own The Cheneta Jones Experience Label, and is retailing at CD Baby as I write. The songs here will suit folks of many musical tastes. If dancers are your tune of preference, you will love the opener 'Fire'. Should rattle a few bass bins out there! Cheneta has a very decent vocal delivery, which handles many styles very ably. The ballads are very palatable 'Turn Back' being one of my favourites. 'It's Not Over' is a nice mid tempo stepper, however, the tune which really drew me into this set is 'Leaving The World Behind', which may become one of my year end favourites in this World Cup year. There are some very complex harmonies, knitting this mid tempo song together. A great song which does it for these old ears!
Chicago native, Russoul, has opened for several artists including Kanye West, New Edition, Eryka Badu, Chaka Khan, Cameo, Frankie Beverly and Maze, and Sam Salter. He won the Chicgao section of the American Idol show, being voted for by the likes of Kanye West, Common, No ID, Selena Johnson, Tiffany Green and contest sponsor, Elroy Smith, no less. Kanye actually produced a song called, 'Second Chance' for this singer, however, it does not feature on this album. 'People Need Love' is released on his Pike Unlimited Music imprint. This AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artist) has really turned out a very nice set of songs, which make for a very satisfying listen throughout. Nice not to have to hit the skip button at all, which is unusual with many albums these days. This album is retailing at CD Baby and Dig Station amongst other outlets. From the opening bars of the opening track, there is a very nice mood set which permeates throughout this fine album. There are comparisons being made with the likes of Musiq Soulchild regarding Russoul. For myself, Maxwell would be a better comparison. Very atmospheric material. If you liked the Jimmy Abney album from a couple of years back, then this album will fit your musical tailoring requirements perfectly! A very snug fit indeed! Killer tracks? 'Smile Again' (the opener), 'Let It Be' (very Leon Ware-esque), 'You Lift Me Up', 'Wonderful', the gorgeous ballad 'We Are One', 'Lovers And Friends', 'Love and Lust (perhaps my personal favourite) and 'People Need Love'. As you can tell from that bunch, this isn't a one track album. Highly recommended.
Been over 10 years since the last Bloodstone album, so it was a very pleasant surprise when Peter Young at Jazz FM e-mailed me and let me know that this great group's new set was about to hit the streets. 'Now....That's What I'm Talking About' sees a release on the little label, Check It Records. The sleeve, actually, indicates a release date of 2008, although this is the first I have heard of the album on this side of the pond. 'Now...' features several cover tracks, including many versions of the group's own curriculum vitae from back in the day. You could easily guess that 'Natural High' might see a revamping, although the wonderful 'We Go A Long Way Back' also gets a 'voice-lift', which is great. That 1982, Isley Brothers produced, album ranks as one of the group's finest releases all told, in my humble opinion. My favourite track, on this set, is the fine remake of Eddie Floyd's 'I Never Found A Girl', which is a song that could really only be recorded by a group who were there when the song was originally released. We are talking about Soul empathy! The title track is a lovely swayer, which some of the young pretenders out there might do well to take a listen to. How it ought to be delivered, all told. The album is very much a ballad orientated set. A set of songs of the very highest order. 'Come and Get It' is an almost perfect mid-tempo stepper, which comes a close second (to these old ears) to 'Never Found'. Really great to see this wonderful group back in the studio in 2010 (or is it 2008!). Hugely recommended.
Following on from a great group of the past, well another great group covering the last 50 years or so. The Temptations I went along to see when they hit London back in late 2007, at the Royal Albert Hall. Back then, the group were part of a tour which included the latest line-up of the Four Tops. I, actually, have to thank Ronnie McNeir and his people (thanks Millicent) for that show. The guys arranged for the family here to get to see the guys, so a big thank you for back then. The Temptations were, pretty much, the same line-up as appears on this new album. 'It's Time' is out on Hip O Records, and the album is executively produced by original Temptation Otis Williams, no less. Of the songs on offer here, from this fine Soul supergroup, 'Change Has Come' is a tribute to the election of President Barack Obama, vocalised by 'Big' Bruce Williamson, who also pitches in on the retro 'Going Back Home'. Terry Weeks fills the vocal boots on the fine ballad 'Hold Me'. Ron Tyson sings the lead on 'Woman', and the lovely mid-tempo 'Warm Summer Nights'. The group's evergreen classic 'My Girl' is taken into the new millennium in the form of, the wondefully titled, 'Swatyismygirlooyeah'. The guys also revisit the political wareness of the Norman Whifield era, with 'Listen Up'. 'Soul Music' recognises the roots of this great music, which brings us full circle with a band whose existence spans, as I have already mentioned, half of the last century. My personal favourites from the album are the radio friendly 'One Of A Kind Of Lady', the melodic 'Let Me Catch Your Diamonds', the previously noted 'Warm Summer Nights' (fantastic) and 'Soul Music'. Fine maintainence of form on an above average release for the guys from the high standard already set.
The Soul Unsigned series reaches it's fourth incarnation here, which is quite a feat all told, in the stark musical environment that prevails in 2010. Phil Driver's label, I usually, review here, which does beg the question, 'how much is Phil paying Toby for showcasing his product at Soulwalking'? Truth is, absolutely nothing. In actual fact, we seem to be 'singing from the same songsheet' most of the time, proverbially, regarding what is great, and what is not so, out in the market today. Every CD, from Phil, which arrives here is a pure slice of listening pleasure! Some tracks featured here, (such as the great Dreemtime song 'Night & Day') have already made an appearance here, whilst some others might have been, but for financial restraints here in this post financial apocalypse. Soul Unsigned Records release 14 tracks here in total, all of which are of a high (or higher) standard than much music being released thesedays. The set kicks off with one of my favourite groups around thesedays. Peo Featuring Mirjam, released a fine couple of 45's over the last couple of years, 'Must Be Love', is probably, one of the better melodies in amongst this fine batch. A great starter for a great album. It was great to see Freddie Lee making an appearance on this set. That album has been a real classic, which seems to have been appreciated by the few, but not the many. I was slow to pick up on Freddie's set, with my good friend Bangsy steering my ears in the albums general direction. Excellent Modern Soul. Soul Unsigned is the best release thus far from this excellent emerging label. This release will see heavy rotation on the best Soul radio stations out there, as this currently represents, very much, the best material out there right now.
Danny Boy's latest release is out on the optimistically titled Wide Awake/Death Row label! As you might imagine, there may be some gangsta connections here, and you would be correct, in as much as Danny appeared on several 2pac recordings in the 90's, although, never putting out a set as a solo artist, until this juncture (I believe). This Chicago native states that he has around 5 albums worth of material in the archive, either recorded, or waiting the man to lay them down. Danny certainly has a very Soulful pedigree, judging by the maturity of the music on offer here. Indeed, the opening track 'Blow Your Mind Away' subtedly 'borrows' from Minnie Riperton's evergreen 'Inside My Love'. This is certainly a very satisfying album, with several tracks worthy of mention, none more so than a very clever remake of Junior Giscombe's 'Mama Used To Say', which I guess Danny must have listened to on his mum and dad's stereo's as a child. There is a gorgeous remake of one of my favourite Leroy Hutson songs, namely 'So In Love', which showcases how lightweight much of todays material has become. Great track. I really liked 'Come When I Call' and the more uptempo track 'Steppin'. Very much a ballad orientated album, all told, however, this set should not be ignored, as it really is very good.
PJ Morton recorded a great tune called 'Fly Away' a few years back. In my top 10 tracks of that particular year (the exact one I can't recall). This new album was a real relief, as 2010 seemed to have stuttered to a mini halt, musically, so, with the help of Vivian Green and Danny Boy, the brothers and sisters are rebooting the music, and are coming up with the goods right now. This albums title track, I think PJ must have penned after listening to a little Stevie on the stereo. Derived, but not duplicated, is the best description of this little gem. If you want to hear a track almost penned for radio, well 'Don't Walk Away' is just that. Hugely melodic, and very very listenable. Love this song. 'I Need Your Love' is another Stevie-esque song, which will reach the finer parts of the better radio station shows out there. The wonderful ballad 'Mountains and Molehills' is one of the best ballads I have heard this year thus far. Many artists try to emulate Stevie, but miss the great man's trick, and that is making a key change sound effortless. PJ adds a little of Stevie into this song, which takes nothing away from his own ingenuity. The resulting mish mash is highly enjoyable! This album is out on the SOS label, and I'd recommend anyone to go buy the set.
Vivian Green is an artist whose career I have followed since her debut set back in 2002. This set is out on E1 Music and is the third in this Philadelphia born singers catalogue thus far. Vivian's debut promised a great deal, and, in the passing of the years, she has consolidated her CV without bowling the industry over. Vivian is very much in the same place that Alicia Keys is currently at. Frustrating in some ways, but hugely enjoyable in others. So what do I mean when I say that? Well, when you hear the song 'Caught Up' on this album, you will understand that, although the industry has a template for these female songstresses, all told, you can try 'to take the girl out of Soul, but you can't take the Soul out of the girl'! Why the folks who guide these artists tell them, 'sing the stuff like that U.K. singer does....you know, her who won Britain's Got Talent....sang the song from Avatar...oh yes, Leona Lewis'. Singers such as Vivian and Alicia are at their best when they deal with the material they feel most comfortable with. 'Caught Up' is just a perfect example of 'Vivian at home with herself'. Very Shirley Brown / Jones Girls. I do, like this album, don't get me wrong. I really like then title song, but I do get a feeling of a missed opportunity going on here. Oh for the days when the likes of Elton John would go and rent a chateau in France, and take a group of musicians off there for three months, just chillin' and making an album. The Soul music sausage machine will, of course, ramble on, however, singers such as Alicia and Vivian will only take so much. They both have major sets in their locker someplace (a 'Tapestry' or a 'Dusty In Memphis' for example), it is just down to a record executive taking a gamble and it paying off. Remember, reviewers said that, following the release of Stevie's 'Innervisions', he had made a huge mistake. Some even said that the album was one of the worst releases back in 1973. Fools.
It is hard to believe that Eryka Badu's debut set came out 13 years ago. From the outset, she was labelled with two brandings. Firstly, she was the 'new Billie Holiday', and secondly, her album heralded a new musical genre entitled 'Nu Organic Soul'. In fairness to Erykah, her voice is what it is. She certainly isn't an impressionist, but is an artist in her own right. The 'Organic' label was unfair as well. Sure, it gave the media a drawer to slip many artists into descriptively, however, once a performer is compartmentalized, it is almost impossible to break out from that vocabularly descriptive prison. This new album is marketed as part two of the 'New Amerykah (Return Of The Ankh) ' album series. The first of the two offerings is a pale shadow of this new set, which, truth be told, is simply a new album in the Erykah Badu curriculum vitae. The sleeve of the album is very psycedelic. Weird and wonderful, with Erykah almost looking at the prospective buyer, letting us know that 'resistance is futile'! All told, this 2010 release is her best album in 10 years. Her year 2000 'Mama's Gun' set had some wonderful tracks within that collection. Back then, she was, lyrically, informing us that 'they won't be naming no buildings after me'. Ten years later she is '20 feet tall'.....what is she like! Crazy lady with a great 11 piece set of songs, all of which see her with her Soul Boots on, doing what she does best, which is articulating her form of Soul in her own way. The most Soulful track here is the oddly titled 'Ummm Hmmm'. This has an immaculate groove, and is already receiving airplay on some of the better shows out there. The woman also has her sampling team at work, utilising the Roy Ayers / Sylvia Striplin rare groove 'You Can't Turn Away' on 'Turn Me Away (Get Munny)', and the Eddie Kendricks evergreen 'Intimate Friends' on the song 'Fall In Love (Your Funeral)'. That last song title hints that Erykah has a very good sense of humour. That is highlighted on the album opener '20 Feet Tall', which is, perhaps, a tongue in cheek look at her own stature. There isn't much on this album not to like. 'Window Seat', 'Agitation', 'Love', the beautiful 'Incense', the very long finale 'Out My Mind, Just In Time' and my personal favourite 'Gone Baby, Don't Be Long', which is song led, rhythmic and understated. Wonderful stuff, from the best album Erykah has released in the last 10 years. Definitely not Nu Organic, or the woman performing an impression of Billie Holiday! More like Erykah Badu constructing great Soul Music.
Angela Johnson is a very nice Soul songstress. I have liked, just about all of her previous releases. It is nice to know that she is currently at the Dome Records imprint. Really fine music label, which has a very knowlegeable appreciation of the better material being released in the new millennium. Dome also look after the wonderful Brenda Russell thesedays. I rest my case! Angela's new album is another 11 tracker, which is a self produced set (ably assisted by Russell L. Johnson). 'It's Personal' has a 'live' feel to all of the songs on offer, showcasing how far music has really moved on from that 'tinny' Eighties sound. It is a testament to this album that Angela features the excellent artist Darien (who recorded my favourite album last year) on the beat ballad, 'All In Me'. Some quality music going on here. As with the aforementioned Brenda Russell, Angela records melodies which are song led, and avoids the American Idle/Britain's Gone Barren vocal stylings, in as much as you can hear her voice with clarity, with Angela hitting all the relevant notes, melodically, and not every other note surrounding the right ones! 'Hurts Like Hell' has been picked up by several deejays, as the song to run with, from this set. This is one great song. I think my own favourite track here is the mid tempo stepper, 'Days', although the Darien track is right in there, making for a photo finish! One aspect of Angela's songwriting which I would love to hear more of from her, is her ability to write a quality ballad. This album features mainly uptempo songs, which are all top drawer here. I'd love to hear more material from Angela in a ballad vein. Whilst I am 'treading boldly', perhaps even a little orchestration would be something which would take her material onto another level. I would say, however, the level she is currently on is way above the rest of the Soul pack out there. Excellent album, hugely recommended, from a very talented Soul singer, and from a very nice group of people over at Dome Records. One of 2010's best thus far.
Eli Paperboy Reed has been around on the R&B scene for many years now. He's not the most immediate name that might spring to mind when folks talk about Blue Eyed Soul. In fact, to myself, he was a brand new name here when my friend Bill Buckley sent me an mp3 of one track from this fine album. I looked further into this man's CV and found out he and Daryl Hall are buddies. Eli's albums go as far back as 2005, although I am playing catch up here from the recent to what has passed by over the last few years or so. Eli, vocally, has a very endearing vocal, which perfectly suits his image, and it is hugely apparent that the man has a penchant for the Southern style of Soul Music. I listened to a Quincy Jones interview recently, where the great man was looking back at Michael Jackson's career. His advice for new artists is to look to around 10 major musical performers who have influenced their own music, and cut that particular musical cloth according to a sound which suits themselves personally. Eli has been influenced by many bases. The Sixties is a really obvious standout, along with parts of the Stax sound, along with the modern-ish Blue Eyed Soul performers such as Daryl and his generation of Soul singers. Even the most diehard of Northern Soul fans could not help but appreciate the opening track 'Young Girl'. A truly great slice of retro Soul music, with a modern aspect. The track Bill kindly sent me was a great ballad entitled 'Pick A Number'. Got me completely won over to this man and his music. Could have been recorded in 1965. Wonderful sweet Soul music. 'Come and Get It' is a great dancer, which sits very proudly as the title track on an album, which will be apprecaited by anyone into Southern Soul and Sweet Soul music. Quite what todays music industry representatives will make of this album, who knows. It may be too musical for them! This is, probably, the surprise album of 2010 thus far. Love this set.
Prema's album was sent here by a nice guy called Simon Hatchard, who represents the website and label www.morereverb.com. I have been a little lazy getting round to reviewing this set. I like this album a great deal, for no other reasons than the set is recorded 'live', is honest (if that makes any sense), is musically excellent, and is vocally sung without the gymnastics that make some of todays music indeciferable lyrically! Prema has a small group of musicians on board here, who will be known to many of you. Wah Wah Watson is joined by Peter Erskine, Luis Perdomo, Damian Erskine and percussionist Bashiri Johnson, no less. The music on the album comprises of 13 excellent tracks, all of which are not edited to shorter versions, but are allowed to develop and do their own thing up until the guys and Prema have finished expressing themselves artistically. This album is very refreshing in as much as Prema and her band have not gone for any particular formula. The music is very much song led, leading to a very complete set of melodies, none of which make the listener reach for the skip button on the album. Tracks? Love the opener 'Underwater', 'Miracle', the charming 'Only Human' and the gorgeous ballad 'Angel'. This is a fine album, which I would recommend you not let pass by in 2010. Could do with more music like this out there right now.
John Gordon I don't know a great deal about. I do know he is from Brooklyn and has a Facebook page, however! My friend, Roger Williams, (who always has a very good ear for a tune), sent me a review copy of this album. I dug around on Dig Station and CD Baby, but couldn't find anything about this man. I-Tunes seems to be the only retail place for this set right now. Roger said he thought this was about the best thing around right now, and I must say, I can't argue with the man. Any artist who is brave enough to take on Stevie's 'Go Home' (very underrated Stevie track from the 'In Square Circle' album originally, I believe), has my attention immediately. John takes the song and slows it down to a less dancier rhythm. This works like a treat for John, whose album comprises of this song and seven other contemporary Soul melodies. This album has to have one of the titles of the year! 'Go Home' is the albums last track, so what of it's predecessors? Well, if ballads are your thing, 'Start Over' will fit most Soul fan's requirements. Very nice song indeed, which will be heard on some of the finer Soul Radio shows out there in the immediate future. The killer track for these old ears is the 'Strawberry Letter 23'-esque stepper 'The Way I Want You'. Effortlessly delivered, and bound to be in many folks year end charts. Great Soul music. Big thank you to Roger for putting me onto this album.
The best description of Randy Muller's musical productions, are they are 'muscular'. Most of you know his recorded back catalogue, which is quite remarkable and prolific, all told. Randy has been in touch here for a few years now. Very down to earth man, who has a good grasp as to what is going on, on the scene, both sides of the Atlantic. 1975's debut by Brass Construction, was a complete revelation. The album transformed the way many people perceived dance music, then and for the foreseeable future. The period between 1975 and 1977 saw an emergence of influences which came directly from 'the street'. From Funk to Punk, the fashions and music of those in the clubs took control of the cultural aspects of anything influencing the direction of music (and to a, marginally, lesser extent, fashion) completely. 'Street' back in those days meant just that. Whilst the Punks were scaring the living daylights out of their parents at the time, Brass Construction barged their way onto any meaningful dancefloor, almost as if Randy had recruited his own personal army, they had their agenda, and they were on the move! The beats were militaristic, repetetive and irresistable. As with any change, these new 8 minute slices of funk, additionally, scared the living daylights out of the reviewers at the time. Brass Constructions set was a must have purchase for the serious punter, which led to a series of Randy's writings and album releases, which in turn, kept people on their toes for several years to follow. The term 'street' these days is largely a meaningless term. 'Street' in 2010 is a fashion led by those who have no experience or desire of any form of change. Those who pen dancefloor fodder at the end of the first decade of the new millennium, really haven't come up with any new ways of motivating the Soul dancer for nearly 25 years now. House music arrived, and today we have derivatives of that genre. A pasteurisation and homogenisation of what has gone before. This is my personal observance, however, when I tilt my head to one side and take a look at the club scene today, well this is what I perceive. Soul Music is still healthy, however, a new dance track that makes any waves thesedays, becomes something of a conversation piece. 'The Traveler' by the Haggis Horns being a good example. That dancer (a very good one it is too) does owe Randy a nod or two influentially. So what is new on Randy's latest album? Well, the man saved he best to last on this set, in my humble opinion. These recordings are largely unreleased mixes of archived material on some of the man's productions. We are talking about the likes of Raphael Cameron and First Circle (a.k.a. Full Circle). The new ingredient here is a band called Soul Biscuits. I think some folks have spoken to Randy regarding his older material, and encouraged the man to record some new material, in an old stylee. Soul Biscuits comprise of Jeff Smith (from the Family Stand) on saxes, Larry Marsden (from First Circle), Kevin Scott (from the group Joe Public), Eric Huff on sax and Randy himself (keys, vocals, percussion). The group contribute two melodies, right at the end of this 11 track tour de force, namely 'Beautiful Day' (no not that dreadful aberration of a song!) and the very 'Construction-esque', 'Come As You Are'. Sure these tracks are not a 'new wave' of street funk, but they are two dancers which will be hugely welcomed by the Soul fraternity out there, who will have longed for a couple of new stompers from the Brass Construction main man. Bring on a Soul Biscuits album and let's show those born when the first Construction album saw the light of day, just how dance music ought to be recorded. Masterful and muscular dance music continues in 2010......thankfully!.....
...did I say Soul Music is still healthy? Well, this new Bluey from Incognito produced album, by a new singer to me, called Dira, is a great example of why there is still optimism out there musically. There are two common factors in both of these two releases, namely, an old school sensibility. Randy is showing us that he can still ruffle a few dancefloor feathers, whilst Bluey is furthering the cause over 30 years since he (and his band Incognito) took the U.K. Soul Scene by storm in the late Seventies. Bluey, I am sure, wouldn't mind me saying, has musically mellowed somewhat over the years. The mellowing process has been a very positive process, as his writings and production processes have become more educated and considered. Bluey is certainly the U.K's finest Soul Music equal opportunities employer! He has furthered the cause for many artists over the years, by either including singers (Maysa etc) within the groups ranks, or lending his skills to projects such as this fine set from Expansion Records, by this new vocalist. Dira's full name is Dira J Sungandi. She is Indonesian, and met Bluey after coming along to an Incognito gig in her home country. She handed Bluey a demo, he was impressed, and the resulting album was finally recorded. As with the excellent Modernists album, Dira's set features the singer Omar, on the song 'Let's Go Back'. The album opener is a really lovely ballad, proving my point that Bluey has migrated from 1979's Jazz Funk genre, really into a different standard of songwriting. 'Inside Love' is a great way to get the ball rolling, allowing the listener to take on board the range of Dira's disciplined and melodically delivered vocal. I really liked the haunting 'Daydream', another downtempo moment, which suits Dira's vocal styling beautifully. 'Won't You Come With Me' is probably my pick of a very fine bunch of 11 songs on offer here. A very solid set throughout. Thanks to Ralph Tee for kindly sending me this album. Liked this album comrade!
soul cellar sleeve / alan freeman, py, charlie gillett and gary crowley back in the day (circa 1983)
This particular Soul Cellar is the third album in this series, and features a small part of the classic Soul collection currently residing (after a fashion!) at Ealing in West London. Ealing is where Peter Young resides. PY's Soul Cellar Show is over 30 years old thesedays. The first incarnation aired in 1979. The Soul Cellar has become an essential programme for anyone even remotely interested in this music. Whether the listener is one of those, 'is it the original 45 on Okeh? anorak', or a Soul fan, who just wants to hear the finest in any area of Black Music each week, PY's show has become a southern Soul holy grail of sorts.
Currently Peter's show resides online, and on either Sky or digital radio. The place to tune into in Jazz FM (see link below). This is PY's second stint at the station. Prior to this place of radio/online residence, he could be heard on Solar Radio, and, back in the day, Capital Radio and Radio London. Personally, I have been a fan of the man and his music for many years. As with the likes of Robbie Vincent and Ralph Tee, you know if you tune in to a PY show, wherever it may be broadcasting, you are sure to hear the finest of the current crop of Soul tunes out there, along with the best of the old school. After I set up Soulwalking, PY got in touch with me, and I found myself deep in conversation with the man, talking about various musical matters regarding this track here, or that album there. We've since become 'Soul mates'!, attending shows and meeting up from time to time. Nice thing about PY, is he has no agenda, other than to simply play great music. Empire building or elitism are definitely not traits on his musical CV.
This new Cellar, features a double CD's worth of music which easily meet the highest standards the man has set for his show. The CD listings are below. Some of the songs you'll probably know well (Pockets 'Come Go With Me' and 'New York, New York' by the Starship Orchestra for example), some not so (Lou Bond's excellent 'Why Must Our Eyes Always Be Turned Backwards'). There are always an unusual version of a familiar tune (the wonderful version of 'Am I The Same Girl' by the great Salena Jones being one here). PY is one of the few deejays out there, who take the likes of Brian Auger for a spin from time to time. Brian's excellent tune 'Git Up' makes the starting line-up here. A couple of songs, which I was delighted to see making an appearance here, are the Detroit Spinners evergreen 'Love Is In Season', and the brilliant take on 'Star In The Ghetto' by the hugely underrated Prince Phillip Mitchell. Pure class. The great aspect of PY's choice of tunes, is the man completely understands the roots of any choice currently making his playlistings, making this a very considered set of musical choices.
lou bond (we produce 1974)
One song, I have already mentioned here, is the Lou Bond song from 1974. Personally, I have always loved Soul music, which has a socially aware aspect to the songs, lyrically. I heard the Lou Bond whilst streaming some audio of the song from a Soul Music website several years ago. I spent some time tracking down the parent album on E-Bay, which is a self titled set on the We Produce imprint (a subsidiary of Stax Records). I eventually tracked the album down to a retailer in Chicago. 'Why Must Our Eyes Always Be Turned Backwards' is a classic piece of Soulful messaging, which sent a shiver down my spine when I first heard the song. I sent a CDR'd copy of my album to PY, and the song made this set, thanks in part to the man, and in part by the 'Soul Detective' chores of Ralph Tee at Expansion Records. Thank heavens for these guys. Lou Bond's tune deserves to be on CD after all this time. Whereabouts Lou is thesedays, who knows, but I'd like to thank the man for making this song.
Peter's show goes out on Jazz FM every Saturday at 3 p.m. U.K. time. If you reside anywhere in the World, you can listen to his last show at any time. The station features an 'Audio On Demand' feature, which I used last week to listen to one show I had missed. The station has several 'Masters of Soul' on it's books!! PY, Robbie Vincent, Ralph Tee etc, all of whose shows cover all of the finest area's of this genre. You can pick up this CD at the station, as well as some of the usual Soul retailers. A great double CD collection, from a very nice bloke, all told. As a bonus ball, you can check him out in this weeks BBC Radio Times, no less!
Four albums at the end of January (beginning of February) to recommend highly? Must be Christmas! Sorry that was a month ago wasn't it? What with these and the wonderful Teena Marie playing London at the end of January? What a great start to 2010. Teena was fanatastic, by the way. I was lucky enough to sit and talk with her as well last week, as well as catching the show. Lovely woman. I'll post further information at the site at a later date.
These four albums are all remarkable, all for different reasons. Jimetta's album, for instance, is a pretty good new organic set all told, however, as with the Jaguar Wright album from a few years ago, there is a killer tune, which should not be missed by anyone who loved the music emanating from the States circa 2000. 'Sweet Necessity' will be come a Soul favourite amongst Soul fans over the coming months. It is so ridiculously infectious that it simply demands the listeners attention. Jimetta is one of several new, new organic songstresses, who look to be continuing the original groundswell set by Erica, N'Dambi etc. For myself, some of this music can sound a little too up someplace where the sun don't shine, however, when it hits the spot, such as this track does, it is immense! Watch out, also, for Georgia Ann Muldrow, who I believe will become another well respected artist over the coming years. She is way ahead of her time. Counted in years I believe. Other tracks on this set, such as 'Revolution Out There' are great tracks of their socially aware disposition. Ground breaking even. 'Sweet Neccesity' is a killer tune, which should not be ignored. I've posted several links to all these albums at the end of this review. Go check the track at Jimetta's own band's site.
Adriana Evans doesn't make bad albums. Expansion Records have kept the woman off the transfer list, something which we should all be grateful for. Adriana's vocal styling is very clear and eloquent, which is something we should also be thankful for in todays marketplace, where singers are encouraged to sing every note around the one's they are actually supposed to be hitting! This is Adriana's 4th album I believe. Her 1997 debut is seen, amongst purists, as a classic in it's own way. 'Walking With The Night' is, probably, as good a set as the debut, which shows a high level of consistency from this artist 13 years after that self titled album release. I think Adriana wouldn't mind me saying that she has a delicate quality to her delivery. A vocal coach would love her timbre. This music has a retro feel, embellished with some modern musical accessories, giving the album a multi-generational appeal. The opener is a Soul classic in so many ways. 'Waiting' is a song you think you might have heard before, but sung by whom? The answer is nobody! Good sign of a great melody. 'Suddenly', is a moody, almost Philadelphia International in style, stepper. Another one for the 'file under class' section of your i-Tunes folder! There are 14 songs which make for another essential album for your shopping list. The list of great tunes on show here is one hell of a long list! You can leave the set on and go make a coffee and let the music make it's own journey through an hour or so of your time. A very satisfying journey indeed. Other favourites? 'Surrender' got the toes tapping here, the dreamy 'Astral Projection', the Thom Bell-esque 'Sooner Or Later', the retro 'Set In Stone' and the breezy 'El Sol' all rose above the ordinary. In fact, the whole set does just that. Pure class in an industry that might learn a thing or two from music of this standard.
The Soul Unsigned label, twisted my arm with this release, in as much as, I wanted to post 3 albums here. Jimetta's set had to be here for THAT tune, Adriana's was so solid it overshadowed many recent releases, Dreemtime's album was a cracker, and Phil Driver gate-crashed the party with, probably, his emerging imprint's finest set of songs thus far. So, into the hat you go comrade! The Contemporary Soul Songbook Volume 2 is the third.......(that had you going didn't it!).....second release in this great series of tracks released and widely ignored by everyone except Phil and a few of us trainspotters. Thanks to Phil and his team, the rest of the country can now get to enjoy the best of the lesser recognized artists joining the cream of the Soul performers out there, all rising, one way or another, to the top of our wants listings. The great thing about these releases is Phil does all the hard work for us, so we can just enjoy these great songs. The opening track sees a revisitation to this website, as just before Christmas last year, I featured the wonderful Marilyn Ashford Brown's album at the site. Probably the most commercial track, on offer from that set, makes the opening line-up on the team sheet here. 'I've Got A Feeling' very much has an 'It Seems To Hang On' vibe running throughout the song. Loved that track when Marilyn first sent me the album, and the songs appeal still endures well into 2010. Cherry picking tracks, on this 16 track album, is not an easy task. Phil has raised the quality bar, thus making the decision making a more complicated factor. 'Mr Do Right' by Ms Monique, 'Good Love' by Leon Beal, 'Somethinz Different' by Uncle Myke, 'Sit Back' by Orly (gorgeous), 'Brand New Day' by Asanda Bam (also, gorgeous) and 'Take Me Away' by Gemma Genazzano are all genuine Soul gems. All hit the spot, with, probably, my pick of the bunch being the haunting 'Secret Box' by Four Goes. Really eerie and wonderful slice of Soul Music. This is a classy set of melodies, which are completely essential. Great release!
Dreemtime made a great album last year, and they now release this follow up with, probably, the most incorrectly titled album of 2010! 'New York Lounge Funk'? What does that conjure up in your mind? Studio 54 crossed with Parliament? Well this set doesn't do what it says on the tin! This is one great modern Soul set, perhaps comparable to an Incognito release, although that is an often description of an album which has a Soulfully semi-live overall feel. The music is funky in parts. U.K., sounding in places, Stateside in others. Multi influenced you might say. I loved the opening bars of 'Happy For 5', which remined me of the opening bars of Bill Withers 'Lovely Day'. The harmonies are exquisite and disciplined. The jazzy 'Night and Day' (no not that song!) really impressed here, as did the mid-tempo song 'Time'. The track which really snuck up my trouser leg (in the best possible toe-tapping taste!) is the melodic early Eighties sounding song 'Fly'. Quite a rare groove vibe running throughout this song. Not an album as strong as Phil's or Adriana's, however, a set full of catchy melodies which should not be ignored. Impressive stuff.
The Modernists album is a, probably, the most difficult album to review at the site thus far. The reason for my hesitancy is that I have a vested interest in this album, therefore, objectivity needs to be the watchword here. 'Druw' is a musical collaborator of 'Perez'. Druw, I don't know, however, Billy Perez,is a long time friend of mine. We even used to work together! Billy and I go back many years. He is fully aware of my interest in Soul Music, and I am of his. He is a very nice person. Very popular with the ladies as well!! When Billy told me he had been working on an album, I wasn't sure if I was capable of being objective about the set, therefore, I chickened out a little and sent the album to a deejay friend of mine. I really liked the album when I played it here....but was I being biased by my friendship with the man? I decided to send 4 new releases to my deejay colleague, and see what he made of them. The other three albums were by known Soul artists (one very well known), and I sought his opinion. Without any arm twisting, he came to the same conclusion I did. The Modernists set was the best of the bunch. So what of the music? Well, if name dropping might give you an idea of the content of the album, well here goes. Billy and Druw have been working with Don-e, Omar, Elisha Laverne and Noel McKoy. Not a bad line-up of U.K. talent is it? The album features 13, mainly dance orientated tracks. Comparisons with Incognito are not inappropriate, and I am sure if Bluey heard this set, he would be flattered. Billy told me this album has been a real labour of love. I can hear that throughout the set. Individual tracks are really down to the listener, although I would say any buyer would be spoilt for choice regarding picking favourites. Omar really excels on the track 'Woah!', which would make a great 45 release.I think this set will be wearing out many dancefloors over the coming weeks. Previews of the album will be on Peter Youngs Jazz FM show in the coming couple of weeks. Nice release Billy. By the way, if you miss PY's show on Saturday, you can stream it during the week, anytime, from the Jazz FM website. Retail wise, well, when Billy lets me know, I'll let you know....
The Whispers Orchestra's album retails at CD Baby right now, and came as a complete surprise to this listener. I wasn't aware this album was in the pipeline at all! The guys have recruited the likes of The Whispers, Phil Perry, Russell Thompkins JR. (The Stylistics), Alyson Williams and Tracy Hazzard, as featured vocalists on this great 16 track release. The band feature the members Grady, Emilio, Percy, Sweet, Valentino, Jamie, Reggie and Dante, and the Whispers sound is prominent throughout the album. Nicolas Caldwell contributes liner notes on the CD Baby website. The Whispers overall sound is beautifully captured on the song 'Maybe This Time', which is Soul Music just about as good as it gets. Unlike the Whispers own recent Gospel release, this album is a more secular release. Phil Perry gets a work out on the song 'Can I?' Lovely song. Phil has not been well recently, so we hope he is on the road to a full recovery. Russell Thompkins is let loose on the mid-tempo song 'Family', which is another top drawer piece of Soul Music. All told, a very surprising and welcome new release for 2010.
Jeff Ramsey is a new singer and songwriter to me. He is a graduate from the Berklee College Of Music, and has toured with many great artists including Lalah Hathaway, Al Jarreau, Patrice Rushen and Maxwell to name but a few. Di-Lee from Soulchoonz kindly sent me Jeff's album, which arrived just before Christmas. Jeff e-mailed me himself, which was a pleasant surprise, as on listening to his album, I thought the set was one of the better album releases around at the moment. Jeff told me he had been working with the excellent James Day recently. James's own Expansion album was one of last years better releases, so I guess quality attracts quality in the musical scheme of things! Jeff has an easy vocal delivery, which he embellishes with some complimentary musical accompaniment, which, in turn, makes the album very listenable. 'Move On (Back In The Day)' is a very nice song, which is a fine example of whereabouts the better Soul Music being made thesedays ought to be positioned. Very nice song. 'I Know That You Want 2' is another winner in this house, as is 'Fly So High'. The best track, for these old ears, here is the thoughtful midtempo song 'Happy On Hold', which many folks will relate to lyrically. Great song. You can pick this set up at Soul Brother or CD Baby, so no problem in adding this to the new year collection. Something to spend those pennies on your aunt gave you at Christmas! This is a very nice album indeed.
This is an odd time of the year. Christmas passes away very quickly, and the New Year looms with all it's unknowns, and the World is, frankly, quite a scary place right now. Folks seem frustrated on the street, understandably, as the news reader tells us of austere times ahead. Music has always ridden recessions well. In fact, it blossoms, as the resultatant nightlife that accompanies the genre gives folks a release from the day to day depressions. 2009 was a bumper year for music, and I am sure 2010 will be likewise. At the turn of every year, the stragglers from late December, become the 'points of note' in the early days of the new year, and here are three albums which fall into that category very nicely.
Emi Tawata is a new name to me. She hails from Okinawa and, following several E.P. releases, she has constructed this nice little set of songs for her label, Techesko Records. Emi's sound is someplace neighbouring the sound of Swing Out Sister, without perhaps Corinne and Andy's edgy Sixties influenced leanings. Emi has a voice which won't break the sound barrier, although, her adopted discipline of remaining very much within her vocal boundaries really does pay dividends on this set of strong melodies, partly sung in mainly Japanese, and partly in English. Either language doesn't detract from the accessibility of the song, which really is beautifully realized on the song 'Toki No Sora', which is, perhaps, my favourite song around right now. I used my language translator on my Mac here to find out what 'Toki No Sora' meant. According to the best 2010 technology available right now....it means 'Toki No Sora'!! All clear now! Of the other songs on offer 'Baby, Come Close To Me' had a very appealing 'Summer Madness' thing going on. Nice song. 'Naturally' got the thumbs up, as did 'Eternity' and the dancer 'Into You'. I know Emi won't mind me saying that this set isn't the next 'What's Going On', but it is a very nicely sung and constructed album, which made the transition from the old year into the new year, a very pleasant one for this listener. Recommended very highly.
One thing I know about Chazz Dixon, before I read any blurb about the man, is he is a big fan of Smokey Robinson! Throughout this set I can hear inflections of Smokey's music interspersed within several songs. 'You Waited Too Long' is very, very Smokey, which gives an indication of the vocal delivery of this new singer. The label Chazz records for is the Da'Soul Recordings Group, with this resulting album on retail at CD Baby right now. That is great, as you can go take a listen to the album at that site. As well as the track already mentioned, there are 10 other melodies on show here. Other great tracks that Smokey never recorded....but appear on this album!!....are....'Don't You Understand', (the aptly titled) 'The Things That You Do', 'I Can't Do Farewell' and 'Baby Come Back'. The only drawback of this set, is that the arrangements could do with a little more substance, which is a shame as the songs are of a very high standard and deserve better, however, that should not distract from the fact that this is a very fine independent release.
Marc Staggers album I am late with, however, I couldn't let this set pass by without giving a positive nod to this singer, for what is a very good modern Soul release. Di-Lee, from Soulchoonz, very kindly sent me a copy of this album prior to Christmas, and I am very pleased she did so. As with Chazz's album, this album has inflections of another Soul singer embedded into the music and vocal delivery. With Chazz, we were talking about Smokey, with Marc we are talking about Luther. Marc must be a fan of that great vocalist. Marc's album features 10 new songs, very nicely penned, very listenable, and charming in each tracks own way. One of the best compliments I could pay to Marc, is, if this set was available for Luthers interpretation in 2010, I am sure the great man would take him up on the offer straight away. Marc is a Washington based singer, who has performed with Mom and Pop Winans, amongst other singers. He certainly has a very nice addition to his own portfolio here, with every song strongly penned, delivered concisely and clearly. Favourite? 'If I Was Your Lover' is a pretty strong contender. Very nice song, in amongst an album with no filler tracks, all told. Highly recommended.
Mario Biondi has become the perfect example of an artist who should have had a huge pop hit via his single release 'This Is What You Are', but failed however, as a result of the place the music industry is situated thesedays. Mario will never make it to an 'Italy's got talent...(but not on this programme)', style of televsion debacle, mainly as he is far too good! This Sicilian singer first came to my attention on hearing the 'What You Are' tune on Peter Young's Jazz FM radio show. At that time, the umbrella title of the band went under the name of Was-A-Bee. His 'Handful Of Soul' 2006 album contained a re-recorded version, which saw the light of day via the Schema imprint. 'This Is What You Are' became a 45 release again, which did make some waves on the continent, but failed to score in the U.K. and U.S. due to the pre-occupation of the industry with sub standard talent shows.This pre-occupation with the 'celebration of stupidity', which permeates the media presently, means that the likes of Mario are sidelined, all told. Mario, in the meantime, has been getting on with business, performing in the past with the late Ray Charles amongst others. In 2009, Mario has found a home at Tattica Srl Records, and releases a follow-up set to the 'Handful' album, simply entitled 'If'. 'Handful Of Soul' has become a mainstay at many of the better radio stations, almost becoming part of the musical furniture. To follow that modern classic would always have been a very difficult feat, however, Mario has pulled the rabbit out of the proverbial musical hat here. 'If' is a terrific album. 15 tracks of the highest standard. Some original recordings (of which 'Love Dreamer' is a current personal favourite), and some fine cover versions of 'Little B's Poem' and the Gil Scott Heron evergreen, 'Winter In America'. Mario Biondi is hugely deserving of any success which comes his way. His unique vocal sound makes the singer instantly recognizable. He is well equipped for a long and durable career, with this set being a fine addition to his curriculum vitae. Check Soul Brother and Amazon for copies. Wonderful stuff.
Marilyn Ashford Brown has been in touch with me over the last couple of weeks. She is very friendly and hugely interesting as a performer. I am sure that many of the more discerning Soul fans out there will be aware of the Dexter Wansel produced group Sass, from the 1980's. Indeed, the twelve inch single 'I Didn't Mean It At All' is on the shelves here. The track at the time reminded me very much of the excellent Jones Girls material Dexter had a hand in during the preceeding years. Prior to Sass, Marilyn sang backgrounds on some hugely memorable songs, including 'Can You Handle It' by the late Sharon Redd, 'Stretching Out' by Gail Adams and 'Check Out The Groove' by the excellent Bobby Thurston. During 2003 and 2004, Marilyn underwent some personal losses within her family life, which held up her career for a short while, however, she is now recording some fine material, releasing 'Still Standing' in 2006, and 'Just Doing Me!' for her Ash2Brown Entertainment Records imprint in 2009. On listening to the new material, it becomes very apparent that her previous recordings still influence her newer material. I joked with Marilyn regarding a comment I made in an e-mail to her, where I described her music as 'having a touch of Modern Soul with Old School sensibilities'. After I wrote that I thought to myself 'that sounds a little contrived you old fool!', however, it did seem appropriate to her new sound. The set opens with the fine dancer 'I've Got A Feeling' (echoes of 'It Seems To Hang On' here methinks), which sounds as if it could have been recorded 20 minutes ago.....or 20 years ago! Really got the toes tapping here. She is in very fine voice throughout, with a particular favourite song of mine receiving the 'Ashford Brown treatment'. 'Louisiana Sunday Afternoon' is a great song, which really creates a mood for that particular part of the World. I have versions here by Dianne Schurr and Patti Austin. This take is certainly up there with those interpretations of that tune. Other personal favourites here are the lovely ballad 'Gonna Give Love (One More Try)' and the melodic midtempo mood of 'Anything (In The World)'. Trials and tribulations may have been the experiences for Marilyn during the first half of this decade, however, she has certainly has found inner strength from within, and this album is certainly a very welcome addition to the better set of releases in 2009. Fine music from a very nice woman.
Angie Stone's album 'Unexpected' certainly lives up to it's name! I wasn't aware that this album was on it's way until Charles Waring (http://www.soulandjazzandfunk.com/) told me it was an imminent release only last week! Thanks Charles (and Bill). This album is Angie's second set for the latest incarnation of the legendary Stax Records imprint. 'I Ain't Hearing You' looks set to be the initial single release, and deservedly so as it is just about as an infectious tune as you are likely to hear this year. Angie's main asset is her 'heart of Soul' twinned with her very unique vocal delivery. When you hear Angie doing her thing, you know just who it is on your stereo / i-Pod. Every incarnation where Angie has had vocal input in previous years, the releases have been noteworthy, whether with the Sequence, Vertical Hold, Devox, or as a solo artist. Sure, as a singer, she will have pressure placed upon her to record a certain type of material. Fashion of the day if you wish. These odd tracks sit very uncomfortably in amongst those other songs of quality. 'Tell Me' is a case in point. The song the set could have perhaps been kept for a compilation or some other place, which is a shame, as the high points on this album amount to some of Angie's best ever recordings. If you skipped onto the next track after the song mentioned, the listener arrives at 'Think Sometimes', which is a song of the highest standard. Apparently the song was inspired by her late father. To quote Angie, 'It’s funny how people can slip away so fast, and suddenly they’re in your past'. Amen to that assertion Angie. Her father would be hugely proud of her, if he had got to hear this song. 'Think' is followed on by 'I Found A Keeper', which is another killer tune. Ralph Tee at Jazz FM is already rotating this song on his Sunday show. He is a man of great taste and can recognize a corker of a tune when he sees / hears one. 'Hey Mr DJ' is another great tune on this fine 12 track set. Angie Stone albums, in the past, have an almost 'buy blind' aspect to them. This set is no exception. 'Unexpected' will surely be in many Christmas stockings and quite rightly so. Highly recommended.