Soul And / Or Related Artists

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• Marvin Gaye - What's Going On Deluxe Edition / Let's Get It On Deluxe Edition

What's Going OnLet's Get It On

If for some reason you have been living on the same island as the Japanese soldier, who thinks the Second World War is still ongoing, then you may not have heard of these two albums!

'What's Going On' was recorded in May 1971 and was the first release after Marvin resurfaced from a long period of depression following the death of Tammi Terrell in 1970. 'Let's Get It On' was recorded two years later on at various stages throughout 1973.

These two releases are, essentially, Motown taking all of the sessions that surrounded these landmark albums and including them alongside the originals. On both of these sets, there are some fabulous booklets that contain some of the best imagery I have seen of the great man. They are tastefully compiled with some thoughtful sleevenotes.

Marvin GayeMarvin GayeMarvin Gaye

'What's Going On' has been acclaimed by Motown's Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson as the finest album of all time. I can't argue with that because it probably is just that. On show here, on this double CD package, is the entire original album in all it's glory. What I didn't know is that the album was recorded a month earlier under the 'Detroit Mix' banner. The songs are the same, but sound slightly different. You get the whole album of this mix following the original. A very nice surprise. CD One finishes with a beautiful instrumental version of the title track. CD Two begins with a live concert recorded at the Kennedy Centre in 1972. These tracks are a mixture of Sixties material and the main album. The second CD ends with single versions of 'What's Going On, 'Sad Tomorrows' and 'God Is Love', which was a great surprise to this writer. A fantastic version. The whole piece ends with 'Head Title' which was the forerunner of the tune 'Distant Lover'.

Marvin GayeMarvin GayeMarvin Gaye

'Let's Get It On' doesn't have a 'Detroit Mix' as such. You get the original album along with several excellent sessions making up CD one. One of these is the beautiful track 'I Love You Secretly', sung by the excellent Billy Griffin as part of the band The Miracles. Disc Two begins with many of the demo versions of various tracks from the main album. Of a real interest, within this set of tunes, are the original versions of the track 'Just To Keep You Satisfied'. The first version is by The Monitors from 1968 followed by the version by the Originals from two years later (and there was me thinking that Marvin's was the definitive version!). The 'must have' track on this side, is the alternative take on 'Where Are We Going?', which differs only slightly from the one that was recently released on 'The Very Best Of Marvin Gaye'. What a song! The second CD is completed with some of Marvin's excellent work with Willie Hutch along with the tracks 'Running From Love', 'Mandota' and a good live version of 'Come Get To This'. What surprised me about Marvin's work at the time, was the volume of output. There must have been several versions, of each of the tunes, before he settled on the ones that we have known and come to love. As with the 'What's Going On' CD, the book notes and imagery are first rate.

Marvin GayeMarvin GayeMarvin Gaye

If you think that owning the original album ,of each set, is enough, you are missing the 'bigger picture'. These are not 'nice albums that you might want to pick up at some point', these are as essential as eating, drinking and breathing. Nice one Motown..........any other gems hidden in your vaults?

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• Maxwell - Now / Phil Perry - Magic

MaxwellPhil Perry

Two fine new releases from two different generations of soul singers.

Now I make no bones about it with the purists....I really like Maxwell. I have liked him a great deal ever since I heard those opening bars of 'Ascension' a few years back. As with his previous offerings, Maxwell collaborates on this set with Stuart Mathewman from Sade's band. One peculiarity with this set is the track numbering. On the sleeve there is no track 2! When I put the CD in the player and hit the play button, track one appears to be the opening couple of bars of the single 'Get To Know Ya'. Track two is the rest of the tune! 'Get To Know Ya' is vintage Maxwell. Pumping bassline complimenting Maxwell's excellent vocals. The follow on single, 'Lifetime', for this old souler, is the killer tune on this third studio set. A melody that, on repeated plays, gets stuck in the old grey matter. One pleasant inclusion here is his version of Kate Bush's track 'This Woman's Work' (which originally appeared as a live track on his 'MTV Unplugged' album). A very brave track to cover that works beautifully. I have liked all of Maxwell's releases to date. Now come on guys, we have to support artists like these or we will lose all creativity within the soul genre, which will take us down a road to a purely retrospective scene and that doesn't benefit any of us, does it?. More power to Maxwell's elbow.

Phil Perry was once the lead singer of the Seventies group, The Montclairs (the group was named after a local brand of cigarettes). Since going solo, Phil has built up a powerful portfolio of album releases, that really ought to have received a great deal more critical acclaim. Ever since his 1991 release, 'The Heart Of A Man', he has recorded five solo albums to date, with this new set, just about my favourite. Phil has now moved to Russ Freemans label, Peak Records and the resulting set is quite outstanding. Each of the tunes contained within this set sound fresh as a daisy, with Phil's vocals sounding as good as ever. I heard Jazz FM's deejay, Robbie Vincent, spinning the fine latin tinged 'Perfect Island' last Sunday. I have played this set several times and, quite frankly, there isn't a duff cut here. Some excellent covers of the Isley Brothers 'For The Love Of You' and 'Groove With You', both given a jazzier feel. My pick of this excellent bunch is the optimistic 'You'll Never Know'. A track to brighten up anybody's day. Great set, Phil.

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• Dennis Taylor - Unconditional / Ali Ollie Woodson - Right Here All Along

Dennis TaylorOllie Woodson

Dennis Taylor's first album, that hit the streets during the latter part of last year, came as a real breath of fresh air in this 'new R & B', over produced, music scene. The track 'Enough Is Enough' had been circulating on a white label for nearly a year prior to that excellent release. So, a year on and the new album falls on the matt and I hastily stick it in the CD player. Any good? Well, this is the third time around in the player and this set is really beginning to grow on me. I must say that Dennis's vocals are really pleasing with many of the tunes thoughtfully constructed. 'Steppin' sets the show off nicely and all that follows is of a very high standard. In it's own way, this is a much more 'complete' outing than Dennis's debut, which is a testament to the guys at Dome Records and the quality of the product that they put out on the streets. 'It's Over' is a shuffling dancer that moves along nicely, 'Lover For Life' is as equally polished and 'It Had To Be You' really showcases Dennis's vocal skills perfectly. As pleasing as a David Beckham free kick.....and that's saying something!

Ali Ollie Woodson's finest moment to date has to be his contribution to the Temptations line-up during the mid eighties. He was the voice on the pop hit 'Treat Her Like A Lady'. Now that we have set the scene, why has it been so long, following his departure from the Temps, since we have heard from the singer? Well it wasn't just this writer who was wondering, so were Ralph and Richard at Expansion Records. According to the sleevenotes, the pair, along with Ollie, spent four years putting together this fine collection of tunes. The overall feel here is of a mellow nature with the track 'Drama In The Bedroom' hitting home instantly with it's clever sampling of the Floaters 'Float On'. The track 'Power Of A Woman' has a very Gap Band 'Outstanding' feel to it and, on constant replays, the mellow 'Deeper Love' is the tune that 'does it' for these ears. A very nice album. Welcome back Ollie.

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• Marvin Gaye - The Very Best Of... / Florence Ballard - The Supreme...

Marvin GayeFlorence Ballard

I must confess I deliberated as to whether these two collections ought to be on the 'Been Missed' page or on here. I plumped for here as some of these tunes have only seen the light of day via these releases.

Just when you think that you have everything that Marvin has released of any quality over the years, along comes this gem of a release. I must admit in owning about 5 'Best Of' albums by the great man. The track 'My Last Chance', from 1990, was sheer brilliance and the 'Vulnerable' album was a pleasant surprise from 1997. That was supposed to be the great man's favourite of all his albums. Well what makes this double album worth a second look? Well on first glance the track listing is full of the usual suspects, 'What's Going On', 'Let's Get It On' etc. Then, tucked neatly away on side two of this album, is the previously unreleased dancer 'Where Are We Going?'. This title struck a chord with me and it was only on receiving an e-mail from George Reid in Scotland that all became clear. The writers for this tune are the Mizell Brothers, so I dug around and found the tune on Donald Byrd's 'Blackbyrd' LP. Marvin recorded this tune two years earlier, in 1972, just after the 'What's Going On sessions and all I can say is that, if you like Marvin's music at all (if you don't what are you doing at this site?), this simply is a must have. Check the track out yourself, below. You won't be disappointed. By the way, the photography on the sleevenotes is first rate. Also, there is another version of this tune by the band Funk Inc.

Florence Ballard was one of the Supreme's who was almost totally ignored for many years and is only now beginning to receive the recognition she deserves today. Florence died in 1976, depressed that Diana Ross took the limelight and lead vocal role away from her within the band. Her reliance on a lethal cocktail of alcohol and diet pills had weakened her health, and her tragic career ended when she suffered a cardiac arrest. She was only 32 years old. Well, without an official album release until now, those good folks at Spectrum release this fine set of tunes from the great lady. Florence's vocals are, in places, almost childlike. The covers of 'It's Not Unusual', 'Walk On By, and 'Yesterday' are a testament to this. Many of the songs here hark back to her ABC period of the late Sixties and the track that really stands out for this listener is the excellent 'Love Ain't Love', which was recorded in 1968. 'Forever Faithful' & 'Goin Out Of My Head' merit your attention as well. Let's hope that, within these pages, we can help, in our own small way, Florence receive the credit she deserves and take her place as one of the great female vocalists of the genre. An excellent release.

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• Eternal - The Isley Brothers / On The Way To Love - Patti Austin

Isley BrothersPatti Austin

The arrival of a new Isley Brothers album is always a cause for celebration. With nearly fifty years under their performing belts, along with a string of pop classics, they are up there with any of the soul greats. In fact, any true soul follower is almost 'obliged' to buy a new release from the guys. These days there are just two of the original line-up, Ronald & Ernie. This album is set at below mid tempo (with a couple of exceptions) and its an album that requires several listens before many of the melodies get under your skin. The album opener, 'Move Your Body' is one of the couple of uptempo numbers and is produced by the excellent Raphael Saadiq. Other writing / production chores fall into the hands of the excellent Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis along with R Kelly and Ron's missus, Angela Winbush. A good release. Favourite track has to be the very melodic 'You're All I Need' (although 'You Deserve Better' runs it a close second). Welcome back guys.

Patti Austin has to be one of my favourite female vocalists. All of her releases are full of melody and are beautifully delivered. A personal favourite, by the great woman, came in the form of 'First Time Love' (taken from the 'Love's Gonna Get You' album from a decade ago). The 'smooth jazzers' have tried to 'ensnare' the woman into the genre, however , Patti's vocal stylings sit nicely alongside the real soul folks, additionally, (remember Patti released some very popular 'northern' sides in her earlier days). This new album stands proudly alongside any of her previous releases. What I like about Patti's albums is the fact that she doesn't go along with the 'trends of the day'. What you see with Patti, is what you get, and what you get is pure quality. Enough flattering now......what about the album? Well various tracks are already receiving heavy airplay on London's Jazz FM, 'Girlfriend' being one such tune. 'Love's Been Kind To Me Lately', on first listen, is another tune that you feel you have known for ages. For me, I really went for the effortlessly delivered 'What Can I Say?', which you lucky people can listen to in it's entirety right here. A big thank you to Patti for maintaining the standard through the last couple of decades. Recommended listening.

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• Talk Me Down - Vaneese Thomas

Vaneese Thomas

Now this album came straight out of the blue! A journalist at Blues And Soul.....sorry B&S..... contacted me and sent me a tape of this set. Well to say I was totally bowled over is an understatement, I mean, you are not supposed to make albums like this thesedays! The hidden clue here is the label title 'Unleashthe80's Records'. Prior to this set, and to my knowledge, Vaneese has only released one other, self titled, album from back in 87. That set contained the 80's gem 'Let's Talk It Over'. Great memories. Even greater memories flood back via her excellent duet with Carl Anderson on his track 'It's The Love'. On this set Vaneese has pulled out all the stops with an artist roster that contains the likes of...............wait for it............Patti Austin, Kirk Whalum, Bob Baldwin, Sharon Bryant, Cynthia Biggs, Fonzi Thornton, James 'D Train' Williams and the late Vickie Sue Robinson. Vickie Sue lost her battle with cancer in April 2000, which hints that this set was a while in the making. Sad loss for someone so young. Well, all I can say is that Vaneese has turned out a near perfect collection of soul tunes that brought back memories of Anita Baker's 'Songstress' album. Is it that good? Well, in my opinion, an unreserved yes. Luckily, you don't have to take my word for it as there are two tunes from this fine album for you to enjoy here. Favourites? Well this is one of those albums where everybody will have their own. Mine? Well, I love the track 'Fortune' which you can hear if you click on the link below. You can buy this set blind and I must say a big thank you to Chris Marquis at Unleashthe80s Records for sending me this. What a great album. Thanks Vaneese.

Thanks to Martijn Delaere in Holland for reminding me about Vaneese's gospel outing from 1998 entitled 'When My Back's Against The Wall'. Thanks Martijn.

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• Livin' In The Zone - Lesette Wilson / Gemini: Both Sides - Sandra St. Victor

Lesette WilsonSandra St. Victor

Two fine albums from two very talented women, who have brought this reviewer a great deal of listening pleasure over the last couple of decades. Lesette Wilson's latest album, many people think is her third outing, however, I learned from an internet interview (via a link from her best friend, Chantee, thanks Chantee for that one) that she cut three salsa albums prior to 1981's 'Now That I've Got Your Attention'. The thing that I really like about Lesette's work is that each set has that 'cutting edge', that would normally be lost within the sea of smooth jazzers out there. It is not that I dislike smooth jazz per se, it is just that the genre takes an individual performer, puts them into a box, from which they are forced to lose their individual sound. Enough preaching...is this a good set? Well, unreservedly a great big YES. Lesette doesn't put out enough product in my opinion, I mean this has been an eight year wait for this fine set of jazz and soul tunes. There are 12 cuts on show here and, being honest, there isn't one that made this reviewer reach for the skip button. The three vocal tracks are excellently delivered by Shelene Thomas and J. Phoenix respectively. The tracks that are current faves are the title track with it's growling bassline and the upbeat 'Piece Of Patrice', which I guess is a nod of approval to another great pianist, Patrice Rushen? Lesette, additionally, treats Stevie's 'Too High' with great respect to his original, which all go to make this a really great CD. There is, also, her 'Theme To Home Invaders' included here, which is the next Spike Lee movie vehicle. Great instrumental piece. Lesette, please don't leave it too long before we have a follow-up release from you. Highly recommended CD. I will post a link to Lesette's site (on her page at this site) when it becomes available, which I am told will be soon.

Sandra St. Victor was already in my good books as, on visiting her site, I noticed that she had added a link to Soulwalking from her site. A big thank you for that one, Sandra. Sandra (as you knowledgeable people already know!) was one member of the group, The Family Stand. The group have come a long way since the heady days of 'Ghetto Heaven' from over a decade ago. This new set has been picked up by Expansion, which immediately made my big ears prick up!! All of the members of the Family Stand produce thought provoking and innovative music and lyrics and Sandra's new set is no exception. She touches on all sorts of issues from 'the gun issue' in the U.S. to very personal topics with each track being beautifully complimented by some fine musicians (whom I would credit, but this is a review copy, so I am not sure who these folks are). As this was playing, whilst I was working last week, I had to put the computer mouse to one side when the track 'Holding Out' came around. Plea from the heart which is what this music is all about. This is a beautiful piece of writing. Another winner for Ralph, Richard and Expansion. Nice one Sandra.

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• I'll Be Fine - Janita / Candlelight - Leon Ware

JanitaLeon Ware

Janita is a name that has been familiar to me for about two years now. Her name appeared on an excellent, now withdrawn, album that featured the artistic talents of Gerry Devaux. Gerry's musical connections have featured on many artists albums, one of whose was Lesette Wilson's 1993 'Unmasked' album. (Stumbled across that one whilst digging through my collection the other day. The CD also featured Angie Stone.) Janita's last album was only out in Japan and it had tracks that were featured on the Gerry Devaux CD (the new album is her fifth release). Anyhow, back to Janita's latest outing. Well, she has packed her musical bags and drifted off to the States, where she contructed this fine set of melodies. I must say I enjoyed every track on show here and that is not something that can be said of many albums these days. I really enjoyed the dancer 'Firefly' and the, latin tinged, track 'Be Yourself', however, the track that really bowled me over, is the melodic harmonised 'Angel Eyes'. A finer soul track I would challenge anyone to better this year. An excellent release.

Leon Ware's album came right out of the blue! I must say Expansion Records kept this one a well kept secret......or is it I just need to get out more!! Before I say anything more about this album, I would warn you that if you think that you are going to get another 'Musical Massage' or 'Rocking You Eternally', then you will be disappointed. If fact, this album is a musical departure from his last album 'Taste The Love'. This set would be very 'at home' in a dinner jazz setting. Now I am going to hold my hands up and tell you that, Leon Ware can do no wrong for me and this, very acoustic, collaboration with Don Grusin (on keyboards) I am really enjoying. He covers the standards 'My Funny Valentine' and 'Round Midnight' quite beautifully. If you are a purist, however, tucked away towards the end of the CD is a great, self penned, tune entitled 'Let Go', that I think should satisfy the most diehard critic. I really enjoyed this album. Nice release.

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• Do You Know? / Holiday - Donnie

Do You Know-DonnieHoliday-Donnie

Donnie is an unusual artist, in as much as his arrival on the soul scene has been so slow, it would be easy to miss the event totally! A promo CD came out in the UK, in tiny quantities, two years ago. Since then these two singles followed earlier this year. First came 'Holiday', a driving and catchy dancer followed by the Donny / Stevie sounding 'Do You Know?', produced by the UK's Steve Harvey. This single (only available on 7") bodes well for the future of this talented artist. A gem of a tune that has you humming along after the first listen. Great stuff. Both releases are on Giant Step Records out of New York and there is a link at the site for more information. Look for Donnie's album 'Welcome to the Colored Section' in early 2002.

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• Luther Vandross - Luther Vandross / Special Blendz - Something Special

Luther VandrossSpecial Blendz

Luther Vandross has come a long way since his early days making jingles for companies like Coca Cola and featuring on David Bowie's 'Young Americans' album. He went on to form a group called Luther, cut two albums and went solo with 1981's 'Never Too Much' outing, that's after session work with many bands including Change, Greg Diamond & Mascara. Twenty years on and a new 'slim-line' Vandross releases his most popular album to date, according to recent record sales. In fact, he is reported to have recently lost 9 stones in weight! Luthers consistency is undoubted. He has one of the finest and most recognisable voices in soul music today and it is a testament to the great man that he remains as popular with the 'soul anoracks' as he does with the person in the street. The new album, on first listening, comes across as fresh and vibrant. Has Luther got his second wind? Yes, there are those typical Luther style ballads that we have all come to love over the years ('Are You There With Another Guy' and 'Heart's Get Broken All The Time' being fine examples here), however, there are several tracks with additional 'bite'. Typical of these is 'Grown Thangs' with a catchy guitar riff not too dis-similar to that of Sister Sledge's 'Thinking Of You', whilst 'Let's Make Tonight The Night' is a catchy 'retro' dancer that would sit nicely in the R & B charts of 1982. Luther has tried to make style developments here and I think he has pulled off the feat well. If you haven't bought Luthers recent offerings, I can heartily recommend you break the pattern and get this set.

The Special Blendz album arrived here, fell on the doormat this morning, and I have been taking it for a spin since then. Special Blendz are a ten piece group from Philadelphia who perform at live shows and this CD has a very 'live' feel throughout. They have been an opening act for many artists including Jean Carne, the late Grover Washington Jnr, Teena Marie, Ray, Goodman & Brown, Joe amongst many others. One thing that cannot be denied, is that these guys can really sing. This set was originally released in 1999 and the press page, that came with this CD, suggests that there is another CD just around the corner. Well I am very pleased to tell you that fact, because these guys are a very talented bunch. I especially like this CD as it reminded me of one of those 'little label' albums that were a godsend around a decade or so ago. Much of the CD is based around cover versions, with the band doing justice to such evergreens as 'Joy & Pain', 'You Make Me Feel Brand New' and 'Sing A Song'. I am going to go for the dancer 'Try My Love', which is excellent, one of the three self penned tunes on show here, and a tune they can be very proud of. Nice release.

You can get to Special Blendz website by clicking here

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• Chris Jasper - Faithful And True / Nathan Heathman - Right Here, Right Now

Chris JasperNathan Heathman

It has been 6 years since the ex-Isley man, Chris Jasper's last outing 'Deep Inside'. Chris has released 5 solo albums since the Isley, Jasper, Isley days. The first two were secular albums with the following three being gospel outings. One thing that remains a consistent factor with Chris's albums is the high standard of the music contained within. In fact, in this humble reviewers opinion, he has touched on genius with songs ranging from the beautifully synthesised 'Like I Do' (taken from his first solo album 'Superbad') to the melodic 'Thank You Jesus' (taken from 'Praise The Eternal'). This album retains the high standard that Chris has set for himself, with Chris writing, producing and performing on this fine set of songs. In fact, the whole family get vocal contributions in, which bodes well for the families artistic future. Standouts? Well, from the outset, you can take your pick from the beautiful 'In My Dream', the excellent 'The Good News' or the downright funky 'Doing My Thing (For The Lord)'. In fact, I think there is something for anyone who goes for quality soul music. Highly recommended.

Nathan Heathman is a new artist, whose album I have only just picked up, so apologies to the boys at Expansion for a review that is a little late. Nathan is a multi talented voclaist and keyboards player. He has a clean crisp vocal delivery that reminds me a little of labelmate Gary Taylor's vocal stylings. The opening track 'Until We Meet Again' reminds me of one of those male vocal inclusions on Norman Connors releases from the early Eighties. In fact, Norman contributes on sleeve notes along with Jean Carne. Nathan has worked with Norman Connors and if this release is anything to go by, the man will be around for some time to come. Consistent throughout and another winner from the guys at Crabtree Lane. Nice one, Ralph & Richard.

You can can check out Chris Jasper's Gold City Records website, right here

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• Incognito - Life, Stranger Than Fiction / Dianne Reeves - In The Moment

IncognitoDianne Reeves

The arrival of a new album from Incognito is always a welcome occurence. They have come a long way from the 'Jazz Funkers' of the late seventies / early eighties, with a maturing sound and some fabulous songwriting from Bluey. I must confess to being a little wary of this set, prior to release, with the news that this was to be their final album for the Talking Loud label, fearing that this might be a 'filler' album. I didn't have anything to worry about, though, as the album is quality from start to finish. Highlights? Well Jazz FM have gone for 'Rivers Running Black', which is a great tune that is bound to have substantial daytime airing. For these ears, their homing abilities veer towards 'There Will Come A day', however, I am plumping for 'Worlds Collide'. A quality piece of songwriting. Nice one, Bluey.

Dianne Reeves live, George Duke produced, set came out at the rear end of last year..........Matron!! Reason why this gets an inclusion here is a fear that this set pass into history without a trace and it is far too good for that to arrive at that conclusion. Dianne Reeves is one of my favourite female jazz vocalists, who shows a maturity far beyond her years. Here she covers many of her previous outings including 'Come In', 'Grandma's Song' and, what is an absolute tour de force, 'Testify'. This version is superior to her previous recordings and should be compulsory listening on any daytime soul / jazz radio show. Majestic.

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• Jeff Floyd - Powerhouse

Jeff Floyd

Back in 1992, I bought a fine album by this guy, which contained the tracks 'Changing Times', 'Throw Her Love To Me' and '9 to 5', each of which received extensive airplay on the better radio stations down here in London. The album was called 'Changing Times', had no cover (apart from the type that comes with import twelve's), and was released on Jeff Floyd Music BMI.
Since that time, Jeff has been conspicuous by his absence....that is until now that is.
His new album 'Powerhouse' is like a breath of fresh air to these old ears. There is so much contrived, 'new R&B' around (not to be confused with the genuine article) that when an album like this arrives on these shores it ought to received with the critical acclaim that it deserves......which, of course, it won't!!
If you went for the Sir Charles Jones album in a big way, you will love this set.
The opening track, 'I Found Love (On A Lonely Highway)' is just great. 7 mins 33 seconds of soul heaven.
The album has a really mellow feel throughout with so many soul highlights. 'Face Down' would do Brother Bobby Womack proud, 'Funny Love' is a nice ballad and 'Nobody Wants You' is a fine dancer.
Released on William Bell's Wilbe Records (William weighs in on songwriting and production chores), this is about as soulful as anyone would wish for. Highly recommended.

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• Syleena Johnson - Chapter 1. Love, Pain & Forgiveness / Soul Power Compilation

Syleena JohnsonSoul Power

Syleena Johnson's album is a new U.K. release, whereas the Soul Power Compilation has been around for a month or so now and looks like it may become a 'been missed', which would never do!

Syleena's CD was a surprise to me as I had seen it in our local record store, sitting alongside the Missy Elliotts and 'parental warning sticker' CD's!! Syleena is the daughter of the great Syl Johnson, who's soulfulness has really influenced his daughters offering. In a review of an album such as this there is a temptation to say 'sounds like an Eryka Badu or Angie Stone LP', but this set has it's own sound that is generated, mainly, by Syleena's excellent vocal phrasing. Syleena has turned this set into a story about life and living. Have to say that 'Everybody Wants Something' is just great. The whole album is a good example of the direction mainstream soul music should be taking today. Fine stuff. See you on Jools, Syleena!

The Soul Power compilation is from those great people at Dome Records (Dennis Taylor etc). Within it's musical walls are many tunes that have already seen the light of day at this site. Tommy Sims 'A New Jam' and Darwin Hobbs's 'Everyday', being two. The newer tunes include a new Tommy Sims production on Annointed's excellent 'That'll Do It', a fine new track from James 'D Train' Williams, entitled 'Spirit Jam' and Richard Anthony Davis' excellent 'The More I Get To Know You'. Really good compilation that should be within your 'musical walls'.

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• Saundra Williams - Bless The Day / Sir Charles Jones - Sir Charles Jones

Saundra WilliamsSir Charles Jones

These two albums represent, just about, where soul music ought to be in 2001.

Saundra Williams album is released on Groov-A-Toon Records and contains one of those tunes that makes you jump out of your chair, when you first hear it, and try to find out who, what, when, where and how etc....The tune in question is 'Innocence / Gold Rivers', which is sung in a style not to dis-similar to the late great Phyliss Hyman. Ordered this set straight away expecting a 'one track album', however, what a great surprise to find out that the album is full of really soulful grooves and no drum machines!! The tracks 'Oooh' and 'Turnaround Chile' are quite excellent. 'Baby Talk To Me' is a fine downtempo soul track, whilst 'With Or Without You' is a fine stepper. Peculiarly, this set has a date of 1999 on its sleeve notes. Where has it been in the last two years? Recommended.

Sir Charles Jones set I am a little late in getting round to, my apologies. Must admit that it is really great that people are still producing soul music of this quality. Unfortunately for Sir Charles, quality doesn't cut it on the mass market in these days of poor, mechanical pop, that masquerades as R & B. Really nice 10 track soul album, this one, that was released towards the end of last year (on import) on Hep'me Records. Soul flows through each of these excellent tracks here. 'Natural Woman' sounds as if it has been lifted from a Johnnie Taylor set. My favourite cut here is the moody 'Better Call Jody'. Excellent release.

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• Lade Bac - For All The Ladies / Various - Tamla Motown Connoisseurs

Lade BacTamla Motown Connoisseurs

2001 has, thus far, been a good year for music and these two releases highlight just why. Lade Bac's album I have been listening to on Robbie Vincents Sunday Jazz FM soul show. On first listening, the tracks sound very contemporary, with the album being produced by Al E. Cat. This is a fine example of the direction modern R & B should be taking. On Willie Clayton's Clatown label, this is a fine set of downtempo tracks sung very capably by the Lade Bac guys. For this listener the standouts are mellow 'Can We Talk', the fine 'Always' and the excellent title track. Recommended.

I have been tracking down the Tamla Motown Connoisseurs collection for a while now. This compilation has been lovingly put together by the excellent Richard Searling, who has compiled this set from Radio Show responses to his Jazz FM programme in Manchester. All I can say is the listeners have great taste. There are many sought after rarities here that range from the mid sixties to the early seventies. I have to say that, if you want a definitive collection of tunes representing that particular period, go for this CD big time. Favourites? Well, all 20 really.....O.K.........The Marvelettes 'Don't Make Hurting Me A Habit', Four Tops 'Where Did You Go?', The Originals 'Don't Stop Now', Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston's 'When We're Together' and the totally fantastic 'Don't Be Afraid' by the man who discovered the Jackson Five, Bobby Taylor (sorry Diana!). Many of the tunes from this set are sitting on the Sixties and Seventies Audio pages at this site. Well done Richard, a great CD.

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• Howard Hewett - The Journey / Sunshine Anderson - Your Woman

Howard HewettSunshine Anderon

Howard Hewett possesses one of the finest voices in soul music today. Recently, he has been touring the U.K. as part of a reconstituted Shalamar. Prior to his tour, Howard recorded this gem of an album for Sony. Those of you who are familiar with Howard's Expansion Records recent product by him, will really go for this set. If you are looking for high & low points in this set, I will have to disappoint you....there are only high points! 'Without You' is a beautuful ballad whilst 'Somebody's Watching Over Me' is just great. If someone twisted my arm and said 'Come On Choose Your Tune', I would have to go for the track 'Joy'. Highly recommended.

Sunshine Anderson is a totally new name to me. When the single arrived ('I Heard It All Before') it was like a breath of fresh air. There is so much R & B out there concerning itself far more with acheiving a sound rather than producing quality. This track definitely broke that mould. Sunshine hails from Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A. and is managed by Macy Gray. Her album 'Your Woman' is out now on Atlantic and is full of mellow grooves. I am going to go for 'He Said. She Said'. Fine tune from a consistent album. One for your Christmas stocking.

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• India Arie - Acoustic Soul

India Arie

Again, I have to thank my long time friend Michael Dumetz for getting me a promo copy of this album.

This album was previewed on Spike Lee's soundtrack 'Bamboozled' CD, from last year, with snippets of a few tracks contained therein. Since that time I have been looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this set. India has a very smooth and soulful voice. She is heavily influenced by the songwritings of Stevie Wonder. The chord changes are very 'Stevie-like' as can be heard on 'Strength, Courage & Wisdom' and her tribute to the great man 'Wonderful'. 'Video' is very, very catchy and the track 'Always In My Head' is just that. Really haunting tune with some nice vocal harmonies. Must say that it is the 1970 - 1976 period of Stevie's career that influences India and not, I am pleased to say, his 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' period!

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• SBPR - Beautiful Woman - The Album

Sisters Being Positively Real

Been eagerly anticipating this release, since I first heard these guys were to record together, and, low and behold, a copy drops on the doormat this morning.

SBPR, Sisters Being Positively Real, (or should I say Sheree Brown Patrice Rushen?) are the amalagmation of these two excellent singer songwriters.

Patrice Rushen's releases have been fairly regular over the years moving from Jazz into Mainstream Soul and then moving back more into Jazz again. These days she is a highly sought after session musician.

For this listener, the real crime is that we have not had vinyl (or CD) from Sheree Brown in nearly twenty years. Her two sets from 1981 ('Straight Ahead') and 1982 ('The Music') are highly collectable. 'On My Way Home' from the latter set is one of my all time favourite tunes (you can hear it on Sheree's page at this site).

After such a long wait, I must confess that I was a little aprehensive as to what I was about to hear, what with the emergence of electronic recording studio gadgetry, however, as soon as the music started any worries completely subsided.

There is a real wide diversity of styles here weaved together by these two great artists. The first two tracks fall almost into the Me'Shell Ndegeocello / Nikki Giovanni mould and are just great. Sheree Brown's vocals are as strong as the day she cut 'It's A Pleasure'. Patrice's are vibrant and fresh as are the other female voices contained herein.

I am on to my fourth listen to this CD, which I can now say, improves with each listen. 'Ego Flight' could have come from Sheree's 'The Music' set, whilst 'I Got A Good Man' would sit comfortably on Patrice's 'Straight From The Heart' set. 'What If' represents some bright intelligent songwriting and 'Walking In Central Park' is a quite beautiful piece of songwriting.

I only hope that this is not a 'one-off' project. It is great to have these women back in the studio together. Don't leave it for another twenty years, please. I will be applying for my free bus pass by then!!! I hope they sell many copies of this set. Thank you Sisters!

...you can also purchase 'Beautuful Woman - The Album' from Sheree & Patrice's BBEG website. Just click here to go there and get one.

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• Space Rider - Shaun Escoffrey / Everyday - Darwin Hobbs

Shaun EscoffreyDarwin Hobbs

Two singles that have, actually, been around for the best part of a year now and are finally getting UK releases. You should know these excellent tunes by now. Shaun Escoffrey's track is best heard in it's original mix. A simple melody complemented by Shaun's excellent vocals make this well worth the purchase. Shame the track is only three and a half minutes though.

Darwin Hobbs's track is not too dis-similar to the Gap Band's 'Outstanding'. It is taken to another level by Darwin's powerful vocals and taken to yet another level with the help of Michael McDonald's equally powerful input. The bass drives the melody and if that wasn't enough, the track was written by my favourite new artist of the last few years, Tommy Sims. Essential purchase, but don't take my word for it......take a listen below or click on their respective covers. Reckon either of these might nationally chart......gulp!! Top Of The Pops...Darwin Hobbs with Jamie Theakston? aaaaaarrrgggggghhh!!!!

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• Truth - T.C. Carson

T.C. Carson

This CD I was recommended by Expansion Records co-owner Ralph Tee. I ordered a copy from the States and it arrived this morning. Must confess that, when I first saw the cover with all that jewellery, I thought we were going to get something more along the lines of a Rap outing! Well, on first listen, this singers sounds just like the type of vocalist that Norman Connors would discover back in the Seventies. In fact, the overall sound is very Norman Connors additionally. There are some really excellent tracks here. In fact, there are only a couple of ones that slightly over sentimentalize in my opinion. There are so many standout tracks here that it is hard to pick a tune......but I am going to....the beautiful 'Waiting For You', a track that will definitely make any year end top ten. A real discovery this man is. Thanks Ralph.

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• No Games - Lonnie Hill

Lonnie Hill

In 1985, I was sitting down listening to Robbie Vincents Sunday show, when he played one of those tracks that just stops you in your tracks and demands your attention. 16 years later 'Galveston Bay' is still one of my all time favourite tunes. I took the day off work, after that show, to go into London to track down the import album that the tune came from. Sixteen years later, here I am putting together this soul music website, when, totally out of the blue, I get an e-mail from the man who cut that great tune, telling me he is doing a new album. So, in the post dropped the new set and I gave it a listen. Basically the CD is divided into two parts called 'Dance Floor' and 'Love Tunes'. As with Lonnie's 'You Got Me Running' set, I instantly went for the downtempo tunes and homed in on one track and the effect is the same here. The track in question is 'Times Keep Rolling On'. Definitely in my year end top twenty. Parts of this outing may not appeal to the soul purist, however, ignore this tune at your peril.

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• Educate Your Soul - Andre De Lang

Andre De Lang

Andre De Lang first came to my attention around four years ago with a brilliant track entitled 'Don't Stop Believin' from his first album 'Worth The Wait' on Expansion. This artist is based in Sweden, so here is a first in reviewing an import that ain't from the States!

I loved 'Don't Stop Believin' that much that I figured that he couldn't attain that peak again, however, there are three outstanding cuts from this set. Mainly the uptempo 'Finally', the beautiful 'For Your Love' and finally the brilliant 'Could You Be...My Favourite Girl'. Don't Know if this will come out over here. My guess is 'Could You Be' will be released on 12" at some time in the future.

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