listen out for 2002...
It is the 16th of August, boiling hot here in London, and I am listening to two voices that would raise the lowest of spirits. Maysa Leak has one of those voices that can elevate any tune out of mediocrity onto a higher plane. Joye B. Moore is a new singer to me. These singers both possess very individual sounding voices that are a real delight to listen to (whilst fighting with my ageing desktop fan! LOL).
The question is often posed 'Why is that people, who need no introduction, are people who are always introduced?'. Well, if you love your soul music, you will need no introduction to Maysa Leak. She spent many an hour in the recording studio with Bluey and Incognito. The fruits of those labours are part of the 1990's rich soul tapestry. In fact, Maysa has been on the scene for a long while, so it is hard to comprehend that this is only her third album. Her last excellent, 'All My Life' album was picked up by Expansion here in the U.K. and I believe that this fine set of melodies will hit the streets on the same label early next year (or later this one hopefully). As things stand at the moment, you can pick this up on N Coded Records, the same label that gave us the fine Lesette Wilson 'Living In The Zone' album. This album is a rarity in as much as you can stick it in the stereo and leave it to it's own devices without reaching for the remote. Maysa covers Jhelissa's 'Friendly Pressure' beautifully at the outset and finishes the set with another cover...that of Sly Stone's 'Family Affair'. I thought I had heard just about every interpretation of that tune. This time round Maysa lifts the evergreen to a new level. In between the goalposts are a variety of fine melodies which, basically, you pays your money...love the title tune here, 'Blue Horizon' is the business as is 'Everything'...love all else that keeps these choice pickings company. Purchase of the summer.
Had an e-mail all the way from the land of the Rising Honda a few weeks back. Brought back memories of re-mortgaging my house to buy those Japanese fusion albums back in the early Eighties (even today the price stickers on those sets here still give the cost of an import CD a run for it's money!). This time round I was about to be sent a set of which I had no idea what laid within it's musical walls. The label here is a new one called Soul Japan Records and the artist is one Joye B. Moore. Joye is a Gospel singer with a penchant for the secular soul sound, all of which make for a very interesting offering. Entitled 'Project Butterfly', Joye takes us on a musical vehicle designed to highlight her vocal prowess. She has a fine voice that wears all the melodies here very snugly indeed. The writing is intelligent, musically and lyrically all of which bode very well for this singer. Joye covers the soul standard 'Everything Must Change' expertly. Her voice is at home in all of the musical gears, so there is no waiting around for the next mellow or uptempo moment. I have always been a sucker for a good ballad of which 'Canvas Of Life' really fits the bill. I wonder what is next on the menu for this interesting record label. More of the same please.
Peggi Blu is a great soul singer. She has, prior to this fine release, given us two other albums both of which were Eighties offerings. Her last album was the excellent 'Blu Blowin', which contained the fine floater 'Tender Moments'. That tune epitomised everything good in soul music way back in 1987. So why the long sebatacle? Well, Peggi is also considered to be one of the finest session singers in the business today. Her talents have been utilised by everybody from Burt Bacharach to Quincy Jones to...even...Kylie Minogue! I guess this is why she has been out of the mix for so long. So we arrive at the summer of 2002 and Peggi has carefully constructed this fine set of soul melodies. This album is her strongest offering to date and is released in the U.K. by the excellent Expansion label. Of the tracks on offer here, my personal favourite is the uptempo 'Can't Go Back', a tune that would sit nicely in any of the R & B charts over the last three decades. 'Long After Midnight' is a fine ballad and Peggi even bravely covers the soul standard 'Go Away Little Boy'. Very nice cover it is too. As I mentioned previously, Peggi is a fine artist. I hope this album receives the accolades (and sales) it thoroughly deserves. Welcome back Peggi.
During the summer months, the music industry, normally, seems to take a sebatacle and the proposed new releases are withheld for the Christmas rush, therefore, it was an absolute surprise to receive these two excellent albums through the post last weekend.
Fertile Ground's album is their fourth outing and I have to say that I love this group. I guess that their music positions itself some where between...well...there is a a dash of Dee Dee Bridgewater in there, some Incognito and some Stevie sounding moments. All of the music is played on real instruments, giving the group a mature 'live' sound. They are a breath of fresh air to the music scene, which is getting so tired and staid that it is in need of a musical lobotomy! Thank heavens for the Michael Franti's and Fertile Grounds of this world to wake up many sets of ears that have gone into hibernation over the last few years. This album covers many musical styles from reggae to fusion. The group cover many interesting topics which include the bland nature of the music business at it stands today. Lead singer Navasha Daya takes the listener on a really pleasurable journey from the opener 'Rise / Freedom' to the beautiful final outing 'Star People'. All of Fertile Grounds albums are worth investigating, however, for a fantastic introduction to this excellent band, why not dig into that piggy bank and pick up this fine album. Out on Counterpoint Records and the perfect accompaniment to the long hot summer. If the streams allow, do check the audio below.
Last Saturday a CD dropped on the mat with a postmark that was of Italian origin. No cover note although there were some excellent sleevenotes by the excellent people at the La Pella Nera website (link on the links page). Firstly, I must say that, for a compilation of old soul material, this particular set is beautifully designed and written. So what about the music? Well, I was due to go out last Sunday, so I put this CD on the stereo and it soon had my wife and daughter singing along to several of the tunes (helps that they have a Dad who is an anorack, so they knew some of these tunes! LOL). This is a far above average set that doesn't get stuck in a 'rarer than rocking horse doo doo' rut but just pulls together some fine soul moments. Of the tracks on offer here, you pays your money, however, personal favourites include the Temptations 'Aiming At Your Heart', Gloria Gaynors excellent 'This Love Affair', Bobby Womack's 'How Could You Break My Heart', Smokey Robinson's 'Ever Had A Dream' and Jeff Perry's 'Love Don't Come No Stronger'. Get the picture? Out on Irma Records and rated 'classic'.
Don Blackman's 1982, self-titled album, is part of Soul Music's folklore. People have paid enorrnous amounts of money for an original copy, which has spawned several re-pressings and eventual CD releases. That album is the epitome of 'rare groove'. During the late Eighties (at the height of that movement) you would see copies of that album on the walls of many of the better soul music stores. So here we are 20 years later believing that that was going to be his first and final release, when along comes Don supported by vocalist Tonni Smith and his good friend, the late, Weldon Irvine Jnr. with a brand new set. Weldon's demise has been poorly documented on he net and Don dedicated the main page at his site to the great man after Weldon, for some reason known only to himself, walked out in front of a New York office block and, tragically, shot himself. I have been in touch, briefly, with Don and I guess, as you can imagine, this tragic event has been a great shock to all who were lucky enough to know him. Jazz FM in London ran a dedication show to Weldon on the Paul Jones Saturday morning Blues show. That programme included a 1999 interview with Weldon.
This album has been picked up by Ralph Tee and Richard Searling at Expansion Records, in the U.K., for it's 2002 release. Ralph sent me this copy and as I listen to this excellent set I wondered why Don has left things for 20 years to construct some more musical masterpieces (which is exactly what this set has achieved). Tonni Smith (as you all well know by now) was the featured vocalist on Tom Browne's soul anthem 'Funkin' For Jamaica' and her vocal gifts grace this fine outing. I believe that Expansion have a real scoop here. If you liked anything on Don's first solo outing, you will love this set. Of the 15 tracks on offer here, the melody 'Coming On To You - Coming On To Me' could have sat very nicely on that first album. 'Ghetto Lament' is a beautiful ballad, whilst 'He'll Keep Loving You' is a very intelligent piece of soul songwriting. This is a fitting tribute to Weldon's memory, as well as being a fine album in it's own right. An album that Don, and his team, should be very proud of. Very highly recommended.
The album from Kathleen Bertrand, for me, has been a bit of a 'sleeper'. Ralph Tee, on his excellent Thames Radio Soul Show, played 'No Regrets' (the title track from this excellent set) a couple of months back. As many of you (and me!) are on tight budgets, it is important to 'vet' many of the album releases. Some only have one good track, with the rest taking on the musical role of 'fillers'. The reason I took another journey back to this album is on receiving an e-mail from a site visitor, who thought I ought to do so, and how right they were. I think, initially, I must have feared that this may be just another smooth jazz collection. Well thank you to that welcome visitor in guiding the blind back to the source. This is a very fine album indeed with some very tastefully constructed melodies, not over produced and satisfying throughout. Kathleen vocal stylings are not too far from those of Brenda Hillman (reviewed here previously) with a shade od Sade thrown in. In fact Sade would have loved to have performed some of these melodies herself, I am sure. The title track is very moody and will appeal to soul and jazz folk alike. I have gone for the drifting 'Brazilian Magic' (very appropriate with the current, excellent, World Cup being played out in the Far East and sweeter than a Roberto Carlos free kick!!). When I take this for a spin at home, my wife starts humming along (always a good sign of soul quality in our home!). A very pleasing set indeed.
Cornell Stone's album sits, just about where, I wish many of the contemporary R & B outings would thesedays. He hails from Largo in Maryland, U.S.A. and that town has a great export here in Cornell. Much of this set is set at a downtempo, which suits Cornell's soulful vocal stylings beautifully. Cornell's voice reminds me a little of a 'huskier' Phil Perry (if that makes any sense!). High praise indeed. Of, musical, note here (pardon the pun) is the excellent title track. A very catchy tune indeed. The track that I am going to go for here, however, is the very Marvinesque 'She's So Beautiful', which is just about as good as any soul tune you'll wish to hear all year. Not sure if this album is Cornell's debut. If it is, it is a very satisfying set that bodes very well for this Maryland resident. Welcome aboard the Soul Train, Cornell.
Two artists that are the epitome of quality in Black Music at the start of the new millennium.
Terry Callier has been recording fine music since the 1960's, firstly as a folk artist, moving effortlessly into the soul genre and on into musical folklore. I was trying to describe Terry's music to a friend who had not heard of him, which was not an easy task. Nearest description I could come up with is a cross somewhere between Gil Scott Heron and Bob Dylan, however, this does not pay Terry his musical dues. In the same niche that Take 6 have crafted, Terry is a one off. In the same way that the man upstairs did with Curtis Mayfield, when he made Terry, he threw away the mould. Talk to any Terry Callier connoisseur and each person will choose a different song, by this great man, as their all time favourite. Mine? well, I sent a snippet of 'African Violet' to my friend to 'wet his appetite'. This album, if my memory serves me well, is Terry's 13th album (barring several compilations of his works). As with all his albums, Terry is very politically aware, using his writings as a soapbox for social commentary, epitomised by the standout cut 'Running Around'. This track, along with several others herein, are collaborations with the excellent Bluey from Incognito. Bluey's own stylings compliment Terry's perfectly and the partnership continues throughout this fine album. Whether you agree, politically, with Terry or not, once you have heard his persuasive, poetic, lyrical writings, it is hard not to warm to this multi-talented individual. Long may Terry preach common sense and make great soul music. He is an artistic giant in a sea of musical minnows. On Mr. Bongo Records and unreservedly recommended.
Whilst I was working at my last company, back in 1988, a work colleague, who regularly attended church on Sundays, brought this album into the office by a group called Take 6. He told me that I ought to check the album out and, as I respected his musical taste, I went out and bought that album blind. Take 6 were new guys on the musical block back in that day and I must confess to being a little apprehensive before taking the album for a spin...I mean, no musicians, just voices? Since that first album, I have picked up each Take 6 album without even listening to a track on any of the sets. Take 6 have, to quote Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys no less, 'the finest harmonies of any group of singers thus far in modern music'. Their voices are 'heaven'. There is no other way of describing these classically trained singers. In fact, their praises have been sung by everyone from Stevie Wonder to Spike Lee. Some of their harmonies are so beautiful, they have moved this listener to tears. Their Christmas album from a few years back is an annual seasonal favourite in our house. This, their ninth studio album to date, is a series of cover songs, spanning the years, including, The Impressions, 'People Get Ready', Stevie's, 'Love's In Need Of Love Today' and, the late Donny Hathaway's, 'Someday, We'll All Be Free' (ably assisted by Donny's daughter Lalah Hathaway). In the same way that Aretha can sing 'Do Re Mi' and turn it into a soul standard, Take 6 can transform the mediocre into a work of genius. Really fine, Marcus Miller produced album, from six guys who are, vocally, 'soul heaven'.
Here are two albums that, in my humble opinion, showcase all that represents quality in soul music in this second year of the new millennium. Must confess to being a little late on the Remy Shand, and thank you to those of you who have already been in touch with me regarding this new blue eyed soulster.
Tiffany Laing is a brand new artist, whose CD has a date set firmly in 2001, however, copies have only reached these shores within the last few weeks. Ralph Tee has been playing (and highly approving of) this set on his excellent Thames Radio Show in London recently. In essence, this is a contemporary gospel album that doesn't sit in the ususal musical places that you may expect a set such as this to reside. In fact, this has more, musically, with, say, Ledisi or Brenda Hillman. Every track here sets a very high standard, kicking off with the, very radio friendly, 'Everything I Do', then gracefully weaving through the uptempo to the sensual 'Send Me'. There is the jazz flavoured 'Chajah', if that is your fancy and the stunning 'Revelations (Better Than B4)', a finer slice of soul heaven you could ever wish to find. This is an album that I would, unreservedly, recommend, to the point that I can almost offer a money back guarantee. Really fine set that I know Soul Brother, in Putney (London) have a few left in stock. Out on the, independent, Twelve Tribes Musical Empire Record label.
Remy Shand is a new artist, who I am a couple of months late in reviewing. Guess we all miss the bus from time to time! Remy is white, signed to Motown and whose vocal stylings rest somewhere between Curtis Mayfield, a touch of Marvin, a hint of Al Green with a sprinkling of Lenny Kravitz (in his more soulful moments!). Remy's melodies are very strong here, plenty of grooves and harmonies that all combine to deliver a fine blue-eyed soul set. The title track of this album has been in the Top 20 at this site for a couple of months now and I have plans for it to remain there until years end. This is another consistent set that moves nicely along, without the necessity of reaching for the CD button. Favourite tunes here are 'The Second One' (nice groove there), 'Take A Message' (very catchy chorus) 'Rocksteady' and the sublime, 'The Mind's Eye'. 'Looking Back On Vanity' is another beautiful ballad, right out of the top drawer this one. In fact, drop your CD laser beam on any part of this CD and you'll find something audibly pleasing. Very excited about this new artist, who I hope Motown hold on to, and groom into the major artist. He certainly deserves that accolade.
Expansion Records have released some great soul music over the last couple of decades. Brenda Hillman is a new artist to me and a very welcome addition to the soul scene she is too. Brenda's musical roots are based in gospel, which probably accounts for her excellent vocal range. Of the tracks on show here, I must confess that I made a beeline straight for the tune 'I Challenge You'. What a track. The sort of melody that Anita Baker would die for. 'Finding Mr. Valentine' is an impressive latin tinged tune with some fine vocal improvisation from Brenda, whilst the fine title track looks at the subject of human frailty. In fact, Brenda deals with several human issues, which is a brave step in the current R & B market. She is not only a top drawer vocalist, Brenda also produced this album highlighting her wide range of musical abilities. Do go out and treat yourself to this fine album. Nice one Richard and Ralph.
Glenn Lewis is a Canadian based vocalist who is another singer with a fine vocal range. Parts of this set brought back memories of the first Rahsaan Patterson album. Glenn sounds very 'Stevie', especially on the single 'Don't You Forget It'. A very nice tune that one. I played the opening track, 'Simple Things', to a friend, who reached for the repeat button on the CD player several times. Another fine slab of soul music. There is an almost melancholic feel to this album. Reflective and beautifully delivered. Highly recommended set. Just listen to 'This Love'. Could have come from Stevie's underrated 1970 album, 'Where I'm Coming From'. High praise indeed. We should keep an eye on this singer over the next few years.
Any new album from Will Downing is always worth investigating. Hard to believe that this album (due out in early June in the U.K., early May in the U.S.) is Will's ninth solo effort. Unfairly, his last set did receive some criticism, quite why I don't know. We gave it a positive review here because it is just what it deserved. I guess it was a little too 'street' for the smooth jazzers out there, but hell, we want to be stimulated and moved by this genre, not brainwashed into a trance by the elevator music brigade!
This album is, as always, beautifully delivered by Will, who ought to be up there with the Luther Vandross's of this world. Will has come a long way since the Arthur Baker / 'Love Supreme' days of the late Eighties. He has mastered the craft of harmony and delivery and, in the same way that Aretha can, he could sing my Sainsbury's shopping list and move the listener! On show here are five cover versions of some fine soul melodies, namely 'Just Don't Want To Be Lonely' (Main Ingredient), 'Drowning In Your Eyes' (the late Ephraim Lewis), 'Brooklyn Breezes' (Kashif), 'If I Ever Lose This Heaven' (Quincy Jones and others) and a really nice version of 'I Can't Help It' (Michael Jackson 'Off The Wall' album). Will gets away with five covers due to the fact that the rest of the original tracks on offer are of a very high standard. The excellent Armsted Christian weighs in with some fine songwriting, co-penning 'Almost Like Being In Love', a track that moves effortlessly through several key changes. This is a tune that begs Will to get to grips with it vocally. 'Maybe' is a drop dead ballad, that will receive extensive airplay on the 'quiet storm' radio stations, whilst 'Don't Talk To Me Like That' and 'Home' are a real delight. Those of you, who, after Will's last album outing wished for a return to the days of 'Love's The Place To Be', will not be disappointed by this set. The production here is lush without being too smooth jazz and, with the likes of....wait for it....of Lee Ritenour, Ronnie Foster, Gerald Albright, Marc Antoine, Paulinho Da Costa, Kashif, Phil Perry, Hubert Laws, Michael White and Vesta Williams all on board, Will can't help but score one large musical hit with this set. Very nice Will, very nice indeed.
As usual, I am late with the Cynthia Biggs Project album. Living in London you have to travel to certain parts to pick up the 'real stuff' and I only got my mucky mitts on this one a day or so ago. Basically this is a vehicle that showcases the vocal skills of ex Atlantic Starr lead vocalist, Sharon Bryant. The years have been very kind to Sharon's tonsils as she is sounding, if anything, better than she did back in the 'Circles' days. Sharon always did have a great voice. Her last solo album is now some 13 years old now and, although received well by some soul fans, it wasn't quite there for me. What makes this album an absolute must are the songwriting skills of Cynthia Biggs, who has put in all the right ingredients and come up with a minor masterpiece. Going straight for the jugular, I have to say that 'Can't Outlove This Love' is right up there with any of Atlantic Starrs outings...I kid you not! 'No One Like You' was the original single release, however 'Can't' is head and shoulders above the former. The ballads are nicely executed and Sharon is, pretty well, given free reign to go wherever she wants vocally. A must have for any discerning soul fan.
Eban Brown was an unknown name to me until I was recommended his new CD by a fan. I must admit that I didn't know that Eban was the lead singer in the current line-up of the Stylistsics. In a funny way, I prefer Eban's vocal delivery to that of Russells Thompkins Jnr's (mainly due to the post Tom Bell / Linda Creed output, with the notable exception of 'Hurry Up This Way Again'), possibly because there is a little more earthiness in Eban's delivery. When this CD arrived I played it once and put it to one side, however I am pleased I took a revisit to this interesting offering. Eban's CD has a real 'little label' sound to it, very much in the same fashion as some of those independent releases from the mid Eighties. Eban is certainly a talented musician, playing guitars, drums and, obviously, vocals. Must admit that I am not too fond of the cover of that rock tune 'Cold As Ice' (Foreigner, I think), however, there are several tunes that really creep up on you. Of those 'Dedicated To Your Love' and the title track are good examples. I really like his tune 'Together (You And Me)', that epitomises that little label sound. Nice independent release.
Tashan is a particular favourite singer of mine. It was a real pleasure receiving an e-mail from the great man, following which we have discussed various things, including his absence from the music business since his excellent 1993 set 'For The Sake Of Love'. Tashan's mother had been unwell and he was looking after her for a while. She is, thankfully, well again now. During these years he had not been musically inactive. He had, in fact, been putting together this CD, which arrived on the doormat this week. I have spent several hours listening to this excellent CD, wondering why no major label had picked up this album. I got to track 3, a tune called 'After Hours', and went straight on the phone to Ralph Tee at Expansion and played it down the line to him. I sent Ralph a copy of this excellent album, which has several additional fine tunes. Of note are 'God Is The Only', the mellow 'Me For You' and the future single (?) 'If You Were Mine'. You even get a new version of 'The Right Attitude' thrown in for good measure. I asked Tashan's permission to add 'After Hours' to the site and he kindly gave me the nod. So here you go, a 'kind of' Soulwalking exclusive. Check it out. A real pleasure to 'partially' have you back my friend. Let's hope this sees the light of day sooner rather than later. Don't need another Otis & Shugg, do we?
An album that has seen the light of day, via Dome Records over here, is the fourth excellent album from D'Influence. A bit of a departure from the usual line up as this showcases the vocal talents of several excellent soul songstresses. Sarah Anne Webb (their usual vocalist) gets a look in along with the likes of Ultra Nate, Romina Johnson, Dyanna Fearon (Phil's sister from Galaxy) and many others. There is a very contemporary feel to this set with several highlights including their version of Gladys Knight's 'Taster Of Bitter Love' and an excellent tune by Shola Ama entitled 'This I Promise You'. With heavy airplay on several soul stations and 'Album Of The Week' in Blues And Soul magazine, this can't help but become a winner. Who am I to argue? This is an excellent album.
From time to time, I get an e-mail from an artist or band, who have a new album out and want to send me a copy to review. Many of the sets aren't quite right for the site, however, I applaud any musical effort by any band. Musical taste is a very personal thing. Don't know much about art etc. No such problems with this album. Simply this is one of the best albums that I have been sent by an artist, or in this case duo. Nashville based, Kelvis and Kendall Duffie have crafted a minor masterpiece with this latest Expansion Records release. This pair actually 'sing' rather than try to emulate their R & B contemporaries, which is probably due to their gospel upbringing and work with Take 6 and Commissioned. The harmonies are rich and well delivered with one reviewer likening this set to the unreleased Otis And Shugg album from 1996. I wouldn't argue with that sentiment. The non release of that album was one of the great crimes of the last century. Thankfully, Kloud 9's album has seen the light of day and has been 15 years in the making. There are collaborations here with Incognito (on 'Promise'), Kirk Whalum (on 'Make You Mine') and the excellent Karen Bernod (on 'Let's Not Lose It'). The opener is a stunning mid tempo tune called 'Can't Stop Thinking About You' which precede's this reviewers favourite cut, namely, 'If You Ever' with it's light jazzy overtones. All in all, we have a great soul album here that, come Christmas, we will all be pointing at as one of 2002's soul highlights. Nice one guys.
Every now and then an album comes around that makes you stop in your tracks. Not for the Northern purist this album, however, this set has been on the CD player for the last 6 months. To be honest, I shouldn't be into an album that raps most of the way through, the singer swears, and is all about the death penalty in the United States. Well, as far as politics are concerned, I guess that, in the U.S., I would be described as a 'Pinko Commie' or in the U.K. as a ''Swivelled Eyed Lefty'! Well, you caught be bang to rights guvnor, to each their own.
I grew up in the Sixties, saw the Black Power salutes at the 68 Olypmics (46 now) and couldn't get my mind around the fact that some people didn't like Black folks because of the colour of their skin. I had friends over here, as a child, of all different nationalities and they were all the very best company. I guess I thought it was a 'grown up thing'. People are the same all over the world......this planet is one Global Village. Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Protestant, Black, White......whatever. We are what we are and should be proud of it. I mean, you have a right to be here and you should always remember that, eh?
This album deals with the death penalty, as I said before. I truly believe that the death penalty is all about revenge. The premise seems to be that 'The death penalty is a detterrant'. If that is true it pre-supposses that a criminal believes that they may be caught at the outset. No criminal believes they will be arrested when they commit a crime. That is why there is crime. The death penalty is all about revenge, so why does this album deal with such a heavy issue? Well, it doesn't deal with the matter in a depressing way, more so in a constructive manner. In fact, I would say that this is an optimistic offering!
To be honest, I am about six months late on this one. This album came out, originally, in June 2001. Charles Waring at Blues and Soul and George Reid in Edinburgh deserve my thanks for turning me onto this classic...that is what this album is. You get prose from Woody Harrelson, on the speech inserts here, that follow the sentence appropriated to a ficticious 'Sister Patima' as an illustration as to why the death penalty is an outdated and cruel part of our existence in the so called 'civilised world'.
Check the tune below. The words 'Every single soul is a poem written on the back of God's hand'. A great piece of music. Amen to that one Michael.
I sent this set to Robbie Vincent at Jazz FM, who described it as a cross between Gil Scott Heron and Marvins' 'What's Going On' album. There is some swearing on this set as I said, but don't be put off by that. This is a very important album. Robbie has featured the track below on his Jazz FM show for the last two Sundays. He said this is a fantastic album. It certainly is just that. It is an important album that I would say you 'have' to have.
Every now and again an artist constructs an album where, I guess, they are unaware of the masterpiece they have created. This is, to put it simply, a milestone. This album should carry a money back guarantee.
One album that is brand spanking new and one, I am ashamed to say, I haven't got round to for nearly a year! Slap wrists!!
The Pamela Williams album is now out on Red Ink Records Stateside and showcases this remarkable womans musical skills. To begin with Pamela plays a mean saxophone, however, she is an adept flute, keyboard and drum player. Of interest to the soul fan is the musical input of Teena Marie on vocal chores on the fine tune 'I Am Love' (which is already receiving extensive radio exposure on some of the superior soul stations in the U.K.). Pamela constructs some fine cover versions of the soul tunes 'At The Concert' (originally by Michael Henderson) and 'Vibrations' (originally by Roy Ayers) all of which make this third outing for this talented musician a real delight. Nice to have some jazz around that isn't too smooth!! Recommended.
Fontella Bass and the Voices Of St. Louis album is a year old now. I only, recently, finally got round to pointing my ears in this fine sets general direction. This outing has been a real 'sleeper', with Fontella and the guys visiting these shores late last year at the Festival Hall in London. Fontella utilises her brother's fine vocal skills, along with several St. Loius based artists, all of which create a kind of 'Beverly Glenn' feel to this outing. The title track is an absolute soul gem, sung ably by Fontella, whose voice is maturing like a fine wine with the passing of the years. David weighs in with two vocal performances on the excellent 'Special Lady' and 'Round and Round'. My favourite track from this fine album is the moody 'Waiting', ably delivered by Tracy Mitchell. All told, this is a fine example of where the soul genre should be heading throughout this decade. On Justin Time Records and in your stores right now.
It seems that every time Soul Brother in Putney send out a new mailing list to me, somewhere within the main page is a new female artist who a) has a new album out and b) is likened to Eryka Badu. In fact, Eryka's 'Baduism' album is now 5 years old and is, probably, the most influential album from a soul songstress within that time. The succession is almost biblical in it's running order 'Badu begat N'Dambi begat Ledisi begat Bernod begat Scott begat Arie etc'. So, here are the latest two artists to be likened to Eryka.
Jaguar Wright is a new name to me. This new set is out on MCA and I picked up my copy, at a reduced price, in my local Virgin store. If anything this set leans to a more soulful sound (Eryka's underlying influences were a tad more jazzy) with a helping of rap, which did make me lean towards the skip button on the CD player. Something about rap thesedays makes these big ears shut down!! However, this set is an essential purchase for several of the cuts on show here, notably the opener 'The What If's', 'Self Love', the Kenny Gamble / Bunny Sigler ballad 'Love, Need And Want You' (my daughter likes that tune!) and my favourite track 'Stay'. I have one major complaint about this track and that is, who the hells great idea was to make the tune only run for two and a half minutes? This is an essential slice of soul music, beautifully delivered. If you are prepared to bypass the rap tunes here, I think this set will satisfy the needs of the soul purist. Recommended.
YahZarah's album is, actually, around six months old now, however, I only picked up a copy recently. YahZarah possesses a fine voice and says she is influenced by Minnie Riperton and Chaka Khan, which come across nicely in her vocal phrasings. Right from the outset, this album has a fluid feel with 'Rooftop' and 'Black Star' being fine examples of the current soul songstress sound. A particular favourite here is the ballad 'Love Is You', which really brings out the Minnie Riperton influences in YahZarah's voice. Altogether an album worth picking up before it does a Ledisi and disappears from the scene only to reappear at some inflated price. Thanks to Charles Waring at Blues And Soul for turning me on to this set.
Good to see that there are still women on the soul scene who 'dabble' with the new R & B and decide to do the right thing and create innovative soul for the new millennium.
You may well have to stop and have a quick a double take here as I have already covered the Devox album on these pages over a year ago. The reason why I am revisiting this set is that I have been contacted by several site visitors asking where the album can be obtained. In some cases, I get asked if I can run off a copy, which I have to say no to (copyrights and all that...an issue I have covered on other pages at this site).
Well, these two albums have as many things in common. Both are a few years old and both only saw the light of day in Japan.
The III Frum Tha Soul album has, in many punters opinions, THE track of 1999. I have tried to locate a copy of this set for a while now and, lo and behold, a copy became available and I picked it up from a U.S. retailer. The story behind this CD is that RCA, originally marketed this in the States for a short while, then dropped the album, only for those good folks at BMG to licence it in Japan a year later. III Frum Tha Soul are a trio, whose overall sound is not too dis-similar to that of the O'Jays. The whole set is quite a mellow affair, with 'Fever' really standing out. The track has a very retro sound, thanks in no small way to the clever sampling of the Love Unlimited Orchestra's melody 'Midnight And You'. The end result is, probably, one of the finest pieces of soul music generated in the last decade. Let's hope this receives a U.K. release at some stage....
...as is the case with the Devox album. In my humble opinion, Angie Stone's collaborations with Gerry Devaux are some of her finest pieces of work. Gerry is a very clever songwriter and producer, who also is Lenny Kravitz's cousin (Lenny is also features on this album). This set hails from 1996, although it wasn't for a couple of years that copies made their way to these shores from Japan. Ralph Tee at Expansion, first played this set on Jazz FM here in London back in 1998. For those of you who have requested further release information, here we go. The album was released on Bahama Rhythm Music Ltd / Devox Ltd and licensed by Toshiba EMI in Japan. The code number is TOCP-8923. This set first featured her tune 'Life Story', which made it to Angie's solo 'Black Diamond' album a few years later. Also on this album is her version of the tune 'Let It Go', which was a featured track on Maysa Leak's first solo outing. Also Angie re-works the old Vertical Hold item 'Seems You're Just Too Busy', here. Those of you who are trying to track down a copy of this recording, should look through the second hand bargain bins for an excellent Expansion compilation entitled 'Soul Degrees - The Songs And Music Of Gerry Devaux' that came out in 1999 on that label, number EXCDP 20.
the songs and music of gerry devaux
Ralph told me that they had to withdraw the compilation following some contractual problems with Angie's own label. This CD contains the pick of the tunes from the Devox album along with several other Gerry Devaux projects, all of which are excellent. One word of warning regarding the Devox album is that, should you manage to track a copy down, the asking price has risen dramatically in the last two years. Worth whatever you have to fork out, however. I was asked about traclistings for this CD, so here goes:
DEVOX Featuring Angie B. Stone: 1. You Can't Hide Love. 2. When Will I See You Again. 3. Life Story. 4. Tell Me. 5. Let It Go. 6. Slowdown. 7. Simple Song. 8. So Beautiful. 9. My Lovin' Will Give You Something. 10. Seems You're Just Too Busy. 11. Taking Care Of Business. 12. All You've Been Doing. 13. Tonight.
Hope that has covered all bases!
Way back in the Seventies, I used to pick up my copy of Blues and Soul magazine and head straight for a column penned by Dave Godin. I was 20 in 1976 and into all of the latest club tunes, however, being from London, I was curious as to what was going on, on the soul scene north of Watford. The only trips we made 'up north' were to visit relatives in Hull, however, they were few and far between and besides, my cousins were into the experimental rock scene.
The term 'Northern Soul' was coined by Dave Godin. I liked his articles and he was into the Stairsteps in '76, which put him right into my good books. I knew he used to run a soul store in Deptford High Street, down here in the Sixties, however during those school days I was just a kid being musically fed Nat King Cole, Dave Brubeck, The Beatles and The Beach Boys by my parents.
Dave Godin (centre) outside Soul City Records 1968
Dave has always been somewhere in the background ever since I picked up my first soul tune at the end of the Sixties. When I received an e-mail from Dave, I was really chuffed. Hell, he even signed the guestbook at the site. Here was a guy who seemed like an old friend that I hadn't heard from for the last three decades, so personal were his writings back in the day.
Dave asked me if he could send me three 'labours of love' that he had carefully constructed at Ace Records. Well, what could I say? The three 'lost treasures' arrived this week and they have been constantly on the player since. What struck me first were the superb liner notes. Some of the images were so impressive, too, that I found myself e-mailing Ady Croasdell at Ace to ask his permission to use them at Soulwalking (which he agreed, with a credit of course).
Let's concentrate on the music here. Dave had immortalised so many soul artists on these three gems, which is just great. It is the sole (pardon the pun) reason why I set up this site in the first place. So many fantastic singers receive little or no recognition for their efforts and, in my small way, I would like to try to help reverse the trend. Some forty years on, these singers have created timeless masterpieces of soul music.
These Deep Soul Treasures Volumes feature many soul tunes new to these 45 year old ears. In fact, I have only one single here taken from these volumes, that being the masterful 'Look At The Boy' by the very excellent Jean Plum (Volume 3). Volume One has so many highlights and I am going to 'cherry pick' 'Try To Leave Me If You Can' by the wonderful Bessie Banks, 'I Can't Make It Without Him' by Brendetta Davis and, my pick of the bunch, the very Impressions sounding 'Tried So Hard To Please Her' by The Knight Brothers.
Volume Two moves along very nicely with 'These Four Walls' by Irma Thomas, 'Losin' Boy' by Eddy Giles, 'Just One More Day' by Otis Redding, 'Hiding In Shadows' by Eddie And Ernie and, my personal favourite choice, 'I'm Not Going To Give Up' by the excellent Eddie Holman all making me reach for the repeat button on the CD player.
Volume Three completes proceedings very nicely indeed and this set contains a few tunes more familiar to this scribe, namely, the aforementioned Jean Plum tune along with 'Breakfast In Bed' by Baby Washington, the classic 'I'd Rather Go Blind' by Etta James, 'Let Me Down Easy' by Betty Lavette and 'Is It Because I'm Black' by Syl Johnson. Of the tracks that are new to me 'Don't Leave Me Baby' by Ray Gant And Arabian Knights sent goosepimples down my spine. This is what this genre is all about in my very humble opinion. This just goes to highlight how much of this fine music there is out there, yet to be discovered by this soul punter. That tune is from 1974, by the way. There is a fine J.R. Bailey gem here in the form of 'Too Far Gone To Turn Around' along with a wonderful soul tune by The Enchanters entitled 'I Paid For The Party'. It is also good to see the Eighties get a look in with the excellent duet between Rick James and Smokey Robinson on 'Ebony Eyes'.
On the sleevenotes of Deep Soul Treasures Volume 3, Tony Rounce wrote 'Dave Godin is still quite likely the best real friend Soul Music has ever had'. Amen to that one. Thanks for the CD's, Dave. You made an old Southern Soulboy a very happy one.
I recommend these releases unreservedly.
Make no bones about it, I really rate Ledisi. She is one of a new style of soul singers that bodes well for the future of the music we all love. She posesses a powerful vocal range as this album will testify. Her first album arrived 2 years ago and became a bit of a 'sleeper', with her gaining recognition from all of the right sources, slowly and surely. We featured the debut album on these pages at the time, so when I received news of a forthcoming set, I had my order in at Soul Brother faster than..... Well, what of the new album? Well, this outing is a much more jazzier one than her first. Ledisi's vocals are on top form, the melodies are strong, so, if you liked her first album, I can highly recommend this one. I do have one reservation, however, and it is this. The original melodies here are strong, well delivered and essential for your collection. The inclusion of the, oft covered jazz standards, 'Round Midnight', 'Straight No Chaser', 'In A Sentimental Mood' and Autumn Leaves' may lead Ledisi into a niche that she may have problems liberating herself from. She has built up a cult following (and so she should with her undoubted abilities) and it is my concern that she may remain just that. I would hate to see Ledisi compartmentalised in the jazz section of the local record store. She would just not recieve the recognition she deserves. Having said that 'So Right' is an excellent opener whilst 'Land Of The Free' is one of her very best tunes. This is a fine album from a fine singer, who could scat for America at the next Olympics, by the way!!
Koop hail from Sweden and comprise of the duo, Oscar Simonsson and Magnus Zingmark. Together they have created a minor masterpiece with this collection of nine tunes. Of particular note to soul fans, is the inclusion of the legendary Terry Callier on the fine track 'In A Heartbeat' (featured recently on the Robbie Vincent Sunday Soul Show at Jazz FM). Over a haunting rhythm, Terry really is given free reign with his vocal prowess and the end result is quite beautiful. The title track here has seen heavy rotation on the Gilles Peterson show on Radio One, whilst I would also point to 'Summer Sun' with vocals from Yukimi Nagano. Totally infectious. I am not sure whether this is a first outing for these guys, if it is, I hope they cut many more platters over the coming years. A very good album. Thanks for sending me a copy Leo, by the way, and nice dresses guys!
The story of the Donnie album, 'The Colored Section', actually, goes back nearly two years. Donnie has built up, in the meantime, something of a cult. 'Do You Know' arrived in the second half of last year, after a dance twelve entitled 'Holiday' hit the streets in the former half. There is no doubting that Donnie has a strong sense of history. His influences are, obviously Stevie and Donny Hathaway. There is, however, another factor at work here. No imitator is this artist. Yes he is influenced by the aforementioned, but he still retains enough of his own ingredients to make this artist a fascinating individual. Produced by the UK's Steve Harvey, and released on the New York based Giant Step label, Donnie promises his album in the Spring. If these tracks are anything to go by, this could well be the album of 2002. Donnie is to tour this year and is recording the rest of the album as I write. I recommend you catch one of his shows. A great new artist.
Dr Bob Jones has been on the U.K. soul scene for nearly four decades now. Whenever I picked up my Blues and Soul magazine, back in the Seventies, he would appear on it's pages, either as a deejay or a reviewer later on. My personal favourite time, during his career, were the Sunday lunchtime shows at the outset of Kiss FM (before the abhorration we know today), where you could listen to the real stuff as well as the latest dancers. There are some within the soul fraternity, that don't give roomspace for the 'dancier' tunes around, however, I have always found Dr. Bob cherry picks the superior grooves leaving the rest for the geezer in his Ford Escort! This album is, basically, one long mix and features some great vocalists, within this compilations ranks. Donnie (yes the same chap on the top left), pitches in with his tune from last year, 'Do You Know' along with the rich velvet tones of the excellent Jon Lucien on 'Morning Sun'. All told, this is a very satisfying set, highlighting the fact that Bob can still pick them (and thesedays 'make em'). Good to know that he is still on the case. Recommended.
2001 was a great year for music and, if this album is anything to go by, 2002 should not disappoint. I make no apologies for saying that Carmen Lundy is just about my favourite jazz vocalist from the last two decades. Her 'Good Morning Kiss' debut set had some really fine moments, as do all of her albums, and this is no exception. What impresses me, about Carmen, is that you don't get the usual remakes of old jazz standards. All of the tunes here are self penned, with a few tracks running for 8 minutes plus. Her voice is clear and full of warmth. You have artistic input here from Onaje Allen Gumbs and the excellent Bobby Watson amongst others. The whole show kicks off with the uplifting 'All Day, All Night' and drops to a dead slow tempo, ocassionally, with the likes of 'Send Me Somebody To Love'. The track that blew this listener away here, and is still sending goosepimples down my spine, is the swaying 'This Is The End Of A Love Affair'. A brilliantly sung piece of jazz music that is beautifully crafted and delivered, reminding me a little of some of Michael Franks output. Additionally, Carmen is a mean painter, as you can see if you check her page at the site. A multi-talented woman! I hope that this years releases maintain the high standard of music set here by Carmen.
Various Artists - Soul Togetherness 2001 / Sound Of Solar Radio
2001 is going to go out on a high note, thanks to these two fine compilations.
Soul Togetherness 2001 is another fine release from the guys at Expansion Records in Hammersmith. The mixture of tunes here are from all aspects of the genre. You have some Blue Eyed Soul, some contemporary R & B along with a festive helping of some of the rarest grooves around. I have given this a run around the block several times and I must say that this is a 'must have' release. Rareties by John Valenti and Pratt & McClain are welcome additions to these CD shelves here. There is Rahsaan Pattersons version of the tune 'I'll Go', that we featured at this site last year, originally by Donnell Jones, along with new releases from Charles & Gwen Scales and Eric Gadd. If you are looking for that last minute stocking filler, look no further.
The Sound Of Solar Radio compilation, if anything, is even more diverse, musically. The whole show sets off nicely with a great dancer, that is a new one to me, entitled 'You Lift Me Up' by Mz. Fishe. This is a great tune. As with the Expansion CD, there are tunes that we featured at this site last year, including the late great Johnnie Taylor's excellent 'Let's Get Back On Track' and the Phat Cat Players, 'Phat Cat Theme'. The inclusion of Sean Olivers 'You & Me' is a real delight, however, the real soul gem here has to be Bill Coday's 'She's In A Midnight Mood (In The Middle Of The Day)', which is southern soul at it's finest. Maybe that Christmas stocking could do with a little more filling up?
Hope you all have a great Christmas and a big thank you to all of you who have been in touch over the last year.
This year has been a fine one for many excellent re-issues and this has led to a dilemma as to which pages at the site these should be placed on. Well, as I have previously added the excellent Marvin Gaye re-issues to this page, then I figured I ought to do the same with these two fine releases.
Leon Ware is one of the most underrated soul voices over the last 40 years or so. His, perhaps, greatest claim to fame is the 'I Want You' album, intended for his fine vocal talents, penned by himself, however, given to the late Marvin Gaye with the album now being recognised as one of Marvin's finest musical moments. Leon then fulfilled his Motown contract with the excellent 'Musical Massage' (recently re-issued on the excellent Expansion Records label). Leon has written many fine tunes over these decades and has worked with everyone from Quincy Jones to Melissa Manchester. So, here we are in autumn 2001 and along come re-releases of his two Eighties Elektra outings from 1981 and 1982 respectively. Leon was, arguably, at his recording pinnacle having moved from Motown, cut one album on Fabulous ('Inside Is Love'), and then finding a musical home at Elektra Records. Both of these sets contain tracks that were later to achieve 'rare groove' status. What raises these two albums to 'classic' status, in my humble opinion, is Leon's collaboration here with Marcos Valle. The South American influences of Marcos' co-songwriting perfectly compliment Leon's gentle soothing vocal stylings, and can be illustrated beautifully by the highly sought after, 'Rockin You Eternally' title track. The samba rhythms of 'Sure Do Want You Know' has aways been a personal favourite from the same album. 1982's self titled recording was another minor masterpiece, highlighted by the wonderful 'Why I Came To California'. That track was all over the soul stations in the U.K., back in the day. It was such a strong track that many of the other cuts took, very much, a passenger seat. Tracks that should not be overlooked here are the midtempo 'Miracles' and the dancer 'Lost In Love With You'. 'Words Of Love' has a beautiful melody running throughout and 'Deeper' is, probably, my favourite ballad by the man.
Both of these albums I picked up on their respective release dates, however, if you already own these sets, it is really worth picking up these re-issues mainly due to some fine sleevenotes from Blues And Soul journalist Charles Waring, who has managed to glean some fascinating information via a short interview with Leon. I won't tell you what those facts are, you need to get the CD's and, believe me, you NEED to get these CD's even if you have only a passing interest in the great man. Two great albums by a very fine artist.
The arrival of a new Angie Stone CD brings out mixed feelings for this listener. Mixed feelings in as much as, we know that Angie could sing 'Do Re Mi' and make it an essential purchase. The main worry I have with Angie is that she is ripe material for the 'New R & B' crowd, who would do a Destiny's Child on her if they had their wicked way. Well, is this set any good? The Million Dollar question. Well, unreservedly a great big YES!! This set really has brought sampling into a new age. Used to be that an old tune was taken and dropped in and out of a tune at random intervals. Doesn't leave a great deal to the imagination. The lead single here, (I guess), is likely to be 'I Wish I Didn't Miss You Anymore', which is an example of some of the best sampling I have heard. How Angie restrains herself from breaking into a full on rendidtion of the O'Jays 'Backstabbers', I'll never know. A great tune. The album is, in overall feel, not too dissimilar to her 'Black Diamond' album from......is it really 2 years ago? Personal favourites are, the very Floaters sounding, 'Life Goes On', whilst my pick of this fine bunch being the mellow 'Snowflakes'. Thanks for not jumping on any bandwagon, Angie. This is a fine set of tunes, destined (thankfully, not 'Destiny-ed'!), methinks, for many a Christmas stocking. Highly recommended.
Three albums that came in this week. I must say that 2001 has been one of the best years for soul music in a long while. Here are three fine examples of exactly what I am talking about.
Shabazz has had quite a break since the release of three twelves over a decade ago. Those, were fine releases ('Glad You're In My Life' / 'Where's Your Head', 'Respect' and 'Takes Me Higher'). So we move on 10 years and Shabazz comes up with, what for a lot of people, will be the album of the year. In fact 'Glad You're In My Life' makes a re-appearance here (now in a digital format) which is a pleasant surprise. On offer here are 18 (yes 18!) top quality soul songs that remind me a little of Tashan's work a few years back. The set gets off to a great start with the ballad 'Get My Groove On' and seems to grow in pace and stature as the collection develops. There are some tunes that really get stuck in your grey matter, notably, 'Always On My Mind' and the fine, fine summery tune 'Will You Be There?'. 'Come Together' is a fine piece of social commentary, which breaks into 'Peace To All' with its shuffling rhythm and great sax solo. I thoroughly recommend this set to any discerning soul fan. Nice to have you back in the fold, Shabazz. All told, a great album.
The Main Ingredient, similarly to Shabazz, have been away for over a decade, and, fronted by the excellent Carlton Blount, release a fine set of soul tunes. Most of the tracks on offer here are downtempo melodies with those rich harmonies to the fore. On Magnatar Records out of New York, this 12 track outing provides the band with the perfect musical vehicle. 'I'll Do For You' is a beautiful ballad, which is representative of the rest of the album, however, right at the very end of this set, tucked away nicely, is a top drawer dancer entitled 'Won't Let You Do That To Me'. What a great tune, which, if you have Real Player loaded, you can check right here. A very welcome return.
Kenny Lattimore's 'Weekend' became an anthem at many soul events across Europe. The chorus was so catchy that I am surprised that the single didn't nationally chart here in the U.K. Perhaps, looking at the state of modern 'Pop' music, it might have been a good thing! Well, after a couple of months, here is the album. Kenny has a very good soul voice. His debut set from 5 years ago (is it really that long ago?) was a fine release, as he arrived on the soul scene along with the likes of D'Angelo and Maxwell. This set reminds me very much of his debut set (I loved the track 'Never Too Busy' off that outing) and it grows on you with repeated listens. Included here is a fine duet with the vastly underrated Shanice on 'Can You Feel Me?' and the 'retro' sounding and totally excellent 'Come To Me'. On Arista, this is a very good album.