Soul And / Or Related Artists

listen out for 2004...

@soulwalking

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• Mike Jimenez - The Power Project / Leon Ware - A Kiss In The Sand

Mike JimenezLeon Ware

Well, just as I figured the market might be quietening down for the oncoming material outlay the stores are about to throw at us all this time of year, along come these two gems of releases. Both are not to easy to track down, but do try Soul Brother Records in London for Mike's album. Leon's is waiting for a U.K. outlet I guess, however, do check his website at http://www.leonware.com for a copy or contact. These are both worth seeking out. Do check the 'Find A Song' link off the main page at the site.

Mike Jimenez was once part of the group called Tierra. Got a couple of their albums here and the group have a page at the site. Tierra recorded a lovely ballad in 1986 called 'You're In Love', which was the flipside of a twelve called 'Mind Games'. Their sound was very Tower Of Power'ish. This album continues along similar lines and is quite excellent. Some lovely ballads ('Girl Walk Away' and Mike's version of the Harold Melvin / Sharon Paige chestnut 'Hope That We Can Be Together Soon') along with some absolute Soul stormers ('Blessing' and 'Someday We'll Get By'). Lovely stuff. This album is exactly the type of material that should receive massive daytime exposure. Will it? Probably not, but I would suggest you track down a copy as soon as possible. Tomorrows 'rare groove', well maybe, however, in this climate of 'I've got this album and you haven't', I hope I am wrong. Nice album Mike.

Leon's album came as a real surprise. Leon is like a London Bus. You hang around for ages and nothing turns up, and then, all of a sudden, several all arrive at one time! LOL If they arrived on a daily basis, you wouldn't find this old fool complaining! Leon is just a genius. His vocal delivery hasn't diminished in the last 30 years. Always sultry and sexual......sometimes too much so! LOL This is a great album and very Brazilian in it's overall feel. 15 tracks on offer and the listener really doesn't need to leave their armchairs to reach for the skip button on the CD player. There are collaborations with Marcos Valle along with several other Brazilian musical scribes. Leon Ware has become one of the most prominent Soul Music songwriters covering the last few decades. This is a lovely addition to a pretty potent musical arsenal. Lovely album Leon. Hope Carol is keeping well.

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• Jahah - Mama's Only Son / Gary J - Step Aside

JahahGary J

Two albums here that have their high and, not so high, moments. Hope the guys don't mind my honesty, however, the high moments are worth the entrance fee alone.

Jahah's people, very kindly sent me a couple of copies of both of the man's albums. Some of the tunes here have a rapper called Mr Moody, and boy does he sound Moody! LOL Very personal stuff is Rap Music. You either like it or you don't. Different strokes as Sly once sang. The thing with Jahah is he has a lovely vocal delivery. On the tracks he does his own thing, he really excels. There is something about his singing that really appeals. I went to CD Baby and listened to 'Oooh', which samples the single version of Marvin's 'God Is Love' beautifully. The track before, 'Official' samples Blue Magic's 'Sideshow' in a charming way. 'Gone' is a very Al Green sounding melody and 'Back In The Day' is melodic and very 'Old Skool' in it's vibe. The tune that is making waves right now is the very Saturday night 'Everybody Up'. A great song. I would love to hear a straight ahead Soul album by this man. He has a great voice. By the way, ignore the parental sticker on the cover. Nothing offensive on this set at all.

Gary J's album arrived, along with a huge package of material from the excellent PPL label out of California. To be honest with you again, there was so much material to wade through, that I parked this CD on the musical sideboard for a couple of weeks. Shame I did as there are some lovely moments here as well. This is an album that has a hint of Babyface within it's musical walls, although there is a 'little label' feel as well, in a very nice way. That type of material that was around in the Eighties and isn't about anymore. Shame. Some of the uptempo tunes are O.K., but O.K. is what they are. Gary's forte is when the proceedings drop down a tempo or two. Another great voice and some fine songs on offer here. 'Only You', 'Swizzy', 'Completely' and 'You Just Can't Help Yourself' are lovely songs. Best two songs? Well, 'Tell Me Why' is a gorgeous ballad, but the killer track has to be 'I'm Missing You'. Very intelligent music going on here. Released last year, however, I have only just got my mucky mits on it, so 2004 it is! Both albums worth picking up.

http://www.cdbaby.com/jahah

http://www.pplzmi.com

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• Lalah Hathaway - Outrun The Sky / Ty Causey - N-Tysing

Lalah HathawayTy Causey

Donny Hathaway's child has never made a bad record in this old fools opinion. She has an earthy vocal delivery full of tenderness and compassion. Lyrically, she could give Michael Franks a run for his money! LOL. Quite why she isn't a major star is beyond me. There is something special about a singer when they impart a melody, the listener finds themselves appearing to be the sole receiver of the message in the music. Stevie could do it. Aretha and Curtis to a greater extent. Lalah is a very gifted person who would have made her, late, brilliant father very proud of her. I won't run track by track through this set. 'Cut to the chase' as they say. Three tracks on offer here are absolutely gorgeous. The rest of the album isn't half bad either. The title tune is brilliant. Not going to say anymore other than, you need the set for this song alone. 'More' is another stunner and, being a sucker for the ballad material, the song 'Boston' is one of the finest ballads I have heard all year. I think this would be a lovely addition to anyone's Christmas stocking this year. A must have CD. In two words...'simply beautiful'.

Ty Causey's album arrived here a couple of weeks ago. As usual, I have been very lazy in getting around to reviewing this album. Very nice set that showcases Ty's lovely vocal delivery. The bonus ball is you get input from the excellent Najee and Nelson Braxton. Quite what has happened to the Soul side of 'Smooth Jazz' heaven knows. Albums like this ought to have a much higher profile, however, even the likes of Donny Osmond are considered 'Smooth Jazz' artists thesedays. How about Slade, Suzi Quatro or Status Quo? Najee, Nelson and Ty are the real deal, of that there is no question. This set is a promotional CD on Apria Records. Promotional it certainly should not be. Some great cuts here. Personal favourites are the Roy Ayersesque 'I Feel Her Shadow', 'Love Light', 'Sweet Talking', Reminisce In The Moonlight' and the tour de force 'Everything About Cha', which sounds as if it would fit very nicely on any daytime radio station. This ought to do very well on the Soul Stations, and I am sure it will. Reminds me of something that would have suited Michael Jackson on his 'Off The Wall' set from '79. We just need to get the barrier of 'born again' Rock Artists who now believe they are the latest Frank Sinatra on the block off the scene. We need to remember that Frank was a karaoke version of the Black music scene of the Forties and Fifties. Ty, Nelson and Najee can cut it. The Rock guys sometimes frustrate the progress of the Black person. My personal opinion. My fear is folks such as Ty might get sidelined. He shouldn't be. Listen up.

...you can pick up ty's album here...

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• The O'Jays - Imagination / Various - Soul Togetherness 2004

O'JaysTogetherness 2004

I make no bones about the fact I love the O'Jays music. On every album there has ever seen the light of day, by this great band, there have always been several songs of note ( if you pardon the pun!). This album is no exception. The guys are in fine voice throughout here. Not a bad track on show in my humble opinion. They have always excelled on the downtempo melodies, ( 'Why You Wanna Settle For Less' and 'I Would Rather Cry' are fine, fine kneetremblers). however, on this set, it is the movers that shine. 'Chauvanistic' is a great dancer and the opener, 'Made It Back' is a lovely mid-tempo offering. The bonus ball here, however, is the excellent 'stepper' of a title track. I must say that this is one of the best O'Jays tunes I have heard in years. Worth the entrance fee alone and sounding very 'Philly'. Fit very nicely into someone's Christmas stocking...but not whilst he is wearing it! LOL. Out on Sanctuary Records in the U.K.

The Soul Togetherness 2004 is the fourth in this fine series featured at the site. The clue is in the title here with this annual feast of the best of the old, rare and new offerings on the modern scene. The opener I listened to with a little sadness, as it feature a new Rick James track, recorded recently before the man's sudden passing. This is a lovely melody, simply called 'Taste', that would have boded well for a successful musical return for the great man. Not to be, as we now know. The evergreen Flowers version of Roy Ayers and Wayne Henderson's 'For Real' makes a nice addition in it's full length 7 minute format and sits very nicely alongside the likes of Stacye Branch, Bill Harris, We The People, Chante Moore and the Sunburst Band, amongst others. Each of this series makes for a lovely library of the the best, and rarest, material around. Highly recommended. Released on Expansion Records in the U.K.

Expansion Records

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• Ola Onabule - In Emergency, Brake Silence / New Birth - Lifetime

Ola OnabuleNew Birth

Two albums from both sides of the Atlantic, that are a breath of fresh air to these ears!

Ola Onabule is a U.K. based artist I really admire. Whilst most performers out there are jumping through the Music Industry's 'hoops', Ola has just quietly got on with putting together his own label, making music and releasing his albums on a regular basis. Ola has a very distinctive vocal delivery, which is earthy, warm and very pleasing. I figure from many of his melodies that he is influenced by all sorts of music. This combination makes his albums very listenable indeed. The opening track here is called 'Soul Town'. When I heard Peter Young at Jazz FM play this, it really made me sit up. Ola has matured immensly as a songwriter and lyricist. This is a simply beautiful piece of music, that many artists would have tucked away on track 10 or their CD's. Lovely harmonies. This song stays stuck in the grey matter for a long time. The album is strong throughout, however, there is a real gem of a tune called 'Alive Tonight', that is almost clumsy rhythmically, but is so lovely that it will endure for many a day in my CD player here. Gorgeous stuff. More power to your elbow, Ola.

http://www.olasmusic.com

The New Birth CD arrived on the doormat last week. I was dying to upload the album at the site, however, the groups manager asked me not to do so, until the album was available online at CD Baby. In my usual role as an old nag (LOL) she allowed me eventually to put the album here. Don't keep the faith, spread it! You just need to check CD Baby every now and then for the album's availablilty. I will add a link when it is there...here! The two main front men here are Leslie and Melvin Wilson, aided and abetted by nearly 12 other musicians, who have really brought this veteran band right into the new millennium. The opener 'Fun Is In The Chase' is a simple lovely piece of Soul Music. Nice harmonies and very 2004. That is quickly followed on by a great ballad entitled 'Workin' On You'. 'Dream Merchant' is a slice of Classic Soul and 'You Know You Want Me' hits the spot as well. Pretty solid set here. Peter Young played the excellent 'Hey Girl' on his Sunday Soul Cellar show last week after I sent him a copy. A better song you would be hard to find all this year. Lovely album and highly recommended. Thanks Lorna for sending this to me.

http://www.cdbaby.com

http://www.thenewbirth.com

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• Michael Cooper - Are We Cool / Raphael Saadiq - as Ray Ray

Michael CooperRaphael Saadiq

Michael Cooper is a great singer, You can recognise his voice as soon as you hear the man. A bit Cameoish, but what the hell. His solo albums have been released without any fanfare, however, right back to his first solo offering, he has always had something remarkable on each outing. The first album contained the excellent 'Dinner For Two'. The second, the glorious 'Over and Over'. His third album still gets props for the excellent 'Gotta Get You Undressed'. This new album is another 'string to the man's bow'. What is nice about Michael, is he isn't lured into the marketing man's 'you need to make a track like this, or you may need to make a track like that'. He just does his own thing. There is a 'steppers' tune here, which I have added audio at the site. I am a sucker for dance trends. It means that the music is of a standard that people want to design a style of dance to match the music and hit the dancefloor with. This tune is called 'Steppin To A Love Song' and it is excellent. The opener 'Butter Luv' is so catchy that it ought to be compulsory on daytime radio. Michael makes an excellent remake of Marvin's 'Since I Had You'. Lovely version. What is absolutely outrageous is the dancer 'Club Feenz' with full on Zapp style vocoder. You aren't allowed to make dancer's like this anymore! Great album.

Raphael Saadiq's album is a 'kind of' retro offering. What is nice about both of these albums is, these artists are just doing their own thing. Raphael's vocal stylings remind me a little of those of Rahsaan Patterson's, although, when these old ears listen to either of these guys, I do notice the difference (unlike my daughter who says to me 'is this Stevie' to just about any vocalist out there she hears! I'll start getting worried when she says that about Aretha or Anita Baker! LOL). On this album, there is almost a feeling that you are being taken through a story by this Oakland based singer. If you like the Tony's music, you'll love this album. The odd track here, that I really like, is a song called 'Rifle Love', which is a ballad interspersed with gunshots! The song is so strong, however, I am sure it will upset a few of those who might be concerned regarding having this effect on a CD, however, as I said, it is a very nice tune. My favourite here is the dancer 'Detroit Girl' that chuggs along very nicely, with Raphael's vocals making the whole affair very pleasurable. Not a bad album throughout. If you want further information regarding this release, you can e-mail below. These are very nice people:

info@absolutemarketing.co.uk

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• Various Artists - Dave Godin's Deep Soul Treasures Volume 4

Deep Soul Treasures 4Dave Godin dave godin

Dave Godin is someone whose writings I have read for the last 30 years. As a human being, Dave is a very compassionate person, concerned with the welfare of animals, the down trodden and politics. I know this as this kind man signed the guestbook at the site some 4 years ago. We got in touch by the World Wide Web and then by phone. Someone who feels so compassionately regarding worldly matters, can't help but be moved by this music.

I spoke to Chris Hill recently, and in between all the swearing (LOL), Chris said that he and Dave went back a long way and always argued the toss over their favourite movies. When I spoke to Dave a couple of days ago, he didn't sound all that well. When I mentioned Chris, he started swearing as well!! LOL. It's catching!

One thing I did get to help him out with was a certain track by an artist called Jimmy Robins, in as much as no-one knew where the man was. I put up a piece on the 'Where Are They Now?' link at the site. Jimmy got in touch and as a result, his song ''I Made It Over' got Dave in touch with the man and, consequently, got the song onto this fantastic CD.

Dave invented the term 'Northern Soul'. The term is based loosely around the music that folks used to listen to in the North of the U.K. in the late Sixties and up until this present day. Dave is much like myself in as much as his roots are in the South of the U.K. My relatives in Hull used to call me a 'Southern Poofter' when I was a kid. Blimey, I didn't put lines on the U.K., and call them Counties. If you drive from Cornwall into Devon, I never noticed any lines on the ground! 'Northern Soul' is a compartment. As brother Ray said in one of his last interviews 'There are only two types of music...good and bad'. Right on Brother Ray. That band up in the sky is really something special right now.

What you have here is 'Good' and no 'Bad'. I guess you might think I am biased, but I can honestly tell you, this album is something very special. Some gorgeous songs, and I mean gorgeous. If you like the slightest smattering of Soul Music, you really need this album. Ace are excellent at getting royalties to these guys. The sleevenotes are beautifully constructed. This man is THE real Soul man whose opinions and taste run in parrallel with my own. 'Soul' mates if you like (although Dave's knowledge runs a great deal deeper than my own and I respect you for that my friend).

Tracks on offer here? Well, the Ruby Andrews song is gorgeous, the Knight Brothers is a classic, Irma Thomas is one you may well know. Hell, just go get a copy. Wonderful, wonderful, stuff. A real Soul treasure and something to be very proud of. Get better mate. That's an order!

Dave Godin's Message

• Ace Records

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• Maysa - Smooth Sailing / Gwendolyn Joy - Love is... / Avani - The Real Thing

MaysaGwendolyn JoyAvani

Well the Sista's are taking over the Soul House! Come on guys, get some product out there! LOL

Maysa, I was lucky enough to meet briefly at a Ledisi gig in London a couple of years ago. All viewed through a haze of beer, so I hope I behaved myself! LOL Helped her find a cab. She was very nice. The thing with Maysa is she is incapable of making a bad record. If she sang my local Chinese takeaway menu, she'd do it with Soul and feeling! There isn't a filler track on this album. Quality from start to finish. People who have visited the site talk to me about her in glowing terms. I think that it is due to her tender and considered vocal delivery. Not schmaltzy, very disciplined, and full of Soul and Jazz overtones. How does this rate with her other albums? Well, they are all of the highest quality, so really there is no comparison. Not many artists out there that you can go buy any of their albums 'blind' and be satisfied from start to finish every time. A gem of a CD this is. As essential as oxygen. Just go buy this and enjoy it. Contender for album of the year. I have picked the song 'Soul Child', however, I could have picked anything on offer here. Highly recommended....

...and talking of an album of the year, blimey, Expansion have come up with a remarkable double header. Gwendolyn Joy's song 'What I See In You' made the chart at the site a couple of months back as it was featured on a compilation album called 'New Soul Heaven'. This is another album without any fillers. In a way, this is the type of album I was hoping the latest Anita Baker might be like. Anita's album is a fine offering, however, I did get the feeling that the first take on that album might have a little more of a cutting edge. Having to re-record the album all over again just seemed to have knocked the stuffing out of the material a little. This new artist is going to do very well for herself and so she should do on the strength of this album. I have added the 'See In You' song here again as it does give the listener an insight as to just what they are going to have in their player after they pick up a copy, and pick up a copy they must. If you bought this and the Maysa albums, you will be very happy bunnies. Great releases, both on Expansion....

....and last but not least, Dome Records have found themselves an excellent new singer to add to their roster. Avani has been very clever in as much as she has managed to bridge the gap between the Soul purist and the fan of the New R&B sound. I can hear songs on this set that could easily make the pop charts, and I can also hear tunes that might make, say, my year end Top Twenty here. Managed by the ex Loose Ends manager Tony Hall, ex-Loose Ender, Carl McIntosh weighs in, along with the excellent Rahsaan Patterson on the remake of that groups old song 'Watching You'. What a great remake. Better than the original. My other favourites here are the melodic 'The Waiting's Over' and the PY favourite 'Something On My Mind'. My daughter loves this album. If you can get a child to like material like this, then the artist is already onto a winner. She even remembers the melodies after the CD is out of the player! Can't say that about a great deal of the stuff that masquerdaes as 'music' in the Top Twenty thesedays. A nice release that will please most folks who are even remotely interested in this music. As far as Avani goes, well very much of a case of 'watch this space'.

Expansion Records Dome Records

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• Jill Scott - Beautifully Human / Trina Broussard - Same Girl

Jill ScottTrina Broussard

Here are two albums that I have sat looking at for the last two weeks, wondering whether to add them to the site or not. The reasons are the same for both outings. In places the music meanders a little, however, when the songs hit high spots, they hit very high spots. One thing that both of these women have in common are their amazing vocal ranges. Quite exceptional in each case.

A very good friend once remarked to me (regarding CD's thesedays) is, in his opinion, far too many tracks appear on many modern releases. Jill Scotts album contains 16 tracks. Several of very high quality and a couple of 'fillers', in my humble opinion. Let's ignore those and go to the real 'nuggets' here. 'The Fact Is (I Need You)' is a lovely downbeat ballad, perfectly suited to Jills personal vocal delivery. 'Golden' will be many peoples favourite, perfect for the modern dancefloor. 'Talk To Me' is a lovely, well almost, stepper, whilst 'Whatever' and 'My Petition' are pretty decent offerings. My personal favourite is the O'Jays sampled single 'Family Reunion'. That song is one of my favourite O'Jays songs and Jill utilises the sample very cleverly whilst, almost narrating, a family gathering round her place. Worth the price of the CD alone. You need this album....well at least half of it! LOL.

Trina Broussard's album is a very similar story. You need the album, however you need this album for about four tracks. The rest she works hard at, however, the material leaves her a very blank musical canvas to work with. Onto the positive. The opener 'These Are The Days', is a very catchy melody as is the title song 'Still The Same Girl'. That melody gets stuck in the grey matter and you cannot shift it once it has embedded itself. Great song. The real tour de force has to be the very Anita Baker sounding 'Dreamin' Of One'. That is one of the tunes of the year. After that the album makes some nice noises, however, I found myself drifting as a listener...that was until the final song 'No Way Out'. Wow, what a great piece of music. Almost Samba in style, why didn't they get this excellent singer making more of this type of material on this set is a mystery to this old scribe. Woke me right up! LOL. An essential purchase for the tunes mentioned. Trina will become a big star at some stage in the future. This is a good building block and bodes well for the future. Jill Scott? Well the World is her oyster as they say.

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• Rahsaan Patterson - After Hours / Bettye Swann - Bettye Swann

Rahsaan PattersonBettye Swann

Rahsaan Patterson is a particular favourite singer in this house. My daughter always says to me, when I have one of his CD's on in the house, 'Dad, is this Stevie Wonder?' That's my girl! LOL I guess Rahsaan would be quite touched by that. Hell, compared to Stevie Wonder, not bad for a start is it? Stevie's new album has been put back to November. No surprise there! Personally, I have loved all of Rahsaan's album's. When I first heard 'Don't Want To Lose It' from his first album, I thought I had heard one of the tracks of the Nineties. Didn't have a website at that point, so I couldn't put into words the real pleasure of first hearing that song...or maybe I could onto paper, but there would be no-one to listen!! LOL. This third album from the man is a lovely offering. Dome Records are an, almost, kite mark for quality releases thesedays. Pick of the bunch here? Well the opener, 'The One For Me', is part of this man's trademark in as much as, there is a tune, a great lyric and some lovely key changes in a Modern Dancer. Talking of key changes, 'The Best' is a real Stevie soundalike. 'Don't Run So Fast' has a lovely lyric. A very personal one I believe. There is a 'hidden track', so I will go off to find Dr. Watson and go in search of this villain, wherever he may lurk! LOL. You can buy any of this singers albums, they are all pure quality, and that is in short supply thesedays. Nice one Santosh & Peter. Dome Records link further down the page for more information.

The Bettye Swann compilation I have been criminally ignoring since it's arrival here a couple of months ago (Sorry Kelly). Bettye has a lovely vocal delivery, which is very distinctive in a modern space in time where many singers sound so much like their contemporaries. Bettye's work covers so many bases. In the same way that Aretha could sing the local telephone directory and give your neighbours address a Soulful feel, Bettye has the same excellence in her delivery. In a way, she has a childlike quality in her vocal tones, perhaps in the same way Minnie Riperton and Candi Staton have/had. Personal opinon, that's all. Funny thing about Bettye's choice of songs is they sometimes verge on a 'Country' feel. These are supposed to be two juxtaposed genre's, however, my personal belief is Soul is one styling, Country isn't too far behind, and vice versa. Two brothers and sisters of different colours singing about life, that's all. Anyhow, there are 22 songs on offer here. You have versions of, even the BeeGees 'Words' in here. This is a very 'thoughtful' compilation that deserves any true Soul followers attention. I got to track 22 and fell in love with the song 'Traces'. Never heard that before. Soul with a capital 'S'. Thanks for 'keeping this man on his toes' regarding this set Kelly. You obviously have far more trained ears than this old fool....'Sorry did somebody say something?'....out on Honest Jons Records in the U.K., shortly.

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• Vick Allen - Old School...New Flava / Eliane Elias - Dreamer

Vick AllenElaine Elias

You couldn't get two more musically juxtaposed albums here, if you tried. One is right from the heart of Mississippi, the other is several thousand miles south of there from Brazil, although recorded in New York. What both of these albums have in common is their excellence.

Vick Allen is a new name to me, however, the sleevenotes do have a few familiar names from the Malaco stable. Vocally, he is set somewhere between Willie Clayton and Al Green. Touches of Tommy Sims in parts as well. He does have a distinctive voice in his own right, however. Those references are just guidelines. Vick wrote many of the songs on offer here. There are some nice melodies penned by the late Van McCoy and Ray Parker Jnr, in the form of 'Giving Up' and 'Mr Telephone Man' respectively. His version of 'A World Where No One Cries' (a Bobby Womack / Harold Payne tune) is quite lovely. Rich Cason takes the helm on many of the offerings on this excellent album. Folks say they don't make the 'real deal' anymore. Go check this album and tell me that is the case. I have gone for the Willie Clayton / R Kelly style steppers song here entitled 'Let's Dance', however, you pays your money, you takes you choice. 'Marry Me' is quite lovely. A very fine album of the real deal.

Eliane Elias's album couldn't be more different. If you liked the Burt Bacharach and Ronald Isley (who recently suffered a stroke in London, and his wife Angela Winbush is here to keep him company right now), you will love this album. I am listening to this set whilst I am writing this review. Personally, I love Brazilian music, so I make no apologies for saying this is one of the best albums around right now. If an artist is going to make an album of mainly covers, this is the way to do it. Forget the Rod Stewart's and Michael Buble's of this World. Here is a lesson for you guys. This is perfect music for that Summer afternoon in the park. Musically, I guess I had to go for the lovely 'Movin' Me On', as I love the vocal tones of Vaneese Thomas, who weighs in on background vocal chores on this song. A highly underrated singer in her own right. If you want an album of winners from the starting post to the finish line, well, here you have it. Nice melodic company whilst my girls are away on vacation! Boy, do I miss them.

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• Swing Out Sister - Where Our Love Grows / Incognito - Adventures In Black Sunshine / Daniel Austin - Confidence In You / Gladyz E. Thomas - G.E.T.

Swing Out SisterIncognito

Daniel AustinGladyz E. Thomas

So much new material has arrived in the last few days here that a vacation has suddenly become appealling! LOL I love this music and it would be great to listen to each album several times. All of these four offerings are excellent and I would recommend them to any of you guys. You just need to approach the styling that appeals to you, personally. I love most styles of Black music so here goes...

Swing Out Sister almost fly the flag for those who look to the Sixties halcyon days of the large productions...almost those who yearn for the Jim Webb, Burt Bacharach, Dusty Springfield type of offerings. Well, of it's type, this album is a classic. Gorgeous from start to finish. The songs are very strong, bordering on classics (and that is not an exaggeration). If you stick this CD in your stereo and play track 8, and get the same emotional response that greeted this listener, you will need to take a break from whatever you are doing and go and lie down! In short 'Let The Stars Shine' is a masterpiece. The rest of the album ain't half bad either. Just trying to think of a better album this year so far.....no can't think of one....

Incognito have matured to a point that you can pick up anything by these guys thesedays and you know you will get pure quality bordering, at times, on genius. Bluey really has a fine knack of cherry picking a melody from somewhere that you think you have heard from someplace else, although this is generated from within the man himself. You get eveything with the man. Great songs, top drawer fusion and fine vocalists, some making their debut. The brilliant Maysa is back on board and Bluey has found a diamond in Tony Momrelle (whose vocal stylings aren't a million miles away from a certain Frank McComb). Whatever folks might say about Bluey, he certainly is an equal opportunities employer! LOL I have met the man and I won't have a bad word said about him. Really, really nice person. Well done Dome for keeping him on his toes and in your fine (overworked) fold!

On to number three in this musical chessboard and, low and behold, onto the doormat popped the Daniel Austin album. This was sent by a nice woman called Lucy, who represents the man's label. I was very interested as much of the product Lucy sends me is of a high quality. Daniel has an almost tender delivery, which is unusual as this is, for the largest part, a dance album. The opener 'Let Me In' sets the standard throughout. High quality singing, very danceable and cleverly constructed. My favourite dancer here is the excellent 'Something About You', that is already receiving airplay here in the U.K. Recommended.

To square....well the square,,,,here is a mini album from the daughter of the excellent Lamar Thomas and Judy Taylor. On board on this offering, also, is the excellent Patrick Adams. Some nice production work on this 6 track album, which includes Gladyz' nice take on her parents classic 'You Can't Blame Love'. Gladyz has a nice vocal delivery and will have a great future in the industry, after all she comes from a fine musical family. Available from CD Baby right now...four great slices of Soul music to get your audible teeth into.

By the way, I feel I must mention that the site will be dedicated to Ray Charles for a couple more weeks. It would be an unforgivable crime to forget his enormous contribution to this music, so if your album cover isn't on the main page for a week or so, well I still have my hat off to the great man. Hope you'll understand. One month dedicated to the great man. Still can't believe he is gone. Respect brother Ray.

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• Angie Stone - Stone Love / The Sunburst Band - Until The End Of Time

Angie StoneSunburst Band

Angie Stone is very frustrating.....frustrating in the nicest possible way! Everybody loves her work with The Sequence, Vertical Hold and Devox. With every subsequent solo release, the press sheets that precede the album releases contain a list of artists that you look at and say to yourself 'Oh my God, this is going to be awful! The business has done a number on the woman'! Funny thing is, once you have gotten over the line-up, the end product is quite excellent on each subsequent offering. Angie's last album was on a par with her first outing, although I must confess, if I hear 'I Wish I Didn't Miss You Anymore' one more time I will scream! Jazz FM played that into extinction, which is a shame as it is a nice song (some nice royalties for the O'Jay's, hopefully, however). So what of this album? Well, I am a weird man in as much as I don't need several listens to get a grip with the music. This is Angie's best album to date, in my humble opinion. I don't know how this fine singer handles the 'suits', but whatever she does, more power to your elbow Angie. She seems to drag the 'Soul' out of the most unlikely sources and this album contains some of the results of her musical political willpower. I mean Snoop Dogg? Well it must have felt like singing Country and Western for the man on the song 'I Wanna Thank Ya'. Lovely stuff. There is something about Angie's vocal delivery that really appeals to so many folks out there. When my wife walks into the room, if Angie is on the stereo, she sure knows it. 'Play that again' etc. Angie's delivery really appeals to women (and a few of us male girls! LOL). As you guys probably already know by now, I love the mellow material and my personal favourites here are the gorgeous 'You're Gonna Get It' and 'You Don't Love Me'. I know that Christmas is six months away, however, pencil in your calendar and pick up a copy of this album for the folks close to you. Well done for not going down the usual musical routes thesedays, missus. You have my vote!

The Sunburst Band are onto their second album right now. This is a pure dance album, which is unusual for this site, however, this is pretty much 'State Of The Art' in this format. Dave Lee is otherwise known as Joey Negro (what is wrong with Dave Lee?...must change my alter ego to Captain Scarlet! LOL). Dave, sorry Joey, has put together a 'must have' album for those who want to get out on the dancefloor. This isn't an album of beats that you usually hear banging out of the side doors of a Ford Escort. This is much more sophisticated than the tripe that appeals to the, Burberry Capped, Chatham Native. Joey has recruited the likes of the fantastic Linda Clifford, on the excellent dancer 'Twinkle', Chaka's sister Taka Boom and both of the ex Chic singers, Norma Jean and Lucy Martin! The copy I have here is a review copy, so I have to credit Steve Hobbs (at Blues and Soul magazine) for filling in with the informational gaps. Very grateful for that one, Steve. The title track is Joey's version of Paulinho Da Costa's tune from 1979. Word has it that the writing credits all go to Joey. I am sure that that is a sleeve error, as this is pretty much a 'like for like' rendidtion. Loads of sampling going on, to good effect. Highly recommended.

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• Ann Sexton - Anthology / Nu-Motion Klique - Grand Behaviour Volume 1

Ann SextonNu Motion Klique

Two albums that are both new, one from a woman whose Seventies material has just surfaced on CD, the other from a new group out of Pennsylvania.

Ann Sexton is a fine vocalist out of South Carolina. Her two albums and various singles sell for high prices these days, so a big thank you to the guys at Soul Brother Records for getting Ann's material to a wider audience. Vocally, Ann sits somewhere between the stylings of Dorothy Moore and those of Candi Staton. There is some excellent material here, which provokes the listener to wonder why she didn't make further successful inroads into the music business. There are some lovely dancers on here including 'Colour My World Blue' and 'You Got To Use What You Got', a track that would grace any Modern Soul dancefloor. Some great Southern Soul material here, especially when Ann drops down in tempo. 'Come Back Home' is about as Soulful as it gets. My personal favourite here is 'I'm His Wife (You're Just A Friend)', an impassioned plea to 'the other woman' to leave her man alone. Quite what Ann is up to thesedays, who knows? She may be singing in her local church or undertaking the impossible task of bringing up her kids (LOL). Whatever she is doing, she will find a whole new set of fans discovering her fabulous material. Great CD.

Nu-Motion Klique's CD I had thrust into my mucky mits on a trip to the, now shut down, radio station 24/7. The deejay Alan Jay said to me 'You need to hear this'. I am ashamed that I have been so pre-occupied with other work that I have criminally neglected this excellent offering. Nu-Motion Klique are a seven piece band, three musicians and four fine vocalists. This is either an extremely long CD single, or a mini album. There are eight tracks on offer here. One is an intro and one of the songs, 'Participation', comes in two versions. This is a track that has echoes of the Fatback Band in a 'Wicky Wacky' stylee. Best description of that song is weird and wonderful! The variety of material here covers all bases. The song 'The Last Time' has a very Drizabone vibe going on, whilst 'Maybe Next Time' has echoes of Roy Ayers Seventies material. The two songs that really impressed this old man were the downtempo numbers 'Nov. 23' and the very Minnie Ripertonesque 'Melody In My Mind'. This album bodes very well for this groups recording future. Worth investigating and available from Crazy Beat Records right now.

• Soul Brother Records

• Crazybeat Records

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• Teena Marie - La Dona / Adriana Evans - Nomadic

Teena MarieAdriana Evans

I didn't think back in that grey old January here in London, that we would be able to top last year for new music. Well, 5 months in and, in this grey old May here in London! LOL, the chart is full and this great material keeps on coming. Time for the sista's out there to take the driving seat, and very much in 4th gear are these two women.

Teena Marie is a 'kind of' Stateside Dusty Springfield. Styles, poles apart, however, what these women have in common is they have been so seamlessly immersed into the Soul genre, that no-one questions their validity, credibility, ability, call it what you will. They are both part of the R & B tapestry today and quite rightly so. Where Dusty sang her heart out and was the archetypal 'girl next door', Teena just ooses sensuality. A couple of years back there were reports of a new album from this fine singer. The album was to be entitled 'Black Rain' and was posted at Teena's website, although official copies never arrived. A few promo's made it to these shores here, and were hailed as the best thing since sliced something or other. The album was exactly that. Two years or so down the line and Teena has a deal with Cash Money Records through Universal and that is how things ought to be. How a singer of this calibre is allowed to be left on the musical touchlines is a mystery to me. Doesn't the industry have ears? I guess not. This is becoming a little like a mathematical calculation in my daughters homework. 'How many Westlife's or Boyzone's does it take to make a Teena Marie?' If your answer doesn't pass a million, you have failed your exams! Much of this album comprises of the tunes originally destined for 'Black Rain', however, there are several bonus balls in here, one of which is the forthcoming single 'I'm Still In Love', which is outstanding. Outstanding is a very good description of this set. I won't ramble on about which is my favourite track on this album. Below I have added 'Hit Me Where I Live'. If you like this song, the rest is of an equal quality. Very like the Burt and Ron album, this is solid all the way through. It is so solid you could underpin your house with this stuff! Lovely, lovely album. What will come of this set is subject to conjecture. My fear is that it is so strong, it will be sidelined and we will be looking back on 2004 and wondering why this wasn't received with a fanfare. Please prove me wrong and go buy this album. Buy it, 'because you are worth it!' LOL.

http://www.teenamarie.com/main.html

Adriana Evans released her debut album back in 1997. Seven years....is it really that long ago? That album has turned out to be a timeless classic, and so it should be. Adriana could have taken the easy option and go for the bland R & B that reproduces a 'sound' but not a melody. 'Looking For A Love' from that album was one of my daughters favourites from that set. Three years old and singing her heart out! Bless the child. So, seven years on, what of this new album? Well, I received an e-mail from a guy called Paul Stewart, who seems to be handling Adriana's affairs right now. Paul alerted me to this release and I asked him for a review copy. Looking at the sleeve artwork, it appears that the album has yet to reach a major label, although you can order a copy from this excellent singers website. Adriana has been travelling and I guess this is why we have had to wait for a new album from her. 'Nomadic' is a very nice album. 'Remember Love' is a fine latinesque starter for, what proves to be, a very nice main course. There are several highlights here, most of which arrive at the outset and the sunset of this album. Adriana's vocals are in fine fettle, so if there are any companies out there who might want to release this album here in Europe, they ought to get their asses in gear. Great to have you back Adriana.

http://www.adrianaevans.com/

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• Lamont Dozier - Reflections Of.. / Tim Dillinger - Love Is On My Mind

Lamont DozierTim Dillinger

If anyone out there has a bad word to say about Lamont Dozier, well they'll have me to deal with! LOL. Lamont's albums are some timeless gems that I have collected since the day he made his first solo offering. He is, quite simply (as his press sheets state) the number one songwriter in the U.S. What concerns me a little is that supposition is based around his work at the Motown stable. After the Invictus adventure, he made some of the finest solo material ever released, in my humble opinion. I believe, apart from his 'Prophecy' outing back in '75, I have all of his music right here. My most treasured possessions if you like. As for his Motown writings, well I was only 14 years old back in 1970. His music was part of the cultural fabric of the family house prior to that period. The Four Tops, the Supreme's, so many classic songs that played through the radio. Who wrote them, who sang them, well I was only a kid. They were just great to sing along to. If I could slightly change a quote from the Winstons song 'Colour Him Father'. 'I love these songs, and I don't know why, just I'll need them here till the day I die'. Well that sums up the whole scenario. I was sent this CD by a very nice woman who works at Jam Right Records. I saw Lamont at the Festival Hall here in London 3 years ago. That was shortly after the September 11th attacks. A lot of artists had not travelled from the U.S. after that disaster. Lamont made his way here and was, an almost M.C. for several U.K. acts. Very gracious he was too, to many of the singers. He sang his heart out on some of his own material and let the new kids on the block do their stuff with his own Motown writings. This album was on sale in the foyer. I didn't pick up a copy and I wish now I had. At that time it was called 'An American Original'. Lamont says, in his promotional material for this album, that, when he wrote many of these Motown classics, they were written in a ballad format, initially. That is what you have here. Is his voice in fighting form? Yes it is. This is a lovely album, almost Lamont's, 'Ron Isley and Burt Bacharch' set of his own work. His musical front line arsenal includes Paulinho Da Costa, Paul Jackson Jnr, Freddie Washington and Gerald Albright. This album is a lovely take on his Motown material. Every track you can listen to in a new light. If you remember his 1976 remake of 'It's The Same Old Song', you have an idea of what is going on here. Real instruments and a singer that could move a mountain with his vocal delivery. Check out Lamont's version of 'This Old Heart Of Mine'. Absolutely gorgeous. I spoke to a Northern Soul afficianado at his concert. Did he know his stuff! However, sometimes we can't see what is standing, musically, right in front of us. That single in your bag may be the rarest thing on the planet, however, we shouldn't ignore the 'This Old Heart Of Mine's' of this World. They are the milestone's that keep the musical World revolving. Now shut up Toby! LOL

From the old to the new. Tim Dillinger is a real nice guy. I know that as we have been gassing on the Net over the last few months. He, originally, sent me a CDR single from this album a couple of months back. That was very nice and I posted some copies off to some of the better deejays here in London. Tim has worked his backside off getting this album together. Worries as to how it might retail, fighting the women at his local Post Office! LOL, all added to his Stateside blood pressure. Tim sent me a couple of additional tracks to take a listen to from this set. I really liked those. Then I had to fight the Post Persons here to finally drag the package from the mailman. Was it all worth it? Well, I didn't have my copy here until this morning. Peter Young at Jazz FM got his bounty before this old man, so my first preview of the rest of the set came via the radio yesterday. PY played 'Can't Help But Say' and I have to say that, along with the Carl Thomas tune, this is the best thing I have heard this year thus far. When I have finished writing this I am heading straight for the Top 20 page at the site. This is, very much, an album of 2004. If you doubt that, check out 'In Your Arms'. One of the best ballads I have heard in ages. If you are patient, when one of the two site streams free up, don't listen to my ramblings, listen to Tim. This is lovely stuff. Tim Dillinger will have a very promising future (and is also a bit of a fan of Teena Marie...get an idea of where the man is coming from musically?). A very, very fine debut and out on Cafe De Soul Records very soon. What a great musical year this is turning out to be.

some links...

http://www.lamontdozier.com/

tim dillinger

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• Carl Thomas -Let's Talk About It / Richard Hartley & Soul Resurrection - Love Is All We Need

Carl ThomasRichard Hartley

The great thing about Soul Music is how it creeps up on the listener 'left field'. Just had a great weekend with my wife and daughter and tried several times to listen to these albums. In between the 'what are we going to do today's' and 'Dad, I am hungry's', I tried to listen to these two albums, but without much success! LOL. Sunny Monday morning and the place is quiet, so I got to listen to these CD's in more detail. I was really enjoying the Carl Thomas album, thinking this is going to be in my favourite albums of the year in 2004, when the song 'Dreamer' came along at track 8. I had to stop doing what I was doing and keep hitting the repeat button. This is the best song I have heard this year. If you are into Soul Music, just buy this CD blind. Even if you hate the rest of the set (which you won't by the way as it is consistent all the way through), you just HAVE to have this song. This is one of the best melodies I have heard for years. Thanks for the recommendation Charles. I owe you bigtime on this one.

Where do you go after that? Well Richard Hartley's album will please those Soul Music fans who like a little variety. The whole set kicks off with a dance tune. Those of you who like a little Soulful House with a Gospel tinge, will love 'Everyday Is A New Day'. 'Everything's Alright' is a lovely stepper which will appeal to the 'Real Soul Fan'. 'Mine All Mine' adds an almost 'rare groove' quality to the proceedings, 'Crying In The Dark' is a nice ballad, however, my personal favourite is the groove led, 'Save Me'. Female vocal backgrounds on a lovely musical backdrop. Really, this is very much a case of, 'you pays your money you takes your choice'. Something for everybody on this album. Richard has worked with Candi Staton in the past, I am told. Recommended.

I don't have too many sleevenotes on either of these CD's, although I know both of these sets are available from Amazon. Very highly recommended, as I said. Oddly, both of these outings have a Marvin Gaye'esque sound to the proceedings. 20 years on since the man's passing, he still influences many of todays musicians, and long may that continue. Musical longevity.

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• Debra Killings - Surrender / Alyson Williams - 'It's About Time'

Debra KillingsAlyson Williams

Here is a very interesting new artist (although she was part of a nineties band called Modest Fok, who released an album back in 1992) that I stumbled across reading Steve Hobbs column in the last Blues and Soul magazine. I was intrigued by his review, in as much as he seemed to be in two minds regarding some of the songs here. If this woman can provoke a critical response for a reviewer, then she obviously has something, musically, to say. I got on the Net and ordered a copy from Amazon, and the CD fell on the doormat a couple of days ago. What you have here is, in the main part, a Gospel offering, interspersed with a couple of songs that would easily make today's pop charts, and Debra certainly fills the looks requirement of many of the majors out there. Debra certainly can sing. She can play as well, which makes her a cut above many of todays chart artists. The opener, 'Message In The Music', really gets the bass bins trembling in the nicest possible way. The ballad 'A Change' is absolutely gorgeous, drenched in the real deal, whilst if the Blues is your thing, 'Ain't Nobody' is tailor made for the discerning listener. My personal favourite is the beautiful melody, simply called 'Love'. A better song would be hard to find in 2004. Pleased I picked up that Blues and Soul (even if Steve is an Arsenal fan and I am a United one!). Respect on this one my friend. Goes to show that, as the O'Jays once sang, 'music is the healing force of the World'! Debra Killings is a very interesting new singer / songwriter, that I am sure we will be hearing more of in the future. Best description? Well somewhere between India Irie and...well Debra Killings! LOL. Now where is the repeat button for track 2.....

Alyson Williams is a very fine singer. She burst on to the Soul scene during the latter part of the Eighties with her song 'Yes We Can Can', although the Soul fan will know of her prior to those days as part of the group High Fashion. What amazes me regarding the whole Soul side of the Def Jam set-up, from that era, is the amazing fan loyalty base with each of these artists. Tashan has an amazing following, with one site visitor in current negotiations with the man, with a view to Tashan singing at his upcoming wedding! I have been in touch with Chuck Stanley, who told me some interesting anecdotes regarding his 1985 album as well. The last I heard of Alyson was Chuck telling me he was going round to her place to hang drapes! Now Alyson returns with this fine set of songs that depict the complexities regarding relationships. Her 1989 album saw Alyson very much on the uptempo tip, whilst here the offerings are far more 'considered', for want of a better word. This is a very downtempo affair and very welcome that is too in these days of the trivial doodlings the companies expect us to part with our hard earned cash for. Tony Terry duets with Alyson on two of the songs on show here. Tony has been in touch as well...talk about networking! LOL. I won't do a track by track review here. Once you have this on your stereo at the musical 'kick off', by the time the final whistle blows, you want to hear the replays. Lovely album. My personal favourite here is the Bluesy 'Make It Through The Night'. A lovely song. Alysons vocal stylings are top drawer. The songs are strong, additionally. How many albums can you say that of thesedays? Out on Expansion Records. Check Soul Brother or Crazy Beat for copies. 'It's About Time'? Sure is Sista.

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• Jazz Crusaders - Soul Axess / Will Downing - Emotions

Jazz CrusadersWill Downing

If you read the article on the Opinion page I penned recently, concerning 'Smooth Jazz', you will be well aware of my feelings regarding that particular genre. I spoke online to Tom Browne last week, who is disillusioned with the whole scene....so he is not recording, but getting on with the mundane schedule of daily life. This is the man who had us all 'Funkin For Jamaica' a couple of decades back. What a waste! He echoed my written sentiments, in as much as, it seems that the industry is trying to remove the Blackness from the music. In effect, removing the inventor. Those artists that remain consistent with their own careers get compartmentalised depending on whatever the fad of the day is. These two artists here are currently 'shovelled' into the 'Smooth Jazz' sections of your local store, however, one is a fusion band, and the other is a Soul Singer. If they don't speak out, they are allowed to sell their product. What the powers that be don't understand, is these guys are head and shoulders above much of the rest of that new musical throwaway term. If you remove the inventor, you remove the invention, after which your only option is to look retrospectively at the music and that isn't good for anyone, especially those newer artists attempting to express themselves. Here endeth....LOL.

The Crusaders have been recording material for over 40 years together (in varying line-ups). They have experimented with many forms of Jazz and have not allowed themselves to get distracted by whatever the latest musical fashion is. The line-up here is quite spectacular and features Wayne Henderson, Bobby Lyle, Philip Ingram, Roy Ayers, Jean Carne, Ronnie Laws, Wilton Felder, Everette Harp and Nathan East amongst many others. This album, initially, reminded me of the Crusaders of the Seventies, a period where they were the main fusion outfit around and released the classic album 'Free As The Wind'. This new set is a real delight, with my favourite cut being 'Life In The City (Really Turns Me On)', which features the excellent Jean Carne on vocals. This song ought to be a Modern Soul monster, reminding me very much of one of those Norman Connors classics of the late Seventies. Fine, fine stuff. There are 3 other very nice vocal tracks here, however, don't ignore the instrumental tracks, which hark back to the very best of their fusion heyday. A lovely surprise (but not unexpected looking at the squad they put out!).

Will Downing may be pigeon-holed alongside Rod Stewart and Jamie Cullum at your local store, however, he will be around long after 'Smooth Jazz' has fallen by the wayside. Will is a Soul Singer, plain and simple, with a fine, fine vocal delivery. As usual, I am late in reviewing this. LOL. I only received my review copy last week. To be honest with you, I believe this to be Will's finest album to date. His arrangements are second to none, with each track very much 'song led'. 'King Of Fools' appeared on the Johnson and Branson album reviewed here at the beginning of last year, whilst Will covers the classics 'Daydreamin' and 'Hey There Lonely Girl' with a very fresh approach. The song 'Rhythm Of You And Me' has already become enormous in the Modern Soul rooms across the U.K. My personal favourite here is the gorgeous 'Beautiful To Me', a track that I have placed straight into the Top 10 at the site. I always look forward to a new Will Downing album. They always have a consistency that is lacking in much of the product out there. A very, very nice Soul...and I mean Soul....album throughout. Looking forward to picking Will's albums up from the Soul Section at some stage in the near future! This all gets very confusing for an old girl like me! LOL

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• Sheree Brown - '83

Sheree Brown

Sheree Brown got in touch with me around 3 years ago, after coming across the site and finding her page here. Being the fool that I am, I got her date of birth wrong! Not a good start on my part. LOL Back at that time, she and Patrice Rushen were working on a project called Sisters Being Positively Real. Sheree sent me the album, which I liked and reviewed here. At the time, I mentioned to her that she ought to think about recording a solo album. Problem with me is I am an old nag and I went on a little! LOL.

Things went quiet and I figured she was busy with their company or maybe family chores, so I guessed a new set wasn't in the offing. It seemed to me a real shame, as, apart from having a fantastic singing voice, the market is now looking favourably on the singer / songwriter (Norah Jones etc). I think this is due to a backlash against the musical tripe that has been heaped upon us recently.

Sheree's press pack shows that she has not been resting in the decades since her last album, 'The Music'. She has contributed to movie soundtracks, written for the duo Zhané, performed around the World and produced a music video for the Police Activities League, honouring the Police Officers who perished in the September 11th tragedy of 2001.

Sheree got back in touch a couple of weeks ago and, out of the blue, she announced the arrival of this new album. Maybe the nagging on my part worked after all! She said, in her e-mail, it was all my fault, and for once I was very happy to take the blame for my actions! LOL.

It is so great to hear this songwriter's melodies again. The 22 years, that have passed since her Capitol albums, haven't effected Sheree's vocal abilities in the least. Musically, if anything, Sheree has become more Bluesy and Folksy in her melodic approach. Of the uptempo numbers, 'I'd Rather Be In Love With You', 'Grown Folk Blues' and 'Day Crazy' do it for these old ears. You get a 2004 updated version of her evergreen 'It's A Pleasure' and an interesting African influenced track entitled 'Mother Drum', along with a songwriting collaboration with Syreeta on the song 'I Love You'. Phew! I have to admit that Sheree is in her element (my humble opinion) when she drops down to a ballad format, as her songwriting is allowed to come to the fore. 'Sometimes' is a simply gorgeous ballad. 'Love Is Forever' follows in a similar vein. My personal favourite on show here is the song 'Little Boy Blue', which borrows a little from the children's song 'London Bridge Is Falling Down'. Quite delightful.

I must admit that I find this a very difficult album to write about, as I have felt very close to this project in a strange way. All I do know is this a fine return to form. I hope that '84' will follow on next year. Thanks for including this old nag in the liner notes, by the way, Sheree. Now, how are we going to get you over to the U.K. for some tour dates? I feel some more nagging coming on! LOL.

The album will be available via Sheree's website, that is arriving shortly. It is also available at Amazon and CD Now. Check the links below.

CD NowAmazon

Brown Baby Entertainment Group

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• Van Hunt - Van Hunt / Willie Clayton - Changing Tha Game

Van HuntWillie Clayton

Van Hunt is a new name to me, and a very welcome addition to the scene is this new artist. Not sure of the man's roots although his influences are, obviously Sly and Stevie, although you can hear many other of the Soul greats gatecrashing at the influence party. Now this doesn't mean that he is another karaoke singer on the block. Something strange going on here, in as much as, the more you hear this album, the more it grows on you. The song 'Out Of The Sky' is a song Sly would have been proud to have written. Just when you think you have taken in a little of Curtis's influences, the man offers up 'What Can I Say (For Millicent)', which I know my daughter will say to me, 'Dad this sounds like Elton John'! She said that to me after listening to Tommy Sims's 'It Don't Matter To The Sun'. I sat her down and explained to her that 'Old Reg's' song 'Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me' was written about the slaves in the Deep South, and referred to the signs that indicated that the Slaves had to be into their living quarters and off the cotton plantations after the Sun had gone down. After that time, the land owners could do with them whatever they wished, if they were outdoors after dark. We have spoken a great deal about those awful days and borrowed books from the library. She now knows more that I do about the subject! LOL. Elton is currently enjoying success at the moment in the U.K. via his collaborations with Thom Bell back in the Seventies. Now I am not saying that Elton is ripping the Black Person off. Quite the contrary. I think he has a great deal of understanding regarding Black history. It is when the likes of Van Hunt record a tune, in the same way Tommy did, it ought to be understood that the likes of Tommy and Van are the proprieters of this music. Elton and his co-writer Bernie Taupin understand this as well. It is just that the rest of us don't. Listen to the tune and get those spinal shivers going on. A very good album, throughout, by a very interesting new artist. Not too deep I hope, my analysis. Do go buy this. Van isn't another 'new R & B soundalike'.

No lines drawn in the musical sand with Willie Clayton. He is plain and simply the real deal. The opening track did make me laugh, as Willie has his son on board, rapping, and he says to his kid in the song that he isn't a rapper, he is a singer! Nice one Willie and long may you remain that way. Back in 1987, Willie's song 'Your Sweetness' was one of the biggest songs on the Soul Scene here in the U.K. I believe that this is Willie's best offering since that 12" single hit the streets 17 years ago. He may have been influenced by the younger members of his family, which seems to have brought his 'Soul Sound' forward into the new millennium, without any loss of 'Soul face'. On show here is a lovely version of Leon Ware's song 'I Want You'. 'Love Zone' is simply delightful. 'Love Mechanic' will provide a musical oasis for the Soul purist, whilst there is a simply gorgeous version of Leroy Hutson's classic, 'So In Love'. For this old fool, the cream cut here has to be the infectious 'Keep Steppin'. A wonderful piece of Soul Music. Willie can sing many of the new kids on the block, off the block with ease. If you don't believe that, well bring 'em on, if you think you are vocally 'ard enough! LOL. An essential album for those who are into the real deal....and, no, I am not being paid to say that!

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• Aretha Franklin - So Damn Happy / Maya Azucena - Maya Who?

Aretha FranklinMaya Azucena

Aretha Franklin's album came out towards the end of last year. Really saddens me that artists such as Aretha and Earth, Wind and Fire, turned out two such great albums and the response was so underwhelming. Earth, Wind and Fire's album not being released in the U.K. was an outrage. Aretha's made it to the streets, however, the industry just isn't interested anymore. She doesn't fit todays disposable template and good for her. Aretha could sing you your local telephone directory and have you in tears. That is the measure of the woman. She has been around for years and is into her fifth decade of showing the newer artists how it should be done. Todays fad is the jazz karaoke singer. They will be long gone as a fashion, whilst Aretha will still be doing her thing. The bonus ball regarding this album is that the songs are strong too. Aretha is still outsinging any songstress out there, be they 20 or 70. A class of her own. I am a little late reviewing this and that was an intentional decision as I felt there would be many a reviewer shouting about this set from the rooftops. But there wasn't. Just check the title track and many of the Mary J. Blige contributions, which I have to say are exquisite. 'So Damn Happy' is a solid set. Perhaps one of the Queen Of Soul's finest offerings for years. Don't let this collection go the same way the fine Earth, Wind and Fire album has gone thus far. They are both outstanding and the rest of the industry should feel ashamed of themselves in not promoting these albums with more vigour.

Maya Azucena is a new artist to these old ears. If you pick up the CD, there is some Quicktime movie material showing interviews and show performances. She is starting out very nicely here. I guess she is influenced by Chaka, as I can hear some of her vocal inflections within her own delivery. This album has the feel of a 'first step along the way' for this young woman, which bodes well for the future. This isn't an Anita Baker's 'Rapture' album. Just a very competent first step along the way and I enjoyed the set immensly. For starters, the first track, 'Do You Really Wanna Party?' is quite excellent. Melodical and full of energy. There is a lovely version of Stevie's 'All In Love Is Fair', which leads me on to my personal favourite, the melodic 'Like No Other'. Maya Azucena. A name to look out for in the future (if the industry will allow us one! LOL).

...you can pick up maya's album here...

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• Stars On Broadway - Never Alone / Braxton Brothers - Rollin'

Stars On BroadwayBraxton Brothers

Last week was a little crazy, what with the radio interview and being sent some really strange music, and not knowing how, tactfully, I could tell the sender that the material wasn't quite right for the site, then these two albums came through the post. What a relief!

Stars On Broadway is the brainchild of one Dwayne Palmer. Dwayne brought together this fine group of singers, showcasing his writing abilities. I must confess, when I looked at the cover, I was expecting a selection of 'torch songs' as the sleevenotes let the purchaser know that a portion of the proceeds go to A.I.D.S. charities. This virus took a friend of mine from our midst a few years back, criminially, as the various treatments now available thesedays would have meant that my friend would still be alive today. His name was Malcolm Clarke. We worked together and he is missed by many of his colleagues.

So what of the music here? Well, if you like the Beverly Glen sound, you will like Dwayne's writings very much indeed. The singers, vocally are top drawer, with, perhaps, my personal favourite being Capathia Jenkins, although all of the other singers bring to the project a real soulful edge without being too schmaltzy. Favourite tunes? 'Good Lover' is a fine dancer, 'In You' is a tune that would sit very comfortably alongside any of the Beverly Glen material recorded by Anita Baker or Rosie Gaines. One tune reminds me very much of Billy & Sarah Gaines 'I Found Someone', that being 'Everything In My Life' ably, and almost Blue Eyed Soulfully, delivered by brother Robert H. Fowler. Really nice album here Dwayne and what a great charity as well. Essential for 2004 (even if the set was recorded in 2001!).

The Braxton Brothers are the acceptable face of 'smooth jazz' in my humble opinion. I have seen these guys live and there is no doubting their abilities. In fact, I would say these guys put a great deal of the 'smooth jazz' fraternity to shame, ability wise. Smooth Jazz is a weird animal. A few years back it would take the form of a guy playing sax over a pretty little drum beat. Ideal for elevators! LOL. Today it has turned into karaoke, with anyone from Robbie Williams to Rod Stewart covering jazz standards...covering them in what I am not quite sure...but covering them they do! The Braxtons just get on and do their thing and credit to the brothers for doing just that. This album comprises of some crisp instrumentals with vocal contributions from the underrated Jamie Hawkins and an excellent new vocalist called Martin Luther, whose vocals are quite excellent on the tune 'Love Is Crazy'. A very nice album that deserves to do very well. As for 'smooth jazz', well what an awful description for a genre that changed the face of popular music throughout the last century. If you told Miles that he was a 'smooth jazz artist', you would soon be picking yourself up off the floor! Enough said.

...Click here: CD Baby: STARS ON BROADWAY: Never Alone - hear and buy it at CD BABY...

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• Dottie Pearson - A House Made Of Love

Dottie Pearson

Back in the Disco boom in 1978, Dottie Pearson, a Dayton Ohio resident, (who used to perfom under the name of Dottie Peoples) recorded this fine album. Shelved for 26 years, this finally sees the light of day on the excellent Grapevine U.K. based label. I was wondering whether this ought to go on the 'Been Missed' page, however, if this is new to the general public, then new it is. The excellent Kev Roberts played this on his fine Northern Soul show on Solar a few months back. I know Steve Hobbs (Blues and Soul) has this set as his album of last year. The title track is one of those tunes that, when you first hear it, you drop whatever you are doing and stand by the radio waiting to hear the deejay tell you just who sang the tune. It is pure soulful bliss from start to finish. 'Bring It Over Baby' is another gem for your Soul Jewellry collection. I am not sure where and what Dottie is doing thesedays. If anyone out there knows her whereabouts, tell her there is a little guy in London who wants to say a big thank you for making this album. I know I am a little late in reviewing this set, but after 26 years, what is a couple of months between Soul Friends? You need this album.

One small point I would like to make regarding albums and 45's such as this is there does seem to be a tendency for some sections of the U.K. soul fraternity to hold material such as this close to their musical chests, covering labels and not telling people who the singers are. Put yourself in the artists place. If you do that, you are a) not giving them their dues and b) you are taking royalty money from them, additionally. Don't 'keep the faith'...'spread it'!

Thank you to everyone who got in touch to let me know that Dottie now performs Gospel msic thesedays. You can check out her website here:

http://www.dottiepeoples.com/

Check out Grapevine's retail website right here

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• Tashan & Fly By Nature / Rosie Gaines - You Gave Me Freedom

Tashan & Fly By NatureRosie Gaines

Well, guess we are well into the New Year right now. The Bacharach and Isley album is still boring my wife and daughter to death here! LOL. That is such a great album.

Just after Christmas, I took a call from a nice guy called Roy Williamson, who is the nucleus of a group called Fly By Nature here in the U.K. Whilst Tashan was here last summer, he and Roy hooked up. They recorded a few new songs, five of which were finished and he wanted to send then to me. I put him in touch with Chris Bangs who recorded the 'Soul Survivors' song at around the same time. The feedback on that tune has been quite amazing. Roy approached this great singer from a less dance orientated musical standpoint. Roys songwriting is quite excellent and, along with Bangsy's tune, lyrically, they are quite sublime. The five songs are all of the highest quality and I know Roy, Bangsy (and I) have a 'bee in our bonnet' regarding getting an album and a twelve out on this material at some stage in 2004. It is too good to be relegated to the touchlines. Roy is going out to the States to finish up some more material, which will be in more demand on it's release than, pretty much, anything to hit the stores this year by Soul fans. The news songs here are 'Hello My Love', I Can't Wait', Sweetest Thing', Brooklyn Dream' and 'Everything We Hope For'. By the way, as with the previous Tashan track here, the cover is only my representation of a possible album cover.

Rosie Gaines is one of the finest female singer / songwriters on the planet as we speak. I must admit, her period performing with Prince totally confused me. Was this the same woman who bought us the fine 'Caring' album in 1985, followed by the later released Patrick Moten collaboration 'No Sweeter Love'? I must admit, at one stage, believing that there were two Rosie Gaines! LOL The 'Closer Than Close' album was magnificent. Rosie then recorded a couple of songs for the About Time label in the U.K. and worked with the Fusion artist Curtis Ohlson. Then, frustrated by not receiving a deal with a major, released an album solely available off her Internet website. Phew!

In 2004, Rosie has landed a deal with the excellent U.K. label Dome Records. How this came about I don't know, but Peter and Santosh at the company must have worked a minor miracle. Now Rosie's career takes a different and more positive turn. Well this album is quite lovely. In many ways I would say (as they say in soccer commentaries in the U.K.), this an album of two halves! I do like the first half, however, it really does come into it's own in the second period. The kick off track 'Can't Get You Off My Mind', I heard a while back on Peter Young's excellent Jazz FM show. Very nice that is too (I thought that may have been the initial single). My favourites here are the, actual, forthcoming single 'Honeychild', which is reminiscent, a little, of the Bloodstone tune 'We Go A Long Way Back' (and quite excellent it is in it's own right), 'What The World Needs Now', 'My Man' and the gorgeous 'So In Love With You'. You pays your money and takes your choice, as for the rest of the album. All I would say, is you ought to pays your money. I don't think you will be disappointed.

One small gripe here are those folks who sample these artists without their permission. Rosie contacted me and asked me to take all of the soundfiles by her off the site as her music was being sampled all over the place and she was not receiving her dues. What a shame, as I believe that she would sell many more units if people could hear this excellent material here before buying.

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• Ronald Isley And Burt Bacharach - Here I Am

Isley Meets Bacharach

5th of January right now. Supposed to be 11th night of Christmas, however most folks are getting on with whatever they have to get on with. Christmas is well past for many of us. Guess I am still a kid at heart at 47! I hold on to this time of year right up until the very last minute. Something to do with the fact that, as the man upstairs would want it all year round, we all seem to be good to our brothers and sisters at least once a year.

Christmas is a strange time of year. Firstly, we forget what the whole occasion is supposed to be about, we wander round shopping complexes, looking for presents, fighting angry people and stock up for a month or so with food we wouldn't dream of eating in July (and drink for that matter!), for, what is in all intense and purposes, a weekend, and can't get to grips with an additional weekend being placed somewhere in midweek that totally throws us, timewise, which means that no-one can remember what the date is! Then there follows a feeling of depression. Down come all the decorations and...well what was that all about and how are we going to pay for it! Let's do it all again this time next year! LOL.

Well, one thing that has kept me completely calm and collected this festive season is this set of beautiful melodies. A very kind friend of mine bought me this album as a Christmas present, and, for want of a better phrase, this is a real musical treat. In fact, my wife and daughter have been begging me to take this album off the stereo for the last two weeks, not that it is bad, it's just the fact I have been playing it so much!

As a child, my mother was very much into Burt Bacharach's music. She bought Dionne's 'Walk On By' in the early Sixties and we would wait for the valve's to warm up on the radio player before listening to the 45. No Technics decks around then!

Burt Bacharach is an odd songwriter. He almost writes for the singer whose vocal tones are slightly off key, if that makes any sense? He, along with Hal David, have penned some genuine musical classics, which, as the song goes 'nobody can deny'! Lyrically, they relate to us on a very personal level, in the same way that Curtis Mayfield's lyrics and music affected the individual deeply.

Ronald Isley is also a genius in his own right. Ron's recent material has almost verged on the 'New R & B' tip, some of which have been, actually, quite pleasant in their own right. Ron has been around for several decades now, with his vocal stylings moving from a full on 'belting' delivery at Motown, to a far more considered intensity thesedays. In a way, Ron has moved himself into 'Bacharach' territory unknowingly. This album takes both of these guys onto a completely different level.

So what of this album, after all of those ramblings? Well, if you are sixteen or ninety four, this is, an almost, 'must have', timeless collection of interpretations. You might almost say that, these are the definitive versions of many of Burt's writings. I am not ashamed to say that this album moved me to tears on many days over the Yuletide period, whilst sitting in my rocking chair with a glass of beer. That is what this music is all about. There are no uptempo numbers, and, in an odd way, you yearn for there not to be. Melancholy, yes. Depressing? Quite the opposite. You simply have to have this album. It is sheer beauty. No release date in the U.K. right now, however, this ought to be available on the National Health Service....now where's the stereo...again?

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• Kalvin Bishop - Do What I Gotta Do / Phyllis Hyman - In Between The Heartaches

Kalvin BishopPhyllis Hyman

Well after, what could be the album of the last ten years (above), it says something about these two offerings that they can proudly hold their heads up high, quality wise.

If you wondered what Keni Burke was up to recently (which I did as Keni, along with Lamont Dozier are my two favourite Soul Artists), then look no further than Kalvin Bishop's fine new album. Apart from Christmas throwing us timewise, it is difficult to work out what falls into the best of 2003 or 2004. I just work on the basis of when I have finished my year end best, whatever comes along afterwards goes into the next year's listings. Kalvin has a delightful vocal delivery, with Keni contributing writing and production chores. Keni also weighs in on background vocals, additionally. You can, pretty well pick any tune here. I loved the repeating chorus of 'I Got What You Want' (very reminiscent of Gene Dunlap's 'It's Just The Way I Feel' from 1981, in a strange way) and the opener 'Tell Me It's Alright'. The jewel in the crown, however, has to be 'Over And Over Again', which gets so stuck into the grey matter and will not go away. That tune is not too dissimilar to the Temptations song 'Stay' and will definitely make my top ten for 2004. You find this song going round and round in your head all the time. Great to hear Keni's vocal's again. Very nice album.

Just before the holidays, Ralph Tee at Expansion Records, sent me this beautiful album by Phyllis Hyman. Another singer that could melt the hardest heart. What is fascinating about this album is it has a feel of an, almost, brand new album from this very missed woman. There is an almost tragic quality in some of Phyllis's delivery. You can feel her pain as she lives and breathes a songs lyrics. Ralph told me he is very proud of this album, and so he should be. I know from working at this site, the time and effort it takes just to put together a labour of love. This album surely is just that. If you like Phyllis Hyman, you will want this album. In fact you need it. So many unreleased gems and it is great to see her McCoy Tyner collaborations finally seeing the light of day on CD, especially, 'Love Surrounds Us Everywhere' (a personal favourite). Oddly, my favourite tune here is Phyllis's unreleased version of the Burt Bacharach chestnut 'In Between The Heartaches'...which as Julie Andrews might sing 'will bring us back to....' This is a very lovely album, a labour of love, and a fine testament to the woman. I wish Phyllis was still gracing the recording studio's of the World today.

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• Al Green - I Can't Stop / MeShell Ndegeocello - Comfort Woman

Al GreenMeshell Ndegeocello

You couldn't get two more juxtaposed Black artists here. Al Green is the real deal, whilst Meshell Ndegeocello is out there doing her own thing. You cannot compartmentalise the woman, which is why I really like her as a performer and songwriter. Both of these folks are highly regarded and worth their weight in gold.

The Al Green cover almost looks like a Sixties throwback. Anyone out there seen 'Catch Me If You Can'? Now signed to the Blue Note label, it must be that they are going to squeeze any drop of soul out of the man and turn him into another Jamie Cullum (an artist that I know many of you like out there, but misses me for some reason)? Well, that just ain't the case and praise the Lord! Willie Mitchell is the 'mature guy on the block', and, no drum machines, no synths (well not that I can hear), real horn sections and best of all, great songs. Pure Southern Soul that is sung by one of the genre's finest. Drop the needle....sorry, showing my age...laser, in any quarter of this fine album and you come up with the goods. Congratulations to Blue Note for not sticking their musical noses where they don't belong. Just listen to 'Not Tonight'. Not a parody of years gone by. Just, well, marvellous. Now if you have a friend, who is into the real deal, and bearing in mind the time of year, well, Al's your man.

Meshell Ndegeocello is a law unto herself. She can be completely self indulgent, in your face, or just getting into a cool groove. Certainly not for the purist this woman. Meshell is always trying to break new ground. She is a million miles away from the pasteurised, homogenised, polished R & B that eminates from all of the worst musical orifices out there in todays media. I saw Meshell, shortly after her initial release. She was quite, well, hypnotic, in her performance that night. Having said all that, there are times that I can listen to her music and times I long for the albums such as Al's. However, somehow she demands your attention. She is a strong intelligent woman, a thoughtful lyricist and plays a mean bass. 'Come Smoke My Herb' is quite sublime. Beware of the Rock Guitars in places on this set. Just a personal knee jerk reaction. Meshell, well scares me at times, lyrically, which isn't a bad thing in todays society, which favours the male and still pays the female less than the going rate. Meshell Ndegeocello is a very talented woman and, more importantly, a very significant artist.

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• Earth, Wind & Fire - The Promise / Groove Stu - Authentic 4:10 Sessions

Earth, Wind & FireGroove Stu

The old school and the new folks on the block here. Nice juxtaposition.

Earth, Wind & Fire. Never heard of them? Well nice to welcome you to our planet! Quite one of the best bands of the last 30 years. Sure these guys have had their ups and downs, musically, recently, and after hearing about Maurice White's fight with Parkinsons, I figured that we had heard the best from the guys. I was recommended this set and, like a fool, I ignored this albums existence for a while. What a fool I was. This album is brilliant. It, I would say, is up there with the best of any of their output. The harmonies are simply beautiful, the voices are quite heavenly and, if you are looking for a surefire stocking filler that will please the most critical listener, well, this is the CD to go for. This is Soul Music at it's finest and puts the Jamie Cullum's of this World onto the substitute's benches. Where do you start. Well, 'Wonderland' is just that. 'Suppose You Like Me' is as good as any of their old melodies. I have gone for 'Where Do We Go From Here?', a track with real strings and harmonies that are out of this World, so maybe my alien has heard of these guys after all!! To top things off, the guys cover a tune from Tommy Sims first album in the guise of 'She Waits'. Words cannot describe.....I may have missed the bus first time round! Got my travelcard right now!! LOL

After a long lie down, following that stupendous Earth, Wind and Fire album, I have, previously been listening to this new album by the group, Groove Stu. Occasionally, new artists send me their latest output and I always try to be as constructive as I can, after all these albums are their babies and it would be unkind to rain on their parade. Why stay with this group? Well, to be honest, these are really talented artists, musically and vocally. Having introduced this group in my usual convaluted manner (LOL), what you have here is a 'musical sandwich'. On either side of the sandwich are some tracks that miss me musically, although I am sure they will appeal to many fans of Black Music out there. I just have a 'knee jerk' reaction to todays Rap. 50 Cent? He may make loads of money and could go 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, but he doesn't move this listener. I guess I am getting old and I don't like being shouted at! Now, having said that, I cannot recommend this album highly enough! The 'meat' (I am a vegetarian, so I guess 'filling'! LOL) in the sandwich is quite outstanding. Tracks from 5 through to 11 are quite exceptional. 7 beautiful songs, with these guys showcasing their vocal stylings that prove that they will endure and, I believe, will become highly successful. Some lovely harmonies with 'Curiosity', 'Cool With U' and 'Am I Dreaming?' shining out from the line-up. From Baltimore, this group have a bright future, I believe. Real singers, real instruments, just remember, you need to set the remote at track 5 and take proceedings from there. Dismiss at your peril, however. These songs are the bees knees (big compliment in the U.K.). On Soul Theory Music, check their site at www.groovestu.com.

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• Original Soulboy Featuring Tashan / The New Lost Generation - The New Lost Generation

Original Soulboy & TashanThe New Lost Generation

Firstly, the image above may be a little misleading in as much as it is a photograph I took on the London Eye of Tashan, during his extended visit to London. That visit has just come to an end for now, although the man has plans for a further visit in the near future. The texts I added myself, so when this fine record is released, it will, probably, come in the normal 12" sleeves. I just wanted an image for folks to look at, that's all.

The Original Soulboy side of the story, actually comes in the guise of the inventor of the term 'Acid Jazz', one Chris Bangs. Chris and Tashan got together for this fine slab of dance music, that is currently under final production finishes as I write these texts.

This is a dance tune of the highest order, so much so, that Peter Young at Jazz FM, placed the advanced promo at number one in his chart and that it thoroughly deserves. Lyrically, you can tell that the recent Gulf debacle was on Tashan's mind, although the songs message relates to all conflicts in the same way that Marvin's 'What's Going On' reflected his brothers experiences in Vietnam, however, the songs lyrics resonate with many of the conflicts in our World today. Tashan penned these words whilst Chris weighed in on the musical songwriting chores.

When you listen to many of the artists described as 'R & B singers' thesedays, it is great to hear someone who can actually deliver the goods.

Chris and Tashan recorded two other songs, during their collaboration, and Tashan said that he has several new R & B compositions in the can, from elsewhere, during his stay in London. If this song is anything to go by, I can't wait to get my ears around those.

Nice one Chris and Tashan. A fine collaboration that is well worth investigating. A dancer of the highest order.

...you can enquire about the release date for this recording, right here...

The New Lost Generation have been touring recently and have this new CD release. Diana, who is married to Fred Simon, from the group e-mailed me, initially, and sent me this new release from this legendary band.

Lowrell Simon today Lowrell Simon today

Fred is the brother of Lowrell Simon, who achieved huge success with his Seventies monster melody, 'Mellow, Mellow, Right On'.

It always makes me a little apprehensive when a group from way back when send me their newer material. I needn't have worried. This is just great.

This is a really pleasant surprise. Real Soul, beautifully delivered with strong melodies, which prompted me to get on the phone to various deejays here in the U.K.

'Just A Little Lovin' is a top drawer ballad as is 'You Can't Say (That I Don't Love You)'. On this set you get an updated version of the groups 70's smash 'The Sly, Slick and Wicked' along with a very fine midtempo offering in the shape of 'Dream On'.

My only criticism of this CD is the group put the albums killer cut right at the front of proceedings, which left me with the repeat button at track one, which is totally unfair, as this is a very strong set throughout. 'Thinkin Bout Cha' is one of the strongest songs I have heard all year. An essential piece of Soul Music. You need this song....and it is over 12 minutes in length and has a lovely Benson-esque guitar solo in the latter part of the tune! Reminscent of the Temptations 'Stay' in some ways, perhaps a little mellower. If you dug that tune, then this is right up your.....missus! Totally brilliant.

Out on the New Lost Generation label and available from the group's website. Great to have the guys back and firing on all cylinders!!

...you can check the website for the 'New Lost Generation', right here...

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• Marlon Saunders - Enter My Mind / Various - Country Got Soul

Marlon SaundersCountry Got Soul

Went for a beer with a writer friend of mine, who said he had been really getting into an album by a guy called Marlon Saunders. He shoved a review copy into my hand and, after recovering from the lunchtime chores, I put the CD in the 'past it's sell by date' CD player here! LOL! Marlon was part of the Jazzhole set-up (can't say that without getting into a 'Carry On' mindset). I checked out the album and I must say I was mightily impressed. Marlon has a very nice vocal delivery and has turned up with a very nice offering here. What you have here is, plain and simply, a very nice soul album, nice harmonies, melodies, key changes, lyrically poetic, and I didn't reach for the skip button throughout. Playing the set right now as I am writing these texts. It matures with constant listenings and, all in all, I think you would do yourself a favour if you pick this up (I was not sent this CD by a record label, or being paid to promote this set by the way). Favourite tunes? Well, the title track is beautiful, the opener 'The Beginning Of Never' is very nice. 'Stone Out Of Hope' has a lovely groove, whilst 'For Love' and 'Inspiration' are top drawer melodies. Out on Black Honey Records and available from Amazon (where they have some mp3's available, although you do need to hear 'Inspiration' which is the killer cut, in my humble opinion). Very highly recommended. Nice one Marlon.

As far as compilations go, this is a real 'sleeper'. Came out in August, on the Casual Records label, and has received little or no attention, therefore, I thought the CD needed a shout. I am a great fan of Blue Eyed Soul...not all of it...but when it hits the spot, it can be quite moving (listen to Dan Folger's 'Way Of The Crowd' and you will know what I mean). What is of interest here are the inclusions of George Soule's excellent street message, 'Get Involved' and the rare groove anthem 'I Hate Hate' by, Alabama born, Razzy (a.k.a Rasie Michael Bailey, a song later covered by the singer Danny Williams). Originally on RCA, this version of the latter tune is a far superior version, although Danny 'shot his best shot', I guess. This album is a very intelligent piece of musical construction, with highly credible soul melodies from Tony Joe White, Delaney and Bonnie and Larry John Wilson. All of these tracks oooze Soul and if you doubt my word, just listen to 'Stay Baby Stay' by Johnny Daye. A track Otis would have been proud of and I ain't messin'! Thanks to PY for turning me on to this album.

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• Journey Into Day - Seek / Soul Togetherness 2003 - Various

SeekSoul Togetherness 2003

Seek are a six piece band from Atlanta, whose sound ranges through many soul musical stylings. At times there are hints of Carole King, Minnie Riperton and, Dome Records own, Angela Johnson. Angela, actually, weighs in on songwriting chores on this very nice album. If you told me that these guys were a U.K. band, it wouldn't surprise me as their sound sometimes reminds me of, the U.K.'s own proud export, Incognito. Lead singer, Lisa Terry, has a really delightful delivery, as you can tell from the song 'Loving Heart', which is at the site right now. Real Minnie Riperton territory here. The title song has a pleasing 'retro' feel to proceedings. The 'kick off' single is 'Talk About It', another fine melody that has received rotation on Jazz FM already. This is a very nice release, due on Dome Records on the 20th of October this year. One for the Christmas stocking? You bet.

I do believe that I have featured all of the Expansion Records 'Soul Togetherness' compilations at the site over the last couple of years. You can, quite frankly, buy any of these Togetherness CD's blind. They are all essential, as most of you knowledgeable folks out there already know. It was a real delight to see some of the tunes featured at this site this year included in the album's starting line-up. These are namely, the Chestnut Brothers and the excellent Ebony Alleyne (whose album seems to have a release date at some stage in the near future, which is great news). It is great to see the excellent Gift Of Dreams song, 'Feel It', finally seeing a digital 'light of day' (my copy here is on an album from a few years back in a 12" sleeve). Other tracks of note here are 'Party Time Man' by the excellent Futures, 'Be There In The Morning' by Renee Geyer (later covered on the Norman Connors album 'Invitation'), 'Merry Go Round' by Ruby Andrews and the tender 'I Must Say Goodbye' from Melody Stewart. This set will hit the streets on the 27th October 2003.

Two very satisfying releases, which will enhance the collection of any fan of the real deal. Highly recommended.

Dome Records Expansion Records

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• Real - Israel And New Breed / Beautiful Flower - Ayanna Gregory

Israel And New BreedAyanna Gregory

This year is turning into one hell of a year for Soul Music. As the World is seeming to fall apart around us, and the bad guys rule the roost, our soul brotha's and sista's are bringing some sanity to the great scheme of things.

I make no apologies about loving anything that Tommy Sims sets his mind / pen / voice etc. to. He seems to have no fear in examining musical ground, that has been plagiarised by various White artists, from Black artists in the past. You have to listen to his work to understand exactly what I am rambling about. How dare he use the rhythms and inflections that are now the supposed musical ownership of Eric Clapton or Simply Red? Tommy is responsible for production chores on this Gospel offering and he weighs in on the writing chores as well. The thing I like about Tommy's writings is, you get the feeling you have heard this tune, at some stage in the past, previously. That is the art of great songwriting. There is almost something of the Beatles 'Day In The Life' regarding these melodies. Israel has a wonderful voice, which just adds to the whole quality of proceedings. I am not going to go through this album track by track. Listen to the title track. Hints of Sly Stone's (I wish drugs hadn't ruined this genius) writings and Curtis's 'You're So Good To Me'. Very special indeed.

Ayanna Gregory's album was recommended to me by a site visitor, whose e-mail I misplaced. My apologies. What a great recommendation. Thank you. Ayanna has a voice that could be compared somewhere between Aretha's and...well...Des'ree's delivery, if that makes any sense. I bought this album from CD Baby, where you can stream other tracks. The song 'Changes' is proof to any cynic that Soul Music is alive as well in 2003. Pure, and right from the roots. If any of you guys liked the Gerry Devaux and Angie Stone collaborations from around seven years back, you will love the song 'Far Away', which had me reaching for the electronic chequebook straight away! Ayanna has a lovely voice. My wife remarked as much, and she has a great ear for Soul Music. Higher praise could not be bestowed on this exciting new soul songstress from the Walker household! Hope she gets a deal for this fine release.

I cannot recommend these releases highly enough. The fact that tracks off both of these sets went into my personal Top Twenty, at the site, at number one and two, respectively, says it all as this old fool is concerned!

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