Soul And / Or Related Artists

listen out for 2005...



• LaToya London - Love And Life / Corinne Bailey Rae - E.P.

Latoya LondonCorinne Bailey Rae

Time for the Sista's to take centre stage again!

I was, very kindly, sent a review copy of LaToya London's CD from the States. As usual, just as I thought I had finalised the year end chart at the site, something arrives after the musical 'horse has bolted'. LOL LaToya has a lovely warmth to her vocal delivery. I think she has a hit in the guise of 'Practice Makes Perfect' on this album. Really catchy tune. I love the melodies here, when this fine woman decides to drop the tempo a little. 'How I Love The Rain' is one of the most beautiful ballads I have had on the stereo here this year. Quite delightful. All told, not a bad album at all. I will look to this woman's musical progress with a great deal of interest in the future. Nice debut on Peak Records. Check Amazon for copies.

Corinne Bailey Rae is a new name to me. Corinne is yet another singer who has been likened to Billie Holiday. Comparisons such as these can tend to compartmentalise the artist somewhat. I think Corinne is just doing her own thing here. This singer certainly makes the right noises for the industry. What I have here is a 5 track E.P. from a forthcoming album. Funny thing is, even her website compares her to Billie Holiday. Big mistake in my humble opinion. Corinne has her own vocal delivery. Sure there is the moodiness of Billie's delivery on show here, but there is something additionally brought to the table. Very 'Deep South' sounding, I am going to 'cherry pick' the lovely 'Trouble Sleeping' from this trailer to the full monty. 'Like A Star' is a beautiful ballad. Corinne will be a name to look out for in the New Year, and will probably make the television via shows such as the Jools Holland programme here in the U.K. Very interesting material. Check Amazon for copies again.

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• Various - Get This Party Started! / Richard Searling's Music From The Soul / Various - I Believe To My Soul / Ray Charles - Genius & Friends

Get This Party StartedRichard SearlingI Believe To My SoulRay Charles

If I seem to have been a little slack getting round to reviewing these albums, do accept my apologies. The builders were in the house and my computer was under dust sheets. All up and running now, which is great.

The first of these great sets is a compilation constructed by my friend Chris Hill. Chris used to deejay back in the Seventies at a club called the Lacy Lady in Ilford in North London. I used to go up to the place with friends, dance until the doors shut, slept in the car through the night, and drove home in the morning after putting on a change of clothes. The Lacy is still running as many Soul fans in London see him as a bit of a 'cult'. Some say he is a huge 'cult'. Personally I have never seen such a bigger 'cult' in all my life! He once described me as a boring 'cult', but I forgive the 'bar steward' from Chislehurst that compliment! This a great compilation. It showcases his excellent taste in music. '66 Mello' by the New Version Of Soul, has almost become an anthem for the man. Originally from the soundtrack to the movie 'Be Be's Kids' this kicks off the first half very nicely. 'Blowing My Mind' by Solo is another stunner. Almost the song the Detroit Spinners never recorded. You get Marvin, Terry Ronald's excellent 'What The Child Needs', Sean Oliver, along with every other track a winner. One slight critique is the sleeve, which does look a little like one of those £2.99 CD's that are on sale next to the chewing gum at your local Londis! However, don't be put off by that as this is a great compilation. Judging by this, Chris should retain his 'cult' status! LOL.

Richard Searling is, probably, one of the most influential deejays on the Soul Scene. He has been on the Northern Scene for decades now. Today he is still doing what he knows best, along with part owning the excellent Expansion Records label. Chris Hill's album is on this label as well. Whilst Chris's is quite contemporary, Richard is very much Old School material. Lovely compilation this one. Some very hard to find material on here. Lovely to see Chuck Cissel's 'Love Is Missing From Our Lives' on this set. Whatever happened to him? The excellent Elaine Stepter pitches in with her beautiful 'Always Be A Part Of You', and you are delivered the ex Emotion's, Shelia Hutchinson's 'Keep A Little Lovelite Burning', a tune I bought back in the day. Great to see that on CD. A very fine tune. All told, a must own CD, and a very personal collection compiled by one of the U.K.'s finest deejay's.

'I Believe In My Soul' is another compilation, that showcases 5 excellent artists. If you think folks don't make the real deal anymore, then think again. It is such a shame that the older artists have to come out of mothballs, to show the younger crowd how it is done. Joss Stone shows promise, however, you look at bands such as Westlife getting to the number one spot in the U.K., whilst the likes of Stevie are languishing in the lower levels of the charts, it does make you wonder (pardon the pun!). Who are Westlife going to influence? Probably the next Crazy Frog ringtone. Stevie was on Top Of The Pops last night. After watching him, even the presenters said they had goosepimples. The rest of the show was awful, with maybe the Eurythmics taking the silver medal. I digress. This CD features Ann Peebles, Billy Preston, Mavis Staples, Irma Thomas and Allen Toussaint. Someone once said 'There's many a good tune to be played on an old fiddle'. Well they weren't wrong. Ann Peebles sounds so fantastic today. I bought 'I Can't Stand The Rain' back in the day. I remember the members of the Beatles and the Stones raving about that song. They weren't wrong. Her voice is still fabulous on this excellent 13 track set. I think my favourite tunes here are Billy's input, although you cannot find fault anywhere here. Simply music how it ought to be made, and should be compulsory listening in schools (whilst trying to prize the mobile phones off the kids! LOL).

Lastly, a fitting tribute to brother Ray's final recording. I still can't believe he is not still in our midst. This album isn't half bad. Some lovely people Ray worked with here. I was surprised by the opener with Angie Stone, as, with the industry trying to 'shape' Angie's future, she probably, has come up with her best work since her work with Gerry Devaux. As with the reference to Stevie's appearance on Top Of The Pops, when you are in the company of complete quality, Ray steals the proceeding's. I think Angie wouldn't mind me saying that. Stevie and Ray were, and are one off's. When the man upstairs made them, he threw away the mould. Talking of 'mould', George Michael is on the teamsheet, but don't let that put you off. Every side has to have their Owen Hargreaves! LOL. (U.K. footballer that comes on as a substitute and does nothing for you!) This is lovely material. If you like contemporary, you get duets with John Legend, Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige here. If you prefer the artists that have matured like a fine wine, then you are served up with Patti LaBelle and Glady's Knight.

Off to check out our new windows and curtains right now! LOL.

Expansion Records

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• Cissy Crutcher - Cissy Crutcher

Cissy Crutcher

Real nice album this one. Very laid back throughout, apart from a couple of occasions, where Cissy moves the tempo along very nicely. She sent me a press pack, which was a pain as my daughter pulled it from me, as she took a fancy to the sleeve when it arrived here in. Wanted it for her homework. She got the sleeve, I got the paperwork, but not the homework thankfully.

This lovely CD is out on Vivaton Records. They are at Vocally, it is hard to pinpoint Cissy's style as it is very individual. To totally contradict what I have just said, well a little Patti Austin-ish crossed with the Soulful side of Norah Jones. She does have her own personal vocal delivery, however. Very personable it is as well. She's a 'bonnie wee lassie' as they'd say in Scotland. Had a photo in the press pack. I think, as albums that have cover versions within their content go, this is one of the better recent iissues. This doesn't scare me in the same way the latest Rod Stewart issue does! He scares me. I went into one shop and said to the person at the counter, 'do you stock Rod Stewart albums in here?' He said 'it is on order and is about to come into the shop, I'm afraid'. Not more afraid than I was!

Cissy is an 8th grade English teacher, out of Nashville. She penned three of the songs on this set herself and very fine compositions they are as well. They stand up as equals to the standards on offer here. I absolutely adore the song 'Lead To Love'. Gorgeous melody and lovely stringwork. The song 'Wishful Thinking' has some fabulous lyrics as has 'That Kind Of Love'. A set well worth investigating, and showing Rod and Shamie 'Cuttem' how to do covers properly...and how to write some of your own stuff guys. A woman to look out for in the future. Lovely stuff.

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• Rhian Ayanna - Rhian Ayanna / Incognito - Eleven

Rhian AyannaIncognito

Two albums I have ignored, ashamedly, all because of Stevie Wonder.....some of those key changes.....sorry losing it again! LOL.

If Stevie hadn't crept up on me, Rhian Ayanna's album would be my favourite set around right now. Thanks to the guys who sent it to me. The Nu Organic Soul scene, nice as some of the music might be, does have a tendency to be a little samey at times. Not all of it. Kind of like the emporers new clothes. If you say anything bad about the music, you are not spoken to. Well, I suppose folks understand, I hope, I am just being honest. Nu Organic Soul is a bit like the new R & B scene with younger women trying to sound like Mary J. Blige or Eryka Badu, but not doing their own thing. Sounding like I am describing a line-up of impressionists, don't I? LOL. Rhain has got her own thing, maybe borrowing from several genre's, but she's constructing her own musical jigsaw puzzle. There are some gorgeous moments on this album, which is a nine tracker, which in it's own way is a positive way forward. The twenty plus track CD's are hard work sometimes. 'Let Go' and 'Breathe You In' are the best tunes going on here. Peter Young, at Smooth FM, told me he liked everything on this album. I can't argue with that. Out on Regality Records. Link to Rhian's website below. Highly recommended.

Incognito, I have always loved. Bluey is a lovely guy. I met him at the Jazz Cafe, thanks to Santosh and Peter at Dome. Bluey has had his personal issues troubling over the last couple of years. This album highlights the man's everlasting optimism. This eleventh album is a very nice addition to his arsenal. Personally, I prefer things on Incognito albums when the music drops to a lower tempo. The dance material I believe is constructed for live performances, where the guys can just let themselves do their own thing, so they form more of a jam session. 'Baby It's Alright' is almost the track Rufus never recorded! Lovely stuff. Maysa is on board on 'When Tomorrow Brings You Down', with her vocal delivery always of the finest standard. I believe my favourite track on offer here is the gorgeous 'Will I Ever Learn', with the mellow 'I'll Get By' and 'It's Just One Of Those Things' and the lovely 'As Long As It's You', running a close second, third and fourth. Bluey's key changes are very Stevie in places......oh no why did I say that! My wife tells me to stop going on about it, but asks me to put it on again! LOL. Stevie's album that is! That will follow on after Bluey's album on the stereo here! Lovely album, this Incognito one. Out on Dome Records. Highly recommended.

Dome Records

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• Stevie Wonder - A Time To Love

Stevie Wonder

I hate Stevie Wonder sometimes. Today I wasn't that busy. My birthday, so I figured I'd sit down and listen to his new album. Stevie was a singer that got me into this music in the first place. I hit 49 today. I thought I'd take the bright idea of sitting down and listening to his new album. What a mistake. This is as good an album as his Seventies material. Gone are the drum machines, just song led throughout. I am so pleased he took time out to put this set together. Simply, purely and utterly fantastic. 'Sweetest Somebody I Know' had me in tears here. He is a pure genius. His vocal delivery is second to none. No 'Just Called To Say I Love You' here. You simply have to own this album. It surpasses anything he put out in the Eighties. Stevie has the knack of imparting a melody that makes the listener believe that he is singing directly to them. Curtis could do that, so could Marvin. A very unique ability. What this music is all about really. Go and buy this album and make the man front of stage again. Fantastic, fantastic, album. One point of note are a couple of duets with one Aisha Morris here. Could this be his daughter? The one mentioned in the song 'Isn't She Lovely'? Whatever, this is his best album in decades.

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• Burt Bacharach - At This Time / Joni Mitchell - Songs Of A Prairie Girl

Burt BacharachJoni Mitchell

I grew up listening to Burt Bacharach's writings. We had some of his own albums at the house back in the Sixties, however, most of his songs at the place were performed by other artists. If someone said to you 'what legacy have you left when you pass on'?, well Burt can be proud of himself. My personal belief is, if there is a genius within us, it manifests itself when we are young....probably in our twenties. Stevie is a good case in point. Been listening to 'Innervisions' a great deal recently. Struck me that we take chances and gamble with the unknown when we are in our early years, and I guess you could say that about Burt's music. As we age, I guess we go hold on to what we have created previously as a safer option. Boring? No I don't think so. If you create something, and people are pleased with the formula, then the urge is to give folks more of the same. This genius has done just that. Personally, when this CD arrived here, and I looked at the teamsheet, well I figured that this was going to be scary! Dr Dre, Rufus Wainwright and Elvis Costello? Yikes! If you guys picked up the Ron Isley collaboration a couple of years back, well, I think you'll really love this set. The differences are that Burt has adopted a more contemporary approach, however, retaining the lush orchestration. It took me a while to realise that it was Elvis Costello on the corporate diatribe within the lyrics of the song 'Who Are These People?'. Slight side swipe at George W. I believe. Whatever. Albums like these are listenable throughout. Not a duff track on here. Even Rufus Wainwrights input on 'Go Ask Shakespeare' is very pallatable. Rufus does have a very melancholic delivery, but he does what he does and doesn't try to mimick the Black person. Burt is entitled to his bus pass thesedays, so his delivery is more spoken than 'rendered', however, this is a lovely album and Burt can talk until the cows come home as far as I am concerned! Six years ago, this would have been multi-platinum. Today? Well, Burt isn't sixteen, in a boy band, hair a mess, and singing a song you'll never remember for the rest of your life on the worst music channel you can find on satellite television, and thank heavens for that. This is a lovely album. If you like music, you'll like this. If you like looking at Destiny's Child or Kylie, and not listening to their music, as you are mesmerised by their looks, you won't know what to make of this lovely album! Music for old folks? Well maybe, however, my daughter is 11 and she likes this album. Sure she's into Will Young, but she's into Burt, and Will is into Curtis, so make of that musical mess what you will! Burt Bacharach's curriculum vitae is second to none. Someone once described his writings exactly. When he writes for a singer, he pens the songs slightly off key and chooses the appropriate singer, whose voice is slightly off key, to sing the songs and then confuses them by changing the key when the artist least expects it! How he does that, I don't know, but he is very, very good at it and thank heavens for that. Stevie has that unique ability. Mark of a genius. Go buy this album. It is at Amazon shortly. Made me feel human again and 'very un-MTV'.

Joni Mitchell? Well I bet you are outraged! Hardly Northern Soul, but neither is Tim Buckley, and Dave Godin was into his music, and I am unashamedly a fan of Joni Mitchell. In a way Joni reminds me of Michael Franks, in as much as she can't say 'I love you' to someone, she has to use the Oxford English Dictionary to get her message across in a thousand words! No problem with that, although I pity the guy, or woman, that has to sit there for hours on end, just to get a cuddle! LOL. Joni is a one off. I have loved and listened to her music for over 40 years. When she wrote 'paved paradise and put up a parking lot', she got my vote! LOL She is, quite simply one of the finest singer / songwriters of any generation. If she is anything like myself, she will be a little more pessimistic with life right now. However, here she is, with her skates on, doing her own thing, and good luck to her. This album I have, actually, borrowed from our local library. I saw the recording date of 2005 and thought, well why not? The Christmas flood of releases is about to arrive so why not indulge in some Blue Eyed Soul in the Autumn sunshine? What a nice album this is. Kind of charity album as Joni states herself 'This is a collection of songs for the Saskatchewan Centennial celebrations'. So you have a compilation of several of her own compositions on offer here from recent years. Joni's own folk sound has been developing into a jazz backdrop, of more contemporary melodies, in this new millennium. 'Cherokee Lousie' is a perfect example of this genre. Hanging with Joni, on these sessions are, Herbie Hancock, Billy Preston, and Wayne Shorter. A lovely album. I don't know where the woman is skating on the sleeve, but wherever it is, I'd love to be there. More power to your elbow missus. A complete one off performer. Very talented woman just doing her thing. What is amazing about Joni, is she demands your attention. She always has. Someone with something to say in a global environment of cultural trivia. Blue Eyed Soul at it's finest.

Joni Mitchell

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• Earth, Wind & Fire - Illumination / Tim Jackson - Next Of Kin

Earth, Wind & FireTim Jackson

Love them, or them, Earth, Wind and Fire have to be listened to. Recent releases have been, actually, very good and almost on a par with their late Seventies heyday. With this set, the group have some very nice moments going on here. I know that, in some quarters, this set has, either been received with the highest acclaim, and in others, perhaps with a more lukewarm response. When the CD arrived here, I didn't play it for a day or so. Kept looking at the set, hoping that I wasn't going to be disappointed. Well I summoned up the courage and took the album around the block a few times. Nothing much happened on the first couple of spins, but this set has grown on me. Two pieces of constructive criticism I would like to make. Both aren't to do with the artists at all. Firstly, record companies seem thesedays to feel that, with the Old Skool acts, they have to introduce some of the 'new kids on the block' to these albums. All told, the groups don't need to have Brian McKnight, Kelly Rowland and Raphael Saadiq added to this team sheet. Those guys do their own thing. All this 'trend' serves to do is scare off the Old Skool fan. When the track listing's arrive, before the album does, us 'old girls' look at them and say 'oh no, oh no, oh no'. The songs may be top notch, but the seeds of doubt are already sown, which is a shame. List the tracks, but without the latest 'Flavour Of The Month' included....well only in the small print maybe. I felt the same way about Angie Stone's recent releases, and Stevie's forthcoming album, that ought to be with us shortly. Don't put off the genuine fan prior to the release. Turn it on it's head, would Angie Stone add Earth, Wind & Fire's name to a new track on her next release? Who knows? Would the companies allow her to? If you are sixteen, are you likely to purchase an album, by a group you don't know, only because Kelly Rowland is on one track? These credits are designed to raise the eyebrows of these younger listeners, however, it puts doubts into the mind of those who remember these great bands from back in the day. What does the younger listener do? Well they go search on a music download site, download that one song, the parents get a phone call telling them they are about to be fined big time, all because the industry has 'hung out the bait'. They should not tempt people and then blaim their victims ......Secondly, which really is irritating is all this 'don't try to listen to this music on your computer' protection that comes along with these latest releases. I bought a new CD Walkman in order to listen to music and not have to watch the endless soap opera's on the television. So off I go, sit down, stick this CD into the thing, and it won't allow me to listen to the album. So it's off into another room, keep the levels low in order to listen to this album, which doesn't do it justice as we all need a little 'volume' to appreciate groups like this. When push comes to shove, do the companies want to sell these sets, or do they want to sell a product that Soul fans can't even get into their I Pod? Make your mind up time! By the way, after a long struggle, I do like this album. That is why it is here. 'Show Me The Way' (featuring Destiny's Child, Kylie, M.C. Whateverhisnameis etc. LOL) is a lovely song. I even liked the Kenny G collaboration on 'The Way You Move'. I would have liked it more if I hadn't seen the 'elevator music man's' name to begin with. Best song on show here is 'The One'. A sampled tune and very nicely delivered. I love Earth, Wind & Fire. I would love to listen to an album by them without the unnecessary baggage. All told, they are better than most of the artists out there thesedays, so they don't need support from foundations that support different musical structures. Now, if they were to approach Tommy Sims to produce their next outing...I can dream can't I? LOL.

Tim Jackson is a new name to me. Out of Chicago, this singer's album arrived a couple of weeks ago. Not wishing to sound lazy, I have been working on a few projects, and been helping a couple of folks find relatives in New Orleans. What an awful scenario. Anything I can do to help I will, and if it slows stuff up at the site, then so be it. Tim's album is a breath of fresh air. Bit of swearing, but as with Michael Franti's album, it all disappears into the musical tapestry. I loved the song 'Chocolate Paradise'. Lovely groove with Tim relating the past history of his family and his local neighbourhood. One complaint Tim, is the song isn't long enough for this old fool! LOL. Can't have too much of a good thing. The song 'Good 2 CYA' is a nice downtempo relationship retrospective. I think the whole album has a nice vibe running throughout. Of interest to us older musical inhabitants will be the inclusion of a very fine version of the Bobby Womack evergreen 'Woman's Gotta Have it'. I have several versions of this song (even one by the excellent folk singer James Taylor!). This take has a lovely bassline and was a really refreshing surprise. One new artist to look out for (and not be tagged onto the latest Earth, Wind & Fire track! LOL Tim just does his own thing, and judging by this album, is very good at it).

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• Ian Martin - The Way / Carleen Anderson - Soul Providence / Ruby Turner - So Amazing / Chris Jasper - So Amazing

Ian MartinCarleen AndersonRuby TurnerChris Jasper

Been away in Cornwall for a week. Whilst I was away (actually in hospital sorting out my daughter's health....not much of a break, however, really pleased to see a smile on her face right now) these CD's came through the front door.

What a great year for music this one is. My only gripe is that a) the industry won't allow me to share this music with you and b) these great CD's aren't getting much airplay either. I can rave here about these great sets as much as I like, but as you well know, nothing like hearing the material.

I have recently been re-collecting my old Beatles albums. The thing about that group is their melodies are very much 'song led'. You can say the same thing about all of these albums, although the roots maybe coming from a different source.

Expansion Records and Dome Records in the U.K. are simply the best retailers in the U.K. Ian Martin's album has several fine tracks within this release. Ian released an album some 5 years ago, which was well received at the time. Originally from Toronto, Ian has actually toured with Maxwell and...yikes...Barry Manilow! Just go buy this album. Lovely songs such as 'Release' and 'Brother' demand attention. A great set out on September 12th, on Expansion Records.

Carleen Anderson's set arrived just before my trip away, so I got to listen to this set on the six hour journey to meet up with my 'mother in law'! LOL. She is actually a real nice woman, so that part of the journey wasn't too heavy. Carleen will probably be best remembered for her activities with the Young Disciples. Nice not to have to listen again to 'Apparently Nothing'. Not a bad tune, but a bit like Sade's 'Your Love Is King' you can only take so much. I mean lyrics such as, 'You Kiss His Ring?'...very bold! Carleen has a great set of tunes here. She has a very 'earthy' delivery with her vocal tones. In many ways, entrancing. I loved the song 'My Door Is Open' and her Gospel tinged 'Salvation Is Free' will defintely make my year end top twenty. I even liked the collaboration with Paul Weller, on the Leon Ware tune 'Wanna Be Where You Are', which says something! On Dome Records and highly recommended. By the way Peter and Santosh, some lovely liner notes. My wife works for Whistles and was highly impressed with Carleen's outfits!

Ruby Turner has recorded some great material. I was amazed that her 'The Other Side' set is now 16 years old. What a great album that one was. Pure and simple, Ruby is totally underrated and has one of the finest vocal deliveries from many of the U.K.'s finest Soul Singers. This is a great album. I sent Peter Young at Smooth FM a copy and immediately had the thumbs up on this set. Quite why Ruby isn't a huge star is beyond me. She has a very distinctive voice that makes her immediately recognisable, vocally. All these songs are, as I said previously, very song led. Songs such as 'Did I Make A Difference' are very much in the 'Other Side' mould. Ruby thanks Jools Holland for his support on this album, and I can only thank him myself. Good taste mate! Nice album, which you can pick up from Ruby's own website. There's a link below. Very, very nice set.

Chris Jasper has been in touch with me for a while now. His nice wife Margie, got in touch with me and mailed me this lovely album of melodies. Before I go any further, there is a link to Chris's website below. You may want to pick up a copy. Chris's albums theredays are purely Gospel outings. If you are into secular recordings, you'll love this album as well. Cross the Isley's with the lessons from the Lord and you are into the ballpark regarding this CD. Chris's influence on the Isley's music is highly apparent in his solo recordings. Some deeply funky tracks on offer here, none more so than opener 'Stand Up', which could come right out of the best of the Isley's Funk back catalogue. Some lovely downtempo moments here as well. 'Faith' is highly melodic and deep, and you can't get more Soulful than 'You Answer My Prayer'. Another album well worth your attention. Nice liner notes to Margie, Chris. Must be a very nice woman.

Expansion RecordsDome Records

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• Susaye Greene - Brave New Shoes / The Official Steppers Music CD - Steppin Is A Lifestyle

Susaye GreeneSteppers CD

Two CD's that are poles apart musically, but well worth investigating.

The last member of the Supremes, Susaye Greene, has an amazing vocal range. Stunning in many ways. On her latest offering she examines several musical styles. Susaye is a highly competent songwriter, as her co penning of Deniece Williams song 'Free' testifies. Susaye was also one of the late Ray Charles Raelettes, was married to Leon Ware and sang on Stevie's 'Songs In The Key Of Life', so the listener is getting an idea of the pedigree of this woman and her abilities. O.K. The music. Well the opener 'Love Controls You' is a beautiful midtempo groove. Nice harmonies on that melody. 'Never Dreamed' is a top drawer smoocher, whilst 'Get What U Give' is very fine dancer. You also are delivered a lovely version of the Real Thing classic 'Children Of The Ghetto' and another nice midtempo melody in the form of 'Never Can Wait For Love', which reminds this listener of the type of song you'd hear on a Jean Carne album. Lovely stuff. My favourite melody on offer here is the excellent dancer 'High Energy' (not delivered in that style by the way). The instrumentation, particularly towards the end of the song, is delightful. You can pick this album up at Amazon. Highly recommended.

The Official Steppers CD is another lovely album, with a couple of notable highlights. Odd CD as it took me a while to work out if the Official Steppers were a combination of artists, or whether that was the title of the CD. There is text on the main cover that says 'Steppin Is A Lifestyle', so I am going to stick with that. For me, Steppin is irresistable, even on the poorest of tracks. Bit like James Brown's heavily sampled 'Funky Drummer' rhythm. You just 'have' to like the song. There is a lovely opener entitled 'Dance The Night Away' (must get out my dancing shoes and go scare a few people on the dancefloor....thesedays whilst half of my anatomy moves to the left, whilst the other half veers off in a completely random direction! LOL). This is a very nice CD throughout. Highlights? Well the female led (sung by one P. Alston) 'Windy City' is delightful and 'Double Down' is, almost, the type of Steppers tune Paul Harcastle might construct, if he put his mind to it. My favourite track has to be 'Get Up'. Talk about irresistable. If you can imagine a cross between R Kelly's 'Step In The Name Of Love' crossed with Chic's 'Good Times' (with that guitar riff), you are well on the way to getting an idea of the musical scenery on display. Definitely my favourite dancer this year. Only problem now is trying to work out where the nearest Soul / Dance Club is round here. Been a long time! Another great recommendation. You can get this CD here:

...and you can even get Steppin lessons here!...

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• Brigette - Starlite Lounge / 2GA1 - Together As One

Ty Causey - Love Notes / Kloud 9 - Yearning 2 Love


Ty CauseyKloud 9

Four very nice albums here, all of which I can thoroughly recommend to you, starting with, what is probably, the finest release on Expansion records in recent years. I guess it would be with Steve 'the Scotsman' Harvey at the helm. From the start to finish, this is a fine album throughout. In parts Brigette McWilliam's vocal stylings resemble those of Desree. The title track has a latinesque tinge, 'Much Too Much' follows in a similar vein. 'Star' borrows heavily from Leroy Hutson's gem 'Get To This, Get To Me', very cleverly, and 'One Wish' is similarly gorgeous with it's Carribean overtones making the track irresistable. There is a tendency with some of the Nu Organic Soul albums to use minimal instrumentaion, utilise little melody, with the tracks relying heavily on the quality of the singers vocal delivery. Albums such as these are like an oasis in the desert in todays musical environment. Couldn't recommend this album more highly. One of the best of the year. Out on Expansion shortly (Check the Soul Brother link at the site)....(10 out of ten).

....2GA1's album was very kindly sent to me by Soul reviewer Barry Towler. Very interesting set, that utilises the minimal instrumentation I have just been talking about. The difference here is we are looking at 'tunes' and a very decent set of voices in the pairing of Darryl and Patricia Hatcher. Patricia sounds very much like Angie Stone in parts of this nice little independent offering. I especially liked the title track and the 'Sun Goddess' (Ramsey Lewis) soundalike 'Sweet Thing', that really brings out the 'Angie Stone' vocalisings in Patricia. 'More Loving' is a lovely mid tempo tune, very much in the Anita Baker mould. Another favourite here is the Black Biographical message song, 'We're Not The One's'. Very nice thought provoking melody. The whole set is a real 'grower'. Nice album guys and thanks Barry....(8 out of ten).

...Ty Causey's last album I reviewed here. Very nice album. If anything, this album is better! Very song led, which, as I have mentioned, is something I feel very strongly about. The opener, 'Life On Track' sets the mood for the album. Very Soulful and rootsy. Perhaps my favourite song on offer here is the highly melodic 'I Miss You'. 'Visions Of Love' is a lovely little dancer, with a haunting chorus line. The nice thing about Ty, is you get the impression he is not into the latest 'fad' of the day. He just gets on with his music in a style that suits him. That's all. He has a very similar style to Leon Ware, in parts of this excellent CD. Worth picking up (links for all of these CD's below).....(8 out of ten).

....Last, but certainly not least, are the magnificent Duffie brothers, Kendall and Kelvis, who make up the group Kloud 9. Kendall has been in touch and is very funny. Thinks he can speak Cockney (London's Cockney rhyming slang)! Kendall Van Dyke! LOL. This album is the duo's second offering for Expansion Records. I loved the first album, and as with Ty's set, this is even better! What is unusual about these brothers, is their sound is so rich, that you think you are listening to a quartet! Lovely harmonies. 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme', I know has received airplay on Richard Searling's radio show. Lovely sax work on that track. 'Can't Be Love' is a top notch ballad, and the collaboration with the excellent Bluey from Incognito on 'So Many Reasons', will light up a few dancefloors. Nice touch on this set is the guys take on Jermaine Jackson's song 'Don't Take It Personal'. The song suits the guys vocal arrangements beautifully, as does the album opener 'Special One', a track that the group Surface would have loved to have recorded, I'm sure. The Gospel tinged 'Ready, Willing Wanting' penulitmately closes proceedings. If you doubt the guys vocal abilities, well this will lay any fears to rest on that count! My only complaint with this song is the guys don't add the word 'geezer' after they sing 'Ready, Willing Wanting'! All told a must have set. Nice album guvnor's....'core blimey Mary Poppins'....(9 out of ten).

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• The Cafe Soul Allstars - Love Pages / Trei - This Is Me

Cafe Soul AllstarsTrei

This CD arrived with a long list of credits, which are quite impressive. It has a feel of a new Norman Connors album from the late Seventies. The rosta is impressive as well. O.K., musical menu made up of Glenn Jones (remember the glorious 'Melancholy Fire'?), Peabo Bryson, Christopher Williams, Vesta Williams, Maysa, Bobby Lyle, Roy Ayers, George Benson...well you make up your own mind. Personally, I prefer the downtempo outings on this lovely album. When I got to the lovely Jon Lucien song 'To Be With You', well I reached for the repeat button several times. Pure Norman Connors. Well it would be as Norman, Duke Jones and Jacques Burvick are on the case production-wise. Very nice album, that may almost be too good for it's own good. Worth buying for the Jon Lucien track alone. (7 out of ten).

Trei's album? Now here, you have pure quality. One aside I would like to mention is this. I have been in touch with Trei (pronounced Tree) and she e-mailed me after the London bombings, showing her concern. If that doesn't say anything about the human being, then nothing will. Trei is a mum who has an amazing voice. This set, well as I mentioned Norman Connors earlier, is another that has accidentally slipped into that genre, as well. Very song led this CD, which is refreshing thesedays in this climate of 'Crazy Frogs' making the top of the chart and then having the audacity to make a follow up! 'Invitation' and 'Love Is Lifting Me' on this set are worth the price of the album alone. 'Rain' is of a very high standard as well. Why aren't women of this quality at the top of the charts? I guess thesedays, cream always rises to the bottom! LOL Do go buy this set. An album that deserves a money back guarantee, it is that good. (9 out of ten).

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Slick & Rose - Objects In The Mirror / Ronee Martin - Come On Through My Door

Slick & RoseRonee Martin

This is very much a different 'kettle of poisson' (kettle of fish in French). Slick & Rose have probably thought I have forgotten them. My apologies. Moving the whole site at the moment and 1,300 pages is taking a while. I am doing the best I can at the moment! In reviewing this album, I feel a little like a Dad letting know what you think of your daughters first recordings! All told, there are some nice moments here. It has a feel of being put together in their bedroom, but that is no bad thing. As I always say, it is easy to criticise, but hard to create, so I am not going to say anything bad about this CD. These women have a great deal to offer to this industry. I can tell you now that the tracks 'Love Is', 'Bona Fide' and especially, 'Gods' are quite lovely. Old Skool in many ways. This CD is very 'raw', but quite refreshing in many ways. Looking forward to their future product. Put it this way, many CD's here go straight into the archive boxes, but this one has not.

Ronee Martin' s album is a delight. Here is another Sista that deserves her 'props'. She has an earthy vocal delivery and she has chosen a set of melodies that suit her vocal styling very nicely. The song 'Get Real' is, pretty well, the only uptempo track on offer here. 8 melodies that are very pleasing to the ear. In a way, Ronee's CD is very like Trei's set. Too good for her own good. If you are into female balladry of the highest quality, then this CD is for you. Set half way between Roberta Flack and Carole King with a pinch of Laura Nyro. Very nice indeed.

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• Juliette Leon - Juliette Leon

Juliette Leon

On one side of the music business, you have the music giants, such as Kylie, on the other, there are those that have great ability, but receive no recognition. (Concerning that, there are so many brave women out there fighting breast cancer, and Kylie gets all of the media concern....I digress, however, I have a friend who has just gone through that experience and she doesn't have the wherewithal, financially, to receive the treatment Kylie can 'cherry pick'. Not her fault, but the media's). The music business has gone 'crazy frog' thesedays. You have a mobile ringtone that makes the number one spot in the U.K. charts, and Gwen McCrae (who has more talent in her little finger, than most of the new R & B acts out there put together) living in a one bedroom flat in Pensacola. She told me that was the state of her domestic circumstances last Friday. Why have we got to this scenario? My personal belief is we have all 'grabbed mummy' and culture has died, in my humble opinion. Gone completely off subject, haven't I! LOL.

Juliette has a lovely little album going on here. 14 very nice slices of U.K. soul. Juliette sent me a sampler, a couple of years ago, of this album. It was a deejay that nagged me to give her album a shout at the site. 'Why wasn't I supporting the U.K. artists out there?' Quite right, comrade. I have been neglecting the home grown talent somewhat. I guess, as the old Al Jarreau song went, 'I've been distracted'. I e-mailed Juliette and asked her for a copy to review at the site, which she very kindly sent me. A very nice woman, who seems, almost, to be fighting the industry single handedly. More power to your elbow sista.

I think Juliette won't mind me saying that, she would agree that she has her own individual style and isn't in Aretha's league, vocally, however, this is a lovely set of melodies that compliment her vocal range, and I think by now, you know that I don't add anything to the site that isn't of real merit. Proof of that pudding is that the likes of the excellent Jarrard Anthony and Myron have seen fit to add their vocal collaborations to this excellent debut. All told, I am so pleased that the likes of Juliette are still making a brave effort in trying to keep U.K. Soul on the map. It is so hard for these artists to make an impression thesedays. Oh for this sort of music to be on Top Of The Pops. If I hear 'ding, ding, ding' one more time, I'll be throwing myself off Tower Bridge!

By the way, Juliette, loved your duet with Myron on your take, on Teddy Pendergrass & Stephanie Mills', 'Two Hearts'. Peter Young, at Smooth FM, is rotating that right now. 'Take Me There' is another favourite in this house. One of the better albums of 2005.

Juliette mailed me and told me:

'my web is You can buy the album at hmv, or mvc, or virgin megastores.
The 12" of 'Two hearts' can be found at most vinyl stockists'.

Gwen McCrae

Gwen McCrae 17.6.05 - jazz cafe, london, bless her.

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• Martha Redbone - Skintalk / PJ Morton - Emotions

Dessy Di Lauro - The Study Of A Woman's Soul / Adam - Determination

Nadir - Distorted Soul / Terrell - Carlela's Reign

Martha RedbonePJ MortonDessy Di LauroAdamNadirTerrell

Whilst I have been dealing with the contentious issue of audio at this website, many fine albums have arrived, or I've picked up here. I won't be able to add music for you to listen to at the moment. It was always my intention not make money from this website, and that is still my intention. If I kept the audio on the audio server, these are the terms that the nice woman from the MCPS (Mechanical Copyright and Protection Service) told me I would have to abide by. Firstly, is that only one tenth of a track is uploadable. 30 seconds for a 5 minute track, 1 minute for a ten minute track etc. I would have to pay them around £700 per year to be able to do that, and you can add another £70 for the use of the audio server. Double those figures for dollars and you will begin to understand why I can't meet those amounts for a non profitmaking concern. You would also have to add £250 per year for the site space. I want to keep the site up and running as most folks search for information rather than sound. As you should by now know my taste in music, I hope my verbal recommendations are good enough. I thought I might do the same thing that Blues and Soul used to do, by giving marks out of 10 for the new releases. Anything that does make this website's pages, is something that has moved me in some way or another and....

....well the pick of the litter here has to be this fabulous new album by Martha Redbone. Martha's people contacted me back in 2001. At that time Martha had her debut set out and the company wanted me to check it out. When the album arrived I wasn't too taken with the set and I had to let the company know, in the politest way I could. Martha has a beautiful voice and I thought she was wasting it on some fairly lightweight material. This new album is a real peach. 'Diamond In The Rough' if you wish. Martha's roots are with the native American Indian, a group that has been very oppressed over the last hundred and fifty years or so. The same happens all over the World to native cultures. Look at the Aboriginal tribes in Australia, who now have severe alcohol problems. Martha's CD is one of the albums of the year thus far. She has been listening to several Soul influences here, especially Stevie and Earth, Wind & Fire. The song 'Atlas' is constructed in the same way Stevie's 'Superwoman' was way back in the day. A song of two parts gelled together with synthesizers. The absolute killer track here is the gorgeous 'Children Of Love' that begins with some native Indian chanting. Seven minutes of pure heaven. You have to have this album. (10 out of ten).

P.J. Morton's album came as a complete surprise. He has been round Martha's place checking out Stevie's old albums as well. Not too dissimilar set to Glen Lewis's CD from a couple of years back. The killer track for many will be the midtempo 'No Ordinary Love'. The favourite here right now is the, extremely Stevie, 'Fly Away', a song whose chorus gets so stuck in the old grey matter that you walk around all day humming the tune. Very nice album overall. (8 out of ten).

Dessy Di Lauro's CD is almost a mini single in a way. You get 5 songs, all of which are nicely delivered, although the standout has to be the latinesque 'When You Need Me'. Not a bad debut at all. Be nice to have had a full album. (7 out of ten).

Adam is a new name to me. Very talented guy, who has a Soulfull and Folksy approach to many of the offerings here. The opener 'Let's Come Together' has a nice melody, as does 'Know U Better'. Adams writings are very 'song led', which is highly refreshing and worth popping into your local store to check the whole line-up out. (8 out of ten).

Nadir's CD I was sent by a very nice woman called Nancy. I suppose the best way to describe this album is....well...if you dug the Van Hunt set, then this will appeal to your musical senses. Politically, I am right with this man. His writings are witty and thought provoking. One track that brings a very eerie air to the proceedings is the track 'Superstar'. There are some very 'Smokey-esque' background vocals going on here and a sax running through the melody that really reminded me of the great Mystic Merlin dancer 'Just Can't Give You Up'. 'Queen Of Sheba' is another Latin style melody that makes this CD one well worth picking up. (8 out of ten).

Finally, last but not least, is a nice album by a guy called Terrell. I wasn't too sure about this album, however, on playing the set several times over, I was won over. The whole album is dedicated to Terrell's mother, Carlela. Not sure what his Mumpassed away from, but she would have been very proud of her son if she could hear this tribute. Terrell has worked with the likes of Whitney Houston and Faith Evans. I very much liked the songs 'Sunshine', 'It's You', 'For The Love Of The People' and the socially aware 'Life'. Nice album. (8 out of ten).

Terrell's album is available at:

Check Amazon for the other CD's.

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• Angela Johnson - Got To Let It Go / Lizz Wight - Dreaming Wide Awake

Angela JohnsonLizz Wright

Angela Johnson is a very fine singer and songwriter. Her delivery is considered and fits nicely into various tempo's.

This is the woman's second offering and a very fine album it is too. Mainly uptempo, this set is a real 'grower'. When I took my first listen, I thought, 'yes, this is quite nice', however, after several plays the music really does sink in and gets embedded into the proverbial 'grey matter'. I believe that Angela has the potential to become a very successful cross over artist. She is treading a very wise path, by just getting on with her own thing and seeing where that takes her. Dome Records ought to receive their dues, sticking with someone of such high musical credibility. Personally, although the uptempo tunes are of the highest standard, Angela does reach new heights when the tempo drops a little. This allows her vocal delivery to come to the fore, which is where she is at her finest I believe. My favourite song on this set is the latinesque 'You're Here With Me', a delightful toetapper of the highest order. All told, a must have for your collection, from a woman of great musical substance. Unreservedly recommended.

Sorry guys, it's 'girls night out' at the site right now!

Lizz Wright is someone who I have the greatest respect for. When the site was going through the various troubles back in 2003, Lizz's album 'Salt' was a great comfort back then. Arrived just at the right time and kept a lot of nerves from going crazy at the time. That was a lovely album. This new set is another 'tour de force'. You won't find any street soul anthems going on here. Lizz has an almost 'Country / Folk' sound going on. She has an earthy 'timbre', I believe is the expression. Didn't do India Irie a disservice, did it? Her voice is quite special. She has a quality that very few artists achieve. As I have mentioned before, regarding Curtis's delivery, the listener really feels that the singer is singing directly to them alone. Lizz has that ability, which is quite rare thesedays and such a relief from the style of R & B that we are spoonfed thesedays. The title track here is gorgeous. Personal favourite has to be the simply beautiful 'I'm Confessin'. Simply stunning. Check Amazon for copies. This ships in June I believe. I was lucky enough to catch her London showcase a couple of years back. We are certainly looking at a star of the future.

Dome Records

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• George Duke - Duke / Monique Debose - Choose The Experience

George DukeMonique Debose

I found these very interesting albums, for various reasons, to listen to. One is, currently 'uncool' within the Jazz market, the other highlights the struggles that artists are facing up to regarding the state of music today.

George Duke, for me, has never made a bad album. I was thinking about this set and, over how many years I have been buying this brothers records. He won't receive the recognition he deserves within the Northern Soul market, neither will he in the current Smooth Jazz market. That has fallen under the musical spell of anyone that is willing to record material from the Forties and pass themselves off as the latest Frank Sinatra on the market. Frank may have been a great showman, but for this listener, he almost 'spoke' his way through his material. George, however, just does what he does. The feeling I get is, he has 'bitten the musical bullet' and said to himself, well, 'cream always rises to the top' and, if that is the case, then the man is onto another winner here. My favourite track here is the song 'Sausolito'. Just oozes the summer. This isn't a cover of the Grover Washington Jnr tune, but a new take on that area of the States. Lovely stuff. George takes Stevie's 'Superwoman' and makes the song his own. Another lovely melody. I wondered, whilst listening to this CD, whether George had been listening to the fine Ron Isley and Burt Bacharach album from a couple of years back. His version of the evergreen 'In Between The Heartaches' is beautiful. I believe George will, musically, endure through the unhealthy climate that is so retrospective that I wonder whether the singer / songwriter has any future? My belief is that all things are cyclical and this album will see it's day, in the future as a rare groove. Better pick up a copy while the prices are right. Very, very nice album out on Dome Records.

Monique Debose got in touch with me and spoke about her new album. Firstly I must say, beautifully designed CD cover. I wish I was as photogenic! I put the CD on and the woman scared the life out of me with the first track 'Recognise'! LOL. I thought I was going to be in for a heavy metal session! Monique says herself on track 2 that, that song will have 'woken the listener up'! Provokative woman isn't she? LOL Well, once I was out of my pyjama's, this is a very nice affair. Monique has a lovely vocal delivery, highlighted by the excellent 'Walk Away', which many folks would describe as 'New Organic Soul'. Musical terms are just that. There is either good or bad music...and this is good. I really liked 'Ready For Love', 'Captivity', 'On Your Way' and the alternative take on 'Ready For Love' on this CD. Couple did pass me by, but that got me thinking regarding where music is headed right now. There are some 'very bold' steps taken here. Reminded me of the musical situation at the start of the Seventies. Folks experimented with music. This was translated into live performances. This was where the artist earned their dues. Many received nothing from their album, and later to be, CD sales. Things, as I said, inevitably, come full circle. Flared trousers were the hip thing to wear in the early Seventies. They became uncool in the late Seventies and now they are commonplace at many retail outlets. They will go out of fashion again at some stage. Music is the same. George is not fashionable right now. The Internet has made many artists wary of people's intentions, and quite rightly so. My belief is the singer / songwriter will prevail. People will want to see these artists. If downloading music off the Net is commonplace, well that is what it will be. The industry will catch one or two of the big fish, but there are always others that will slip through 'The Net'. I have seen much of the material from this site reproduced on other sites (one even uses the image off the main page at the site as their background index page image). Music should be for everyone. It makes us what we are. Human. An expression of ourselves. Folks will yearn for these albums in years to come (still go buy these albums right now though). Monique and George are just doing their stuff. As far as 'Recognise' is concerned, well, 'Walk Away' woke up this old fool! Looking forward to your next album Sista!

...both of these albums are available at Soul Brother Records. Check the links at the site off the main page...

Dome Records

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• Will Preston - It's My Will / Nicci Gilbert - Grown Folks Music / Ron E. Beck - Soul Cry

Will PrestonNicci GilbertRon E. Beck

Three very nice releases here. What I would say, however, is that they, perhaps, wouldn't be albums of the year, but I thoroughly enjoyed each of these releases for the same reason. They come across as very personal expressions of each performer.

Will Preston is a new singer to me and, this release is, for the main part, a downtempo affair. Will's delivery is considered and tender and, judging by the excellent information pack that came with the CD, Will has a good team working with him. Proceedings kick off with one of the few uptempo offerings in the shape of 'My Love'. My personal belief is, this will be the track that will see the man receiving some heavy radio play. I very much liked the song 'Queen', a track that showcases Will's vocal dynamism very nicely. My pick of this musical litter is the ballad 'We Should've Stayed'. Some lovely harmonies on this melody. If you are into ballad material, you'll love this album. The latter tune I mentioned here, would have me reaching for the credit card alone. Lovely stuff.

Nicci Gilbert was part of the group Brownstone and is still part of the Brownstone set-up. I must hold my hands up in the air and say that I never got to listen to much of the group's music first time round! Slapped wrists here! LOL. I guess I figured they may have fallen into the new R & B compartment? Who knows? Anyhow, this is another album with a nice compliment of Soul balladry. Nicci, I guess as the album title suggests, has moved on and is creating something that is very personal to herself, artistically. As with Will's album, I am beginning to think that I am becoming very polarised in my musical tastes, in as much as I found myself hitting the repeat button on the song 'Can't Forget'. I guess that ought to be a compliment that this Sista has recorded something that hit home beautifully here. Worth the price.....

Last, but definitely, not least, is this CD that arrived here this week. Ron got in touch with me and wrote and sent this album. I love this material. Reminds me of the 'little label' music that arrived in the U.K. some 20 years ago. At times Ron sounds like Roy Ayers....then at times, he is his own man. The music is minimal, however, the way Ron has constructed affairs, these arrangemnts are a real delight. 'Soul Cry' is, probably, my favourite of these three sets, although, I can highly recommend any of this musical trio. Music is a personal thing, so what appeals to some folks, won't do to others. Ron's harmonies are quite lovely here. He cleverly utilises key changes (something that I am always a sucker for). 'Let Me Show You' is a song that brought back reminiscences of The old Hi Gloss melody 'You'll Never Know', however, being vocally delivered by Roy Ayers! LOL. An absolutely lovely song. You can check that out here. Do check out the artists websites. We need to support these guys. They make some great music.

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• Hope Collective - Give And Let Live / Lina Presents... - Save Your Soul Vol.1 / Otis and Shugg - We Can Do Whatever

Hope CollectiveSave Your SoulOtis & Shugg

One single, one album of various artists and one album that is now 9 years old! Who says there is no variety at the site!

The single, is, if you pardon the pun, one of the single most important releases this year. The intention of this record is to raise finances for the Tsunami disaster that has just passed it's three month anniversary, and has raised fears of a further disaster following the recent earthquake in the region again. There have been some very strange facts that have come to light recently concerning the disaster. Four times as many women died in the aftermath than males did. What the reason for that is, is beyond me. All told, a lot of motherless children out there. What is so frustrating regarding this release, is that Bluey, from Incognito, assembled this great pool of talent and found that the major labels were into 'doing their own thing'. In a way, it makes me feel sick. The major labels like to take the moral high ground, not for the concern of hundreds and thousands of lives lost. They do it for their own qudos, and I guess, in a very sad way, it makes them feel good in themselves for the shame they have brought upon the industry. How utterly selfish can these people be, playing politics with death and destruction. Shame on those multi-nationals. Good for Expansion that they have finally got this onto the streets. This is a label that isn't massively wealthy. It just has it's heart in the right place, as does Bluey. You can add to those who deserve a huge thank you.....well here is the lineup. Chaka Khan, Incoginto, Maysa Leak, Jocelyn Brown, Omar, Taka Boom, Carleen Anderson, Noel McKoy, The London Community Gospel Choir, Amp Fiddler, Chris Ballin, Don-E, DJ Maxi Jazz, Steve Winwood and a line up more impressive than the 1970 Brazilian World Cup Squad. More power to your elbows guys. You should be proud of yourselves. Oh yes, not a bad song either, slightly reminiscent of the Isley's 'Harvest For The World'.

'Lina presents Save Our Soul Vol 1', isn't an album I like all the way through. There are moments when some of the singing is almost childlike, and most folks know my opinions regarding Rap. If you are talking to someone, make the dialogue interesting and not a long succesion of personal self achievement. Having said that, when the Soulful side of affairs hit the spot, it really does exactly that. There is lovely opener called 'Over Me' by a guy called Travis (not the Rock Band) and a very nice, almost America-esque (Ventura Highway) style melody entitled 'Flow Like A River' by a singer called Caprisha. Nice song. 'Let's Make It Real' by a singer called Jeeve is a nice tune as is the song 'Time Flies' by an artist called Vic. Finally the moody 'Downtime' deserves a mention, almost instrumental throughout, and very nice it is too. Lina adds a second CD to this project which showcases some tracks from her forthcoming album 'The Inner Beauty Movement'. Some are easy on the ear, some not so, however, I do realise these albums are the artists 'babies', and what I may not like, there will be 10 other folks out there who would snap these releases up immediately. This is a bold effort and I hope that Lina brings more of the Travis style of tracks to proceedings for Volume 2. Don't give up sista!

Just one further point regarding these singers sounding childlike on many of the songs we see in the national charts? Well, the reason why I feel there is a problem here is that, the look of the newer artists seem to take precident over their ability to sing. In fact, some new kids on the block see themselves as chartworthy due to their looks alone. Now there are many new artists out there (mainly female) who are made to look like children or addicts on stage. Gwen Stefani springs to mind. Couple that with a melody that resembles a nursery rhyme and a voice that sounds like a child just turned 10 years old, and you will begin to see my point. There is something almost unhealthy about the material that is spoonfed, by the industry, to the masses, that may appeal to parts of some male's lowest common denominators. If you think I am over reacting, ask yourself what the group the 'Cheeky Girls' are all about? It is time to listen to voices and not look at images musically. Respect our children and not accept that by the age of 14, every child should have taken drugs and had sex. There are some pretty bright kids out there, unfortunately, some that are easily led as well. They are the one's that concern me the most. Enough said.

The Otis and Shugg album has become an almost 'cult' set, that many punters out there have e-mailed me about over the last 9 years. Back then a CD single called 'Journey' hit the stalls here and promised a full album set entitled 'We Can Do Whatever'. I was sent a tape of this album and shortly afterwards the label (Interscope) pulled the plug on the full release. That was a real shame as the track 'Thank You For My Baby' became a highly sought after tune. Bit sugary for some tastes, however, the melody carried the song. My personal favourite, and still is, is the lovely ballad 'My Choice'. A better tune would be hard to find at the time. It is great to elevate this set from the 'Been Missed' section to the 'Listen Out For' section here. Kind of complete's a circle. Otis Cooper and Shugg David, should have had an enormous amount of success with this set back in 1996. As it turned out, Expansion get the guys their dues on this fine Raphael Saadiq produced set. You need this album.

Expansion Records

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• The Chapter - The Return Of Real Soul / The Embers - Beach Music

The ChapterBeach Music

Two very strange bedfellows here, but two very fine offerings in their own right.

The Chapter are a very Soulful outfit as the album title suggests. There is rapping on this set, however, this is rapping with something to say, not the usual 'look at all my bling and I am better than you' nonsense. Although I left Rap as a genre back in 1982 with Grandmaster Flash's excellent 'The Message', this isn't half bad. Where these guys really pull out all the stops are when they get in a groove that really suits them. You can almost tell that they are enjoying proceedings during these sessions. The lovely harmonies on the track 'So Real' and the Frank McComb-ish 'Thinking Bout The Way' are simply superb slices of Modern Soul. The latter is already in the chart at the site. Lovely groove. Not sure who the female singer here is as my promotional CD didn't have a sleeve. Doesn't matter. She has a voice and a half! It's what's in the groove that counts, and what is in the groove here is pure quality. Nice set.

The Beach music set is actually a compilation of sorts, however, the main team on the park are the Embers, a Blue Eyed Soul team fashioned after the likes of Tower Of Power and their ilk. 9 of the songs included here are by the guys. You get one track by George Benson (very nice it is too, if you are a fan), two by the late and excellent O.C. Smith and the inclusion of a Cuba Gooding song that was the title track of an independent CD from back in the Nineties, 'Meant To Be In Love'. As I recall things, the Main Ingredient recorded the song as well. The tune was penned by one Charles Wallert. Charles mailed me this CD. There are some other great singers on this CD. It arrived on a day that wasn't all that here and I didn't get round to listening to the set until late in the day. Boy did it cheer me up! The Embers are 6 artists from the States, who have cut some great sides here. If you are familiar with the Daryl Nulisch track from the recent Expansion Soul Togetherness set, you will have some idea of whereabouts this album is coming from. I almost reminded me of that excellent Stars On Broadway album that touched down here a year ago. Very nice material indeed, with, what sounds like real strings!

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• Janita - Seasons Of Life / The Tim Terry Experience - The Tim Terry Experience

JanitaThe Tim Terry Experience

Janita's last outing was a real gem. Reviewed here a couple of years back and they kindly added a link from this fine singers site to this funny old website. Well, if she pushed the boat out last time, the boat has turned into a proverbial ocean liner in 2005. This is lovely material. The type of material that Sade ought to be recording, however, Sade shuns the limelight thesedays. Made her money I guess. Shame as she isn't a half bad vocalist in her own right. Janita's vocal stylings aren't a million miles away from those of the ex-Matt Bianco songstress Basia. Janita is from Finland (a place I visited a few years back. Got out of a club at 1 a.m. in the morning and the place was still in daylight!) Janita has found a niche for herself that has matured to a point that you can guarantee anything that arrives from the woman, you know you are going to get quality. Funnily I knew that when I was told this album was making it's way here. Some glowing reports from the Modern Soul Group here were correct and on the button. These are the sorts of sets you wish would arrive every day of the week. I would strongly recommend anyone remotely interested in this music to go and pick up a copy of this album. She really made me laugh, lyrically, on the jazzy track 'I Only Want You'. How can you pen 'And long may you live a long and beautiful life, with noisy kids and an ugly wife'. I wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of this woman! Lovely album.

Memphis born Tim Terry is a new artist to these ears. He has toured with Shirley Brown and Cameo amongst others. This is a lovely set, perhaps 'Dwele-esque', however Tim is steeped far more from a Gospel base, musically. There are some lovely ballads on offer here, especially the 'Gloria' (Enchantment) borrowed 'Walter Lee'. I checked the sleevenotes but my eyesight is failing and I couldn't make out who the song is dedicated to. Perhaps a family member or close friend. Whoever the person is, Tim opens up his heart and sings from the Soul for the man. The song 'Everything' reminded me a great deal of Take 6 in it's musical construction. Tim does get the bass bins pumping with the likes of 'On The Dancefloor' and the deeply funky 'Party'. Lovely debut (I bet someone will now tell me that this is his 9th album and where have I been all my life! Very much my business! LOL). Highly recommended. Honest music, if that makes any sense, and both sets available from the outlet below.

Tim's people have just kindly informed me that the 'Walter Lee' tune is a dedication to his late father the Reverend Walter Lee Terry. Rest in peace Brother. Been to that place recently here. Not anything I would wish on anyone.

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• Various - Chicago Soul Sessions Volume 1 / Queen Latifah - The Dana Owens Project

Chicago Soul SessionsQueen Latifah

Two quite diverse albums here, that are equally as impressive as each other.

When a guy called Stewart asked me if I would take a listen to a compilation of material out of Chicago for his company, I figured it would either be a set of Steppers tunes, or some 'bang on' House material. I couldn't have been more wrong. This is a lovely set of contemporary Soul melodies. I guess if you visit the site regularly, if I really like something, it would be the sort of set that I would go out and buy myself (if I had the money! LOL). If you are into the likes of Kloud 9 or Otis & Shugg, this will be very much your bag. You get two tracks from some of Chicago's finest here, in the overall project, that constitute the twelve recordings on offer here. It is a solid set all the way through. The opener is a delight, by a singer called Cherisse. The Kevin Chandler Band's lovely 'Gilding The Lilly' is my current favourite. Simply lovely material. About as much chance of making the charts as George W. Bush completing his homework! LOL, however, this material ought to be rotated on daytime national radio by law. The website is

Queen Latifah's album was out at the tail end of last year. Been dithering regarding whether I ought to place this at the site. I must say, I have, as you know, a 'knee jerk' reaction to disliking an album of covers of old Jazz Standards. The Jamie Cullum's, Rod Stewart's and Michael Buble's of this World have seen to that. That was compounded by the terrible duet with 'The Queen' and Rod Stewart from his 'Standard's' album from last year. Well all I can say is 'standards' are falling!. I can't put my finger on why I don't like 'The Rod's' vocal delivery, but if I have to put my finger on it, it is usually to stop the record playing! Is this the same Queen Latifah that proclaimed herself as a 'Fly Girl' at the end of the Eighties? I know Dana Owens is her real name, so Dana has joined the bandwagon of artists making albums of covers. The problem with this album is, it ain't half good! She can sing! Yikes! That places half of the garbage that masquerades as music on the MTV shows to shame. Her duet with Al Green, 'Simply Beautiful' is just that. The Queen, sorry Dana's version of 'Moody's Mood For Love' is exquisite. I loved her take on Barbara Lewis's chestnut 'Hello Stranger', which is reminiscent of the Carrie Lucas version from 1985. The finest musical pinnacle here is her version of the song 'Hard Times', really showcasing what a quality act Arif Mardin, Ron Fiar and Mervyn Warren, actually are, and how she has matured as a vocalist. Lovely, and very unexpected release. Stay as Dana for a while sista! Available at Amazon right now.

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• Frank McComb - Straight From The Vault / Gordon Chambers - Introducing Gordon Chambers

Frank McCombGordon Chambers

Frank McComb doesn't make bad albums. To be honest, he would have to make an effort to make a bad set. He is sometimes compared to Stevie Wonder. That is mainly due to his key changes that run throughout his melodies that echo the great blind brother. In actuality, Frank is a dead ringer for Donny Hathaway in his vocal delivery. This album is as strong as both his Motown and Expansion albums. Indeed he excelled on his unreleased Motown album. His songwriting is second to none. He is one of the few artists of the modern generation that you could cherry pick anything of his recordings and come up with a winner. This set is a lovely combination of songs and instrumentals. You pays your money, you takes your choice. The pick of the litter here are, for this old fool, 'The Thing I Failed To Do', 'The Things That You Do' and 'Still Has A Hold On Me'. All told, that doesn't mean diddlysquat. You just need this album, in the same way you need water and air. Frank McComb is a genius.

Gordon Chambers is another unsung hero. One claim to fame (or string to his bow) is he helped pen Anita Baker's song 'I Apologise'. Lovely melody, and you get his version thrown in here. The starter song is a lovely Marvinesque melody entitled 'Touch You There'. 'Never Fall In Love' has a lovely 'Otis & Shugg' ring to the proceedings and 'Slippin Away' borrows very nicely from Spandau Ballet's ballad 'True'. 'Still In Love' is a lovely duet. All told, this is a very strong album throughout and available at CD Baby right now. If you like Expansion Records releases, you'll love this set. Two very nice ways to reign in the New Year.

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• Shelley Fisher - Stories / Jeff Floyd - The Power Is On / Lori Perry - Wrote The Song / Gerald LeVert - Do I Speak For The World

Shelley FisherJeff Floyd

Lori PerryGerald LeVert

I hope you had a good Christmas break. Very strange this year. Usually I fight the corner of those who are not into the material side of things, but realise the whole purpose of the season of good will. Important to know the value of things and not the cost of them. My favourite present was a small animal my daughter made for me out of clay. Cost nothing, but I'll really hold onto that. You can keep the latest automobile or mobile phone. There is only one of that small animal sculpture on the whole planet. As for the events of Boxing Day, well, maybe the man upstairs is trying to tell us that we ought to focusing on what really matters. Those poor people. 9/11 and this in the space of 4 years. Horrific.

Musically, when I get my year end favourites together, I always miss out a few items. Usually, that is down to finance. I can honestly tell you any of these fine offerings would have made my 2004 year end top 20. For a quick run through, lets begin with Shelley's fine album.

Shelley Fisher got in touch with me towards the end of last year. He said he had this album up at CD Baby and he wondered whether I would take a listen. That I did, liked what I heard, and Shelley duly mailed me a couple of copies. One has already been aired by Peter Young at Jazz FM. One inclusion caught my eye. One of my favourite songs by the Valentine Brothers is a tune called 'King Sized Bed'. Shelley has a version on this album, so I dug out my 1979 Valentine's album on the Source imprint here, and there were Shelleys writing credits. This is a lovely Southern Style Soul album with Shelley's distinctive vocal stylings to the fore.There are versions of Bill Withers 'Who Is He And What Is He To You', along with Shelley's take on the Manhattans 'Shining Star'. The original songs stand up very nicely with the cover versions. 'Old Food Shop' and 'Whenever You Smile' really shine through. Well worth picking up.

Jeff Floyd doesn't make bad albums. He sings the real deal on every tune he has ever recorded. He re-appears on William Bell's Wilbe imprint again, and ably assisted by the great man, Jeff has constructed a Southern masterpiece here. The whole show kicks off with the delightful Modern Dancer, 'Let Me Know'. Very 'Barbara Lynn' if you ask this old fool. You even get a steppers track in the shape of 'Swing Out For Love'. 'It's You' is a gorgeous mid-tempo offering, whilst my current favourite is the melodic 'Lovin Someone On The Outside'. I do believe they have this at Amazon. If you have any spare money after the Christmas (and after you have donated to the Tsunami fund), easily worth adding to your collection.

Make no mistake, I love the sound of the Perri Sisters. Their vocals are heaven sent. When this CD was pointed out to me by a fan, I checked out the audio and in came the album. I wondered how this was going to shape up to the full ensemble's repertoire. No worries after the first track (and title song) 'Wrote This Song' hit the CD. Lori is in fine form throughout this set. There is something within Lori's vocal timbre that is instantly recognisable, which is unusual in today's market, as many of todays singers try to replicate their counterparts. Of the other songs on offer here, well 'On My Mind' is delightful, 'Tribulation' is highly spiritual. This set is available at CD Baby amongst other Internet outlets. It is interesting to see that many of the more mature Soul Singers are getting to grips with the political side of Worldly issues, none more so that the song 'Nine Eleven'. Talking of which.....

....last but, definitely not least, is this fine offering from Gerald LeVert. The clue here is in the title of this fine set of songs, 'Do I Speak For he World'. I hope he does, as Gerald hits Tommy Sims mode right from the outset. The title track is lyrically very powerful. In fact the first 4 songs deal with Iraq amongst other issues. This album is very much Gerald LeVert's 'What's Going On'. Gone is that juvenile 'Swingbeater'. His vocal stylings are deep, strong and he doesn't pull any punches. Good for you Gerald. Give the little man a great big hand, so to speak. The melody 'Everyday' has a nice groove and even Dad weighs in on the song 'What Happened To The Lovin'. Food for thought in a troubled World. Gonna be an expensive year musically. LOL.

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• Penny Wells - Shine / Nicolas Bearde - All About Love

Penny WellsNicolas Bearde

Nearly Christmas and, one thing that most musical pundits do is put together their 'year end favourites'. If you do this, you will relate to the annual malaise, which is, you have constructed your chart put it all down on CD and someone comes along and spoils the party! LOL Well Penny Wells is the one who has 'done the dirty' on this old man. I was told that I should go and listen to the track 'Shine' at CD Baby. What is great about that retail outlet is you have the opportunity to get in contact with the creator of the I did. In came a lovely press pack and a CD that would have certainly made my Top 20 of the year at the site. Gonna have to save this beautiful set of songs for next year now. Damn!

Penny has vocalised alongside the likes of Maysa, Jean Carne, Orthea Barnes, Dwele and Me'Shell Ndegeocello amongst others. Penny even sang the National Anthem at the 35th Annual Ryder Cup at the Oaklands Hill Golf Course! Her resume shows that things have been a little turbulent at times, however, here she is in 2004 (or in my case 2005! LOL), with a simply lovely set of songs, beautifully arranged and delivered delightfully. Set somewhere between Maysa, Gwendolyn Joy and Jean Carne, our Penny has turned out a great set of melodies here. I know I repeat myself at the site at times, but I really can't pick out any one tune here as a favourite. This mother of two can be rightly proud of what she has constructed here. Her kids will be very proud of their Mom. Lovely set. I closed my eyes and the pointer came down on 'Free To Walk Away'. If the streams are running O.K. and you like what you hear, the rest of the album is on a par....or even better at times! You need this album, believe me.

Nicolas Bearde released a great album on the Expansion label back in 1997. The song 'Can We Pretend' was one of my favourite songs from that year. Nicolas has a tender delivery, sometimes, almost spoken, and has been compared to Jon Lucien. Still at Expansion, Nicolas has developed seven fold from that original release. There are a couple of cover versions here, the most interesting is his version of the song 'Wild Is The Wind', last reaching these old ears via David Bowie's 'Station To Station' release back in the Seventies. I loved Bowie's take on the song, and Nicolas adds his own personal musical dimension. Very nice. For this ageing Soul fan, it is when Nicolas hits the 'Real Soul' tip he really excels. 'Love Of My Life' is absolutely gorgeous. His take on the old chestnut 'You'll Never Get To Heaven', is...well I am always a sucker for that song. Bacharach at his finest. For the Soul purist, the song 'Love Me' is the absolute business. Worth the price of the CD alone. You can hear that here. 'Promise Me' ain't half bad either. Available at Soul Brother and a lovely improvement on the man's first offering. All told, highly recommended. can pick up a copy of the Penny Wells album here...

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