listen out for 2007...
With the Christmas rush just around the corner, here are 4 nice stocking fillers for the more discerning listener.
Will Downing's album has been a real labour of love. Check this piece the man posted himself on his Amazon retail page regarding this fine new release:
From the Artist: A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM WILL DOWNING: Note to the listener:
'I'm gonna start this off sounding a little woe is me doom and gloom-ish but, it gets better so read on. 2007 has been quite the year. Health being the most paramount for me and my family, in 2007 I was stricken with Polymyositis, a muscle debilitating disorder that basically took away my ability to function on my own including using any of my limbs or even walking. The project could have easily been entitled 'Songs From The Black Chair' since the majority of my vocals were cut from my wheelchair at home. After a period of depression and 'why me's', I rekindled a relationship with God and family like never before. His love for me is getting me through these interesting times. I've come to deal with these circumstances but not accept them as I know I will overcome this illness. Enjoy this project as the Love that it took to make it, is powerful and sincere.'
Well, I read that after listening to the album and thinking to myself 'well he has kept up his usual high standards here'. Been through some concerning health issues here over the last year, therefore I am full of admiration for the bloke. Those who have worked with Will in the past, all testify regarding the politeness and humility of the man. More power to your elbow Brother Will. This is a great set, which, as I mentioned, sits alongside all of the man's previous body of work, with pride. Do go get a copy of this. One of the most listenable albums of 2007, and I meant to mention the man released a very high quality album of seasonal songs a couple of years back. That was another winner.
The Allstars Collective constitute some of the best Soul performers on the scene today. Produced by the Average White Band's Hamish Stuart, this is about as good as it gets in the U.K. today. Each track features a few domestic familiar Soul names. Jocelyn Brown, Hamish himself, Jim Mullen to name some of the teamsheet. There are some, simply, very strong song led melodies, some quite remarkable in their own way. 'Remedy' has featured on Peter Young's (Smooth FM)'s Saturday evening show, 'Star' is a great song, whilst my current favourite 'Hey, Listen Up' is absolutely gorgeous. One of this years finest songs. Essential listening.
Quite what to make of 'City Teacher', well was anyone's guess when I first listened to the set. This is an odd album. At first I saw the names of Lenny Williams and the excellent Freda Payne listed, so I listened away thinking to myself 'what the blooming hell has Ralph at Expansion sent me this for!' LOL. I took this album out for a second listen, and slowly, track by track, the set grew on me. In fact, they grew on me so much that I wandered out of the house humming some of these tunes, which got stuck in, what is left, of my grey matter and now I am going to have to bill Ralph for my medical expenses! LOL The two Soul giants, I have aready mentioned kick off the first half very nicely. They would have made any collection of the best in Soul music in 2007. By track three, Johnny Britt (Impromptu) has his five penceworth, with the socially conscious 'In The Meantime'. Very nice song, that one. The most irritating track here (in the nicest way) is the Heatwave 'Happiness, Togetherness' sampled 'The Deeper You Go' which is more contagious than something that is really, really contagious! LOL. I loved the Heatwave song, quite why they put some bloke in rapping all over the song is beyond me, however, my challenge to the listener is.......listen to this.....leave the house.....now try not to sing that chorus. Impossible! 'The Deeper You Go.....just off to the shops dear.....that blooming song....Ralph!!' Really an abum that sits someplace in your record store where you'll never find it as no-one will be able to categorise it! Do track this down. Something on this set for everyone. Best track? Elaine Gibbs 'Better Than Yesterday' is the cream that has risen to the top on this set (in my humble). Recommended.
James Taylor? Supposed to be a Soul Music site isn't it? Nice thing about places being your own is no-one can tell you what to place on/at the site (although you still can reserve the right to tell me where I can put the place! Someplace where the sun don't shine is my personal venue of choice! LOL). I make no apologies for loving the Three Blue Eyed Soul Music-ateers, namely Carole King, Joni Mitchell and this Boston born singer/songwriter James Taylor. James comes across as the kid we all want as a neighbour. Humble, his songs melodic and soulful. James doesn't make the same mistake that many a white performer does, the great big 'no, no' of trying to sound like a Brother. Soul Music is Black music, we label some artists as Blue eyed, when and if appropriate. James has penned many a tune covered by the likes of the Isley Brothers etc. 'Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight' springs to mind. This album is a real treasure trove of the man's music. First CD is a live set of recordings (beautifully produced, by the way), the second disc is, actually, a DVD. If you like the man, this is a must have set of songs. I do, so no sales pitch required here. This would make a lovely Christmas present for anyone into music, whether it be segregated, or all of a piece. Personal preference is all of a piece, illustrated by the mistake many folks make when they refer to the Isley Brothers song 'Hello It's Me' (recently covered by John Legend). That is a Todd Rundgren penned melody (check Todd's album 'Something/Anything'). Todd also penned 'Love Is The Answer' (Keni Burke). James' album come highly (and unreservedly) recommended.
All these sets are available at Soul Brother, Amazon etc. Links all over this site.
Ever since that mid Seventies era when, 'master of the beats', Randy Muller, along with the Brass Construction entourage, hit the streets, I have been fascinated by the man and his career. Indeed, many folks must have thought him to be part of a bunch of hoodlums on the block back in '75. Their, protest style tribal chantings, almost banging their musical fists on the table with those, in your face rhythms, demanded the listener had to sit up and take notice. We did! Little did those, that jump to conclusions, know of this man and his training in the classics that preceded those fine Brass Construction projects. After the Construction workers went their seperate ways, Randy focussed solely on production chores throughout the late Eighties and Nineties, only recently turning the spotlight back onto himself within the new millennium. Randy describes this set as 'Smooth Jazz'. Well elevator music this certainly ain't! Would the listener describe Bobbi Humphrey's flute inflections with the Mizell Brothers 'smooth'? Well certainly not in this house! Yikes! This might even wake up those sleeping beauties Dave Koz and Kenny G! LOL. What Randy does here is vastly undersell himself as a solo performer. Humility is in short supply in these days of those who want the World, for the smallest amount of effort, and back up their personal seal of approval rhetoric with little of any substance. Randy Muller is simply a master at his craft. A craft finely tuned and 'constructed' on strong foundations, and, after all, that is what stands up and endures throughout the passage of time. This set would get my grandmother up dancing! It is the first CD I have purchased this year that has had me increasing the volume on the stereo with each play. The Northern Soul crowd will, probably think I have lost the plot, whilst the Modern Soul crowd will lap up the likes of 'Bala', 'Luvanova' and 'Groovin U' here, enthusiastically. This is 'pure Robbie Vincent material', of that there is no doubt. Sorry to disappoint Randy, but you ain't no smooth jazz artist my friend. You are a one off. A fine artist and long may you grace our dancefloors. Available at CD Baby. Miss at your peril. Quite, quite superb!
The arrival of the annual Soul Togetherness CD is waited, by many a Soul punter, with great anticipation. The story behind these albums really reflects the 'state of the art' of Modern Soul Music, along with the odd older tune that has seen heavy rotation at the better Soul events across the U.K. througout the year. Linked to their own Soul Togetherness weekender events, this compilation maintains the very high standard set by it's predecessors. Many of the songs have been featured here over the summer, some are new to me, others are must have's taken from unusual sources. Blink with these tunes, and they disappear without a trace! Personal fave's? Well the whole shabang, really! Another winner for Ralph and Richard at Expansion. Check Soul Brother for copies. Below is a full listing from the CD sleeve.
Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Valarie Adams began her singing career, as do many Soul Artists, in the church. Valarie has performed with the Old Skool funk group, BT Express as the lead vocalist. This is her first outing as a solo singer, and if this set is anything to go by, well it won't be the woman's last! Out on Retro Soul Recordings (through Soulchoonz in the U.K.), This 15 tracker opens with a lovely moody song entitled 'I Think Of You', a song that almost generates a template for what is to follow. Valarie has a very distinctive vocal delivery, which is pleasing to the ear and most enjoyable. 'Do You Remember' is moody and melodic, 'Angel' is a nice take on the Anita Baker chestnut, and 'I Thank You' winds up proceedings to an uptempo, catchy conclusion. A most enjoyable album, recommended, and available from the Soulchoonz website (see below).
Producer, Charles Wallert, got in touch with me a couple of years back. At the time the guys (he and a group called The Embers) had a CD entitled 'Beach Music'. That was a great album, so I promoted the set here and then waited. Last Saturday Charles got back in touch. This time the e-mail had an mp3 attachment, which I downloaded and took a listen to. Their new single is called 'The Last Time I'm Saying Goodbye', and I think this is the best song the guys have recorded thus far. When I was younger, back in the Seventies, all music was made like this. Real strings, brass section etc. All I can say about this song is it is wonderful. When the album hits the streets here, you guys will be the first to know. If any of the further tracks is even half as good as this song, it will be an essential purchase. More from Charles:
'This is the first single from The Embers upcoming CD, 'The Show Must Go On'. The song was written by Jimmy George ('I'll Always Love You', 'Just To See Her', 'Love Of My Life') and Ray Dewey. Produced by Charles Wallert (George Benson, O.C. Smith, Dionne Warwick and The Main Ingredient).'
Six of the better releases around, which are making September a very expensive month in this house (although CD Baby are helping to relieve the pressure)! LOL. Couple of new artists to these old ears, followed by a couple I know....
Kendra Ross is a new voice to me (if you pardon the pun), who has a bright clear voice and a very nice set of melodies on offer in her store. Again, it does seem that the sista's are the folks taking charge, release wise. Seems most of the guys are releasing 50 Cent or Kanye West impersonations, which have as much to do with Soul Music as the 'Reverend' Ian Paisley has to do with stand up comedy! Kendra's song, featured on Peter Youngs Smooth FM, showcased the beat ballad 'Why Can't I See?', ably assisted by the excellent Eric Roberson. That is one real top drawer knee trembler, whilst 'Send Me Somebody To Love' is, arguably, the most radio friendly song on the album. This is a very nice new set, worth picking up and would enhance any Soul follower's domestic musical arsenal!
Tammy Harris add's herself to the new Soul sista's on the block very nicely as well. Perhaps a more diverse set than Kendra's, Tammy kicks off the scene with the harmonic title track 'Natural Vibe'. Very nice opener. One track that did strike me as being in my year end top ten tunes of 2007, is the glorious 'I Would Be Your Love', with it's very Jean Carne-esque overtones. One of those 'they don't make 'em like that anymore' melodies. Of the other songs 'Take Me Away' gets the bass bins going, 'The Sweetest Sound' is a lovely jazz-samba dancer and the listener even gets treated to a couple of cover versions in the guise of Phyllis Hyman's 'You Know How To Love Me', Stephanie Mills' 'Never Knew Love Like This Before' and the Brand New Heavies 'Never Stop'. A thoroughly enjoyable musical journey.
Chris Jasper can do no wrong in my humble....Goes to show the listener just how much of a contribution the man made to the Isley's and the Isley, Jasper, Isley sound of the Seventies and Eighties, that much of his solo material, since those days, would have sat very nicely on any of the former artists albums back in the day. Chris has been in touch with me and has sent material here for review purposes over the years. A friend sent me an mp3 of the title track, which I really liked, so I bought a copy of the album from CD Baby. Bout time I put some finance back in the man's coffers. To me the material, in many ways, is payment enough, and that payment is musically very generous on Chris's part with this new set. The title track is a lovely old school sounding stepper. Chris doesn't shout at the listener, which makes his message, regarding the man upstairs, that much more interesting and persuasive. Chris Jasper is a very good singer and songwriter. His output is melodic and consistent, which is why I had no hesitation in picking up a copy of this set. Check the standouts 'Thank You Lord' and 'Come On And Testify'. Enough said.
Recently I dropped by the Hidden Beach Records website. They are home for the songstress Jill Scott. After digging around there, I found some texts, written about Jill, voicing their concerns regarding her 'sound'. Some were constructive, some were downright insulting. All told, if an artist decides to create something people can listen to out there, the least these guys can do is let her voice her emotions, if you don't like it, don't listen or buy, or comment for that matter. If you do, well you know where Amazon is, go support the woman. If the critics don't like Jill's 'Getting In The Way', well let's hear their version! My feeling is we'll all probably be getting out of the way! LOL Personally, I think the biggest obstacle to Jill's career is perhaps the career itself. 'Who Is Jill Scott?' had us all asking ourselves, well, 'who is Jill Scott?' The template that set her career rolling, is still there, almost, not helping. but stifling a Soul Songstress. Recent journeys into the Jazz field have indicated, exactly what Jill is capable of. The Chris Botti album springs to mind. My feeling is that template has become a very cosy cushion to fall back on. Sure Jill will sell bucketloads of this album, however, spiritually, I think she needs to take the next step up artistically, if for no other reason than to silence her critics. On the positive side, when she drops down a beat or two, the listener is treated to the fact that she is one hell of a singer. Sure 'dipping her toe in the diverse artistic waters' is scary. Change is scary, period. O.K. More positives? Well I am so frustrated listening to the album. Why? Because track 11 'Whenever You're Around' really is the business. It is a fantastic song and thereby lies my dilemma. If this is possible, then who is guiding Jill away from material like this. I think Jill's future could well be served by hopping on the John Legend bus and taking a ride on a musical magical mystery tour. The biggest danger is becoming a pastiche of herself that serves no-one other than the diehard fan, and provides further ammunition for those who wish the worst for the poor woman. As Oscar Wilde once said 'a worse thing than being talked about, is not being talked about'. Guess whilst they are giving Jill a hard time, they are giving someone else a rest!
This album arrived a little late. The artist is called Seven. The poor guy must have heard every great wit in the Northern hemisphere find something to say that is amusing to them concerning his name, but not anyone else on the planet! LOL. Regarding this set, I know the guys at Expansion are going to cherry pick the song 'Brother / Sister' for their next Soul Togetherness compilation. When the guys who represent this Swiss artist first got in touch here, they sent me to the CD Baby website, where I listened to some samples. I liked the title track so much I bought the song from i-Tunes. It is nice to have the superior quality product here right now in all it's glory. This album walks down so many stylistic roads, that most folks favourite song will be different to the next persons. For myself 'Brothers/Sisters' is a nice tune. 'Home' definitely gets the thumbs up, as does 'Hope We Will Be' and 'High' grooves along nicely, ably assisted by the excellent Sheila E. Very 'Prince-y'. Nice album.
O'Bryan's album, well you may have that Groundhog Day feeling at the site regarding this set. A couple of months ago I was in touch with O'Bryan's people regarding this latest offering by the man. Two months later and the full monty has hit the streets. Firstly, I have to say thank you for the review copies the guys sent to me. Below is the earlier review, so I won't go over old ground, other than to say that this is a very good CD, which is at it's best when listened to in it's entirety. Comes with a recommendation from this scribe and available from CD Baby amongst others (if you are downloading mp3's do get them from there as the i-Tunes store set were a little substandard). One story regarding the i-Tunes store, was this. I bought the complete set of songs from the guys and wrote three copies. One was for a radio deejay here, one for a music journalist (exposure, increased unit sales etc) and Apple quickly got in touch with me. I was only allowed to copy two CD's. Three was simply not allowed. The third copy was meant for myself (as I bought the album in the first place). I got back to them and explained the situation, passed on the e-mail address of the artist, and was told that I should read the small print. Wonder what they would make of a bloke in a bedroom somewhere running off hundreds of these purely for personal profit. I was actually, helping the artist shift some units!! Disillusioned me a bit with Apple as I have been using their computers since the mid Eighties.
Ronnie McNeir has spent the last 7 years performing as part of the Four Tops line up within the new Millennium. Many folks took to Ronnie back in the Eighties with his output for the Expansion imprint along with some fine releases including the excellent 'Love Suspect' set (an album that contained the wonderful song 'Lately'). Ronnie has, actually, been part of the Motown set up for many years. He released albums during the Seventies, with his Prodigal self titled album (including 'Wendy Is Gone') being a huge favourite here in the U.K. The Alabama born singer was introduced to Motown by a certain Kim Weston back in the day. The Joe Sample melody 'There are many stops along the way', perfectly describes Ronnie's journey through the musical jungle. With a wonderful portfolio, he now finds himself in charge of his own recording destiny here with this new release. Ronnie has set up a stall at the excellent CD Baby retail outlet. That is where I went to pick up a download of this great 17 track set, which is as strong as any of his releases thus far.
Normally I save the best til last. Not this time round. 'I Love You' is just about as good a slice of the Real Deal you will hear all year. Really beautiful floater, which fits snugly into a very strong set of melodies. This is the sort of album that, with each individual that picks up a copy, they will all have their own personal favourite. 'I Love You' is mine. I know Peter Young at Smooth FM has a liking for the Al Jarreau-esque 'I'm In The Mood', however, I get the sneaky feeling, he will be playing several songs from this set over the coming weeks. I can't recommend this album highly enough. CD Baby will give you a superior quality sound set of files for a fiver, along with a cover JPEG and some blurb for those of you who like trying to lose their eyesight trying to read today's CD sleeves! LOL. Out with the strong reading glasses! Check the link below. More power to your elbow Ronnie!
Well far be it from me to begin talking about 2007 as a whole, however, if no further Soul releases make it to the stalls this year, 2007 will still be a far superior year, release wise, than the previous two or three. These two albums are perfect proof of that proverbial pudding. In fact, if you Soul fans pays your money and don't like these albums, then.........discuss?
Chrisette Michele's album has been around for a while now. It is a 2007 release that arrived with little fanfare, and all told, sits very awkwardly in amongst all of the other releases around right now. I think this is why I am beginning to think this is my favourite album release this year so far. Sure, it may have some folks in raptures, the rest in possible ruptures, but wherever your opinion rests, you have to say that this is a remarkable album. Firstly, Chrisette is very young, so folks such as myself cannot be accused by our juniors of 'not being hip'. It is just our 'hips' are of the replacement variety! LOL. Chrisette is the sort of vocalist I yearn to hear on the 'Stars Up Their Talent Factor' (very much their business!) television shows. She has quite a dynamic vocal range, which weaves it's way through various aspects of the human predicament. She can rock the dancefloor, with the likes of 'Let's Rock', or confound the 'but she doesn't sing Soulfully' brigade with the drop dead gorgeous 'If I Have My Way' or the stunningly moody 'Mr Radio'. Really, there is something here for everybody. What is exceptional with this album is the listener is never quite sure what is round the next corner musically. So diverse this set is, well it took me about a fortnight to make up my mind that I had heard the song of the year so far in the form of the Babyface co-penned 'Best Of Me'. I think that is the sort of wonderful accident that is waiting to happen within a set like this. A song concerning a woman coming to terms with a failed relationship, finding inner strength to cope, beautifully delivered and worth a place in any collection. Amazon is the place to pick up a copy. Watch this woman. She's just been let loose and is coming to a stereo near you! LOL
Phillip Manuel's album was recommended to me by a site visitor, who thought the set might appeal, so they set me off to CD Baby. How right they were. Very nice to see that website supporting the independent artist and offering an mp3 download service that is superior to Apple's in as much as the sound quality is superior, you get a biography about the artist, along with a good sized JPEG if you want to construct your own sleeve. Apple take note. Phillip's set is a great collection of Soul ballads and midtempo outings, highly recommended, with ;'Lite A Candle' pleasing these old ears. The killer, and probably destined to be a Classic Modern Soul dancer, is the opener 'Had To Have You'. Reminded me musically of the Live Band's 'Chance For Hope'. This is so radio friendly, that I think Phillip will have no problem in selling many units of this allbum. A very nice album indeed. Link? Right here:
What is not to like about either of these women? In another era they would both be major superstars, however, in this odd musical environment, where those who are supposed to promote, repress the singer and the song, well these women are left to bathe in the admiration adorned by those who yearn for the real deal and know what they are talking about. In other words, you!
Ledisi's first album 'Soul Singer' almost arrived on these shores unnoticed. In fact if it hadn't been for the relentless support given to the woman by the Prangell Brothers at Soul Brother Records here in the U.K., she would have travelled back Stateside without the attention this singer obviously deserves. 'Soul Singer' was a GREAT album, as was the follow up 'Feeling Orange, Sometimes Blue'. Ledisi's recent excursions have taken her into Ella Fitzgerald territory, with her re-recording the great Jazz singers melody 'Blues In The Night'. The vocal dynamic of Ledisi doesn't come to the fore, until you witness her pure energy, performing live. In fact, she caught me unawares a few years back when I went to see her perform at Subterranea in London some 5 years ago. She is a quite remarkable performer, and I told her so, as I was lucky enough to meet her afterwards. The fact that Maysa Leak had attended the show as a punter, and Chaka Khan no less is an admirer, tells it's own story. Ledisi's third album carries the instruction 'File Under Urban'. I think they missed the word 'Classic' from the end of that inaccurate piece of labelling. 'Lost and Found' is a very strong album indeed. The title track is a beautiful ballad, a good friend's favourite is 'I Tried' (with it's own Chaka Khan overtones) and my current favourite is 'Get To Know You'. With most albums, you pays your money, you makes your choice. Forget the latter part of that statement. Just get a copy. State of the art Soul Music from a singer leagues ahead of many of her contemporaries. This is Ledisi's first major label venture. It will not be her last. I hope you gather from my writings I rather like this set! Ledisi rules, O.K.! LOL
Angie Stone is another singer who suffers from today's marketing shambles. The companies try like crazy folks to ram her musical output into one compartment or other. She defies the labels, and we, thankfully, get superior grooves in various different gears. The single 'Baby', you probably have already heard. Superior sampling of Curtis at his finest, with Angie enrolling Betty Wright into the ranks. This will be on many folks Christmas lists at the end of 2007. This first outing on Stax for the woman is a fine follow up to her 'Mahogany Soul' set from, what seems like, decades ago. Of the highlights, well, her duet with James Ingram on the socially conscious 'My People' is very noteworthy. 'Pop Pop' is another winner, in fact, you can drop the needle/laser almost anywhere on the disk and come up with some fine Soul Music. For this old fool, the very retro mid tempo final outing 'Happy Being Me' really hit home, a song really suiting Angie's almost laid back delivery. Another winner from a woman who can do no wrong, and, if my guess is correct, has a huge appeal to other women out there. Certainly one of my wife's favourite artists. Superior Soul from a superior songstress.
All told, if 'women my hold up half the sky'......on the current evidence, the female artists out there hold up pretty well anything great musically right now. Two absolutely essential releases.
Firstly, my apologies for the absence of updates here for the last couple of weeks. Been working on the Rugby World Cup, which has been all consuming, however, I have been listening to a lot of music whilst working and earning some finances, part of which will be re-sewn back into the Black music scene. Here are some layers of the cream that has risen to the top recently....
Chaka Khan is a singer that can do no wrong. Even if she was given the task of performing her rendition of 'Let's Hear It For The Boys', it would demand attention. All told, yer average punter yearns for the days of Chaka's 'Whatcha Gonna Do For Me' type of song templates, which are getting harder and harder for the established performer to add to their portfolio's. The pressure to sing with the latest 'new R&B' 'Puff Thamagicdragon' on the block is immense. Chaka's latest set could easily have featured several duets with those less worthy than this fine songstress, however, the diehard Chaka disciple will not be disappointed with this new album. She does duet with Mary J. and Michael McDonald, however, she cannot be restrained from Mama's own musical home cookin'! When I say to you guys that 'One For All Time' is one of her very best songs, well, if you disagree with that sentiment, then all is lost. Her voice is preserved, undiluted and full of THAT Chaka phrasing. Lovely, lovely song and worth the price of all the seating at the opening rugby game, in the Stade De France, on it's own! That dynamite piece of Soul is followed by one of her finest ballads, namely 'Angel'. This is the best of the new sets by the Soulful Stateside heavyweights. Welcome back Chaka. This is a real gem.
Sharon Jones has a completely different slant on the Soulful side of things. She is reportedly about to appear at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem. She will feel very at home in those surroundings. The woman and her Dap Kings are very heavily influenced by Brother James, although this set offers a full swatch of fabric colours in the bands rich musical tapestry. Sharon's music could well have been recorded, originally, some 40 years ago, as retrospective is the name of the day within the overall feel of proceedings. She can 'belt' out a tune, although her vocal repertoire is rich, resonant and varied, all of which serves up a very pleasing serving of Soul Food. Real instruments, great singing and a very solid set of song from back in the.....sorry....today!
Ty Causey's third set (the first two are also reviewed within these ever expanding set of pages) is a real delight. We move from Sharon's retrospective leaning's to Ty's contemporary Soulful stylings. Ty doesn't go for the short termism of much of todays disposable, use it and dispose of it, 'America's Got Talent' style of karaoke. Hell, America 'has' talent, and it is right here in the shape of one great singer Ty Causey! I am sure Ty wouldn't mind a musical comparison with another great Soul performer, that of singer and songwriter Gary Taylor. That is a huge compliment from this scribe, as Gary is a personal favourite in this house. Ty's third album is easily his strongest to date, in as much as there are no 'filler' tracks. This is a very personal journey through the various aspects of the human experience. Ty doesn't holla in your face. He articulates his take on things, all of which make this one CD that has seen heavy rotation in this house. I am not going to recommend a single item on offer here. All of the goods are of a very high standard, which, all told make this a pretty indispensible piece of musical artwork. Check Soul Brother, Amazon etc. for copies. Highly recommended. Nice one Ty.
Finally, well if someone asked me to point a finger at an album that represented the 'state of the art' in Soul Music during the Nineties, I would probably tell the questioner it was either Vertical Hold's first album, the Angie Stone and Devox album, but far more likely, it would have to be Rahsaan Patterson's debut MCA album, released some 10 years ago. A Soul classic and a fine addition to a freshly pressed, and ready to ship, portfolio. The same can be said of this latest set from the man at Dome Records. Having said that, exact comparisons between the first release and this latest offering are largely irrelevant, as this is, albeit not a 'revolution', more of an 'evolution'. Rahsaan has a very distinctive vocal delivery that is instantly recognisable, with hints of Stevie, although, all told, these stylings are concocted from his own personal vocal recipe. The tunes that really hit home here are the lovely mid tempo fingersnapper, 'Feels Good', the homely 'No Danger' and the mellow stuttering vibe of 'Stop Breaking My Heart'. A very satisfying set, which will only serve to enhance the man's reputation as a major player within the enduring Real Soul Scene. Recommended and available at the usual outlets. Check Dome's link at the site as well.
April Hill is a new singer, who must feel as if she is on some sort of rollercoaster ride this side of the pond. Firstly, the nice guys at the excellent Soul Tracks website have taken this album under their wing, whilst the other nice set of folks, at Soul Brother Records over here, have her latest album pressed up and ready to roll in the next couple of weeks. On top of that, the poor woman is trying to get her own Soul Website up and running, and now she has Peter Young at Smooth FM singing her praises, and for what it's worth me tagging along with the stragglers finishing up the field. Why all the fuss? Well it is all April's fault as this little album is really excellent. Folks have compared her vocal stylings to those of Eryka Badu, although, in her own way, she has a unique delivery that is simply 'hers'. What is refreshing about April is she doesn't try to emulate those who appear on American Pop Idol, belting out lyrics rather than knowing their own parameters and sticking within those. The track that is creating a buzz out there is 'The Search'. If you liked Sean Oliver's 'You and Me', then that will give you an idea regarding where this track is coming from. A family favourite in this household and very, very catchy. Add to this two lovely ballads in the form of 'Feelin' You' and 'Hope He'll Be Happier', throw in a sprinkling of Marvin Gaye in the form of her take on the man's Leon Ware penned 'I Want You', and you have a great new vocalist in the making. As I mentioned, out on Soul Brother Records shortly. One of the years best so far, as is....
Darlene McCoy is another great vocalist. Most of her recordings are Gospel in foundation, with this new set being the latest, but not the first release by this songstress. One thing that did make me interested in this set instantly, was the involvement of a certain Tommy Sims. Regular site visitors know the high opinion I have of this individual. A genius. When Tommy gets his mucky mits on Gospel material, he makes the affair much more interesting in as much as the musical vehicle that delivers the message to the man upstairs has a real diversity. Much Gospel material is 'holla'd' at the man rather than articulated. All told, if as Stevie once sang, the man upstairs resides 10 Zillion Light Years away, you'd have to holla some for him to get the message. Better to 'coax' than confuse the man, all told. Darlene is in full on 'song' mode here. 'Fallen In Love' is a song that appeared in a movie entitled 'Diary Of A Mad Black Woman' a couple of years back. Funny title for a film, great song though. 'Be With You' has a real nice mid tempo and proves, additionally, that Gospel can have a wider appeal, which is what the genre ought to be all about. Make religion a closed shop and folks lose interest pretty quickly. Gospel should feel homely, warm and welcoming. Darlene tests the musical waters with her own personal take on the old Alicia Myers chestnut 'I Want To Thank You'. Always been a great song and this version is right up there with the best renditions in Soul Music's rich back catalogue. One real killer tune here is the last track 'U-N-I-T-Y', which glides along nicely whilst Darlene gets to business sticking the chorus in the grey matter long after the song has finished. A real killer diller. Personal favourite? Well 'Amazing' is just that. As the anoraks out there would say.....tooooon! Great album. Check i-Tunes for an i-Tunes Plus copy. Darlene and April are showing the guys how it ought to be done in 2007. Go girls.....
Two albums of note, for hugely different reasons.
Tuomo Prattala is a new artist to me and is fairly typical of exactly what is going on, musically, in other parts of Europe thesedays. Quality Soul Music being reinvented for a modern generation. If you want to track the man down, you'd have to travel to Helsinki in Finland, a place that I was lucky enough to visit some 10 years ago now. Very clean place, not too many folks around, and still daylight at 1 in the morning!
The first point to make about this set is simply how 'song led' 'My Thing' actually is. A 45 doing the rounds, which makes an appearance in the starting line-up here, is namely 'Don't Take It Too Hard'. This song could have been released in 1976. It is so retro and 'Northern' in it's incarnation, that it has become essential already on the more discerning dancefloors. Tuomo drifts through several tempo's, highlighted by the very strong melodies 'Since Or Before', the Stevie-esque 'Puddle Of Love, 'Ballroom Girl', the gorgeous drop dead ballad 'It's You', along with my personal favourite 'True Friend'. I liked the latter song so much, I put it right in at the number two slot in the chart at the site. One of the best of the year so far.
Check Soul Brother or Amazon for copies of this set. Highly recommended.
Prince........what is he like? No-one ever knows where to place the guy musically. Is he a rocker, a hippie or an old skool Soul Singer and performer. I like the bloke myself for several reasons. Prince doesn't neatly fit into any compartment. If you love the Northern Sound, well this man is just about as far away from that genre that any performer could possibly be. I like the guy, as he is a definite 'one off'. He employs folks for their ability and not their looks. The fantastic Rosie Gaines got a look in in the man's band. Beyonce? No chance. 'Dreamgirls' all over again. Rosie is a genius within this profession and the Purple One can see that.
This set has already made waves in the U.K. Prince cut a deal with a national newspaper, where they paid him up front, giving them permission to give away free copies with their tabloid, in an attempt, as Prince stated himself, 'allowing him to directly communicate with his grass roots diehard fan base again'. Oddly, the man stirred up a hornet's nest in the national news here in the U.K. I had popped out to pick up a copy of a newspaper, I wouldn't normally touch with a barge pole, in order to hear the fruits of the man's latest labours. Funnily enough, there were several 'industry' types all slating the man, telling him he had made a grave error in his latest escapade. Error? Struck me that if the guy created his latest 'baby', he ought to have some say in how that baby was brought up. One of these industry clowns said 'This will all backfire on the man. His last album only sold 80,000 units and the latest release will, as a result of these foolhardy actions, end up in a lot of land fill rubbish sites'. Blimey, that's a bit harsh, however it does illustrate beautifully how the 'suits' within the industry are beginning to lose control of their financial comfort zone. About time. Firstly, if this guy had been doing his job properly, the Artist Formerly Known As should have sold more units from his previous effort as the suit hadn't marketed the set with any enthusiasm. Remember, these are the same middle managers that have frustrated many artists, who look to websites such as CD Baby for true control over their writings. The middle managers spent years staring at their navels and ringing the cash tills whilst we, as punters, were being charged three times the amount for a CD, than our friends in the U.S., for no real reason other than pure capitalism. These artistical control freaks then had a rude awakening when Napster came on the scene, followed by Apple launching it's i-Pod, then launching i-Tunes and away went all the punters in the land in a frenzy of musical emancipation. The suits didn't know what to do. The hand that fed was withdrawn, and these guys, who weren't in the industry for the music all told, vented their frustrations with everyone from the kid in their bedroom downloading their latest favourite pop single, to the artist who sought to have some say in their abilities as musicians and songwriters. Basically, in this latest escapade, the middle men have turned on a particular artist, whose like they said they were trying to defend previously, as a smoke screen which hid their true aspirations. Money. Prince simply ought to be able to do whatever he wishes with his latest album. If he created the collection then it is his. If it is destined for a land fill site, well that may be (but hardly likely, and if that is the case then why are they so angry?), however, he's got my vote. More power to his New Generation.
The music? Well this is one of those very rare occasions that the music comes in as runner up in the role of conversation piece. The rockier stuff will be lapped up by those who have always liked that side of the man's music, and good luck to them. The Soul fraternity will look to 'Future Baby Mama' as a nice slice of the contemporary stuff. The killer for me is 'Somewhere Here On Earth', which, if this was recorded by an independent Soul Artist, well, it would be shouted from the rooftops by the purists. Simply lovely music and worth the price of the album alone, although I think, after hearing the rantings I heard yesterday, I'd go buy the set on a point of principle. Prince gets my vote! I am off to build a shed, have someone who I have never met telling me where to buy the wood and where to put it (all in the best possible taste!) and then demand I pay them three quarters of any of the proceeds should I decide to sell it! Sounds fair to me! LOL.
Four real summery albums which set that '(Saturday Night) hay fever' period up very nicely!
Ebony Alleyne is a name that isn't new to me. A couple of years back rumours abounded regarding new releases on a resurgent OKeh record label, the first of which involved 'rennaissance man' Ian Levine moving through his musical gears and slipping into his Burt Bacharach / Carole King mode (very much his business!). Well Ian employed a full string orchestra and we were treated to the, oh so Dionne Warwick, 'Walk Away and Never Look Back'. This had me scrambling for phone numbers and I ordered the song, along with a couple of further OKeh 45's, my only complaint being that I can't stop my daughter singing along to the songs...at volume! LOL Goes to show how long it has been since artists have concentrated more on melody and less on the beat that backs up the catwalk that used to be described as a performing stage! If you followed that you are a better person than I am! You get my drift, I hope (in the best possible taste!!).
Move on a few years and we find out that Ebony has actually a finished album project. That is mainly due to Middlesex's own 'Hercule Poirot' Ralph Tee at Expansion Records. Ralph could find an unfinished master on the Beatles if you asked him! Thank heavens for his detective work and Ebony's persistence that, as she puts it, her style of music is very much her own 'as opposed to the type of music girls who look like her usually make'. Well, if there were only more like her around. This is a veritable masterpiece and will be many folks favourite album of 2007. As for Ebony's future, well the road is forked right now. Route A would take her down a Suga Babes route, that might make her a few dollars, however, she will be just another face in the crowd, or Route B, that she sticks to her guns. Going by the strength of the material and the input of Ian Levine, her music will speak volumes in it's own right. The financial rewards will follow. There....a long winded way of saying this ain't half good!
Talking of 'not half good' begins with an album that follows the sadness regarding the death of Gerald LeVert at a very young age, and as a friend of mine said to me, 'it is just plain wrong for a parent to lose a child. We should never be around to see our offspring pass away before ourselves'. Amen to that. So we are left with an album that, thankfully, was completed prior to the passing of Gerald. 'Thankfully', meaning that posthumous recordings invariably involve an album of several singers singing material, which, if those who had passed had heard it, would be saddened. Generally these outings are very drawn out, self indulgent affairs. This album has Gerald in full flow, optimistic and sounding as he ought to. There are some great moments which are quite excellent here. Some of these guys best recordings in recent years. 'I Like It' and the 'steppy' 'Close and Personal' are personal favourites, and to add to the recipe, there is a real top drawer ballad in the guise of 'Slip Away'. All told, a very worthwhile set, which may suffer sales-wise due to the point I was making previously. Don't prejudge this album. It really is very good.
Carl Thomas spoilt the party for me a couple of years back with the song 'Dreamer', a tune that has become one of my favourite Soul tunes over the last 10 years. A new album has a lot to live up to and, in many sections it does just that. Carl has a very tender delivery that sets him aside from many of his contemporaries, which is refreshing. Coupled with that and the ability to write a 'tune', he has my vote! I especially liked the song 'Thought You Should Know', where Carl enlists the assistance of one Lalah Hathaway. 'Home' is a great song, not too schmaltzy, about his family. A very decent offering, which ranks up alongside any of his previous releases. Still got a way to go to better 'Dreamer', however, this will do very nicely in the meantime.
Phil Perry is the latest recruit to the Shanachie stable. With each of these releases, you are treated to some of the favourite 'Great American Soulbook' melodies of previous generations. Phil has always had a very individual singing style, one almost honed to perfection over the years. Phil's chosen songs are, in some places, fairly obvious choices, although he makes the ears perk up in places, leaving the listener questioning themselves....'now who did this first time round'? Phil covers the evergreens 'Just To See Her', 'If You Don't Know Me By Now', 'Mighty Love', 'Everything Must Change' and 'The World is a Ghetto'. His more experimental moments include a lovely take on 'Deja Vu' and a new tune to me called 'Honor'. Someone may tell me who recorded this first time round? Might be a new tune? Included are a couple of Soft Rockers melodies in the form of 'Ride Like The Wind' and 'Unbreak my Heart', both of which Phil makes silk purses out of sow's ears! Nice release. Check Amazon or Soul Brother for all these albums.
There is no doubting Leroy Burgess' dancefloor pedigree. He has been wearing the 'master of the beat disguise' for many years, recording material on so many artists releases whilst, at the time, his solo career was left on hold. The acts Phreek, Aleem, Inner Life, Fonda Rae, Venus Dodson, Intrigue, Logg, and Convertion, all have that distinctive harmonic imprint that could only eminate from the pen of the maestro.
Whilst Leroy was adopting a low personal profile, he was also compiling this little set of gems between the years 1979 and 1983. On first listen, my personal belief is that these melodies have been somewhat 'reworked' well after those dates, however semantics aside, this is one great little album. This CD hardly feels 12 months old, let alone 25 years old. Right from kick off, the beats we have come to know and love by the man are evident and still sounding fresh. The album's opener, 'Midnight In The Streets' is a very good example of many of the tunes that follow. There are Leroy's own takes on a couple of tunes you may have already been aware of. 'It's So Easy (You Can Do It)' and 'Fly Girl' being a couple of examples.
For this old souler, it is when a melody kicks in, that these ears prick up. This is beautifully illustrated by the breezy, mid tempo, 'Keepin' On'. Killer diller? Well when I first arrived at the song 'All Into You', the repeat button was left on. Difficult to describe this tune other than to say, this is one of the best songs I have heard thus far this year. A real joy from start to finish. Definitely not an album full of Leroy Burgess fillers. Ignore at your peril! Out on Soul Brother Records, with a link to Amazon below.
From time to time a couple of releases arrive here that leave me in a quandary as to where to fit them in at the site. Sure, the Been Missed section might be an option, however, the nature of these releases meant they had to go to the front of the queue here.
The Marvin Gaye Motown reissues have been, for the large part, a revelation, showcasing the volume and quality, not just the quantity of labour that went in to the realisation of each release. 'Lifetime' was Marvin's final Motown crusade, before his trip to Belgium following all sorts of personal matters that beset much of the latter phase of his life. In fact, he had previously released the 'rambling' 'Here My Dear' as a part post marital payment to Anna Gordy in order to settle the finances that thesedays are sorted out 'before' a celebrity relationship is allowed to commence. Strange to have a solicitor telling two folks, 'O.K., you get this, if you fall out, you get that. We'll saw in half the baby and the kids get all the family jewels.......O.K. you can fall in love now but only for a period of two years!' World's gone crazy. Marvin had gone through all of that crazy world, wiped the proverbial slate clean, and released 'In Our Lifetime' in early 1981. Prior to that, the meat in the 'Here My Dear' / 'In Our Lifetime' sandwich was a, later shelved album entitled 'Love Man'. Sessions for that were recorded and then shelved. As with the 'What's Going On' Deluxe Edition, here you are presented with two full takes on the album. The first attempt emerged, unreleased, in September 1980. The one you have on vinyl at home already, came out in January, the following year, as mentioned. Confused? Well so was I! Some folks turn their noses up at 'In Our Lifetime', comparing the set to his benchmark releases earlier the previous decade. I liked the album at the time and I still do. 'Praise' is glorious. 'Heavy Love Affair' really describes that personal emotional rollercoaster perfectly. 'Love Party' is a genuinely 'fun' recording. My only complaint is the original album featured just 8 tracks. Here you get two CD's. They comprise of all the 'Love Man' sessions, both takes on 'In Our Lifetime', some studio mix tapes, from 'Lifetime', and a 45 version of 'Ego Trippin Out', which was to have been the single release from 'Love Man'. All told, I have to thank the guys at Planet Earth for sending me this promo pack. There are no sleeves here, so I guess those are something to look forward to. Very important release. This could have been called 'Marvin's Motown Swansong'. I hope that the following releases are left in a 'sleeping dog' mode. You are going to hate me now, but I thought 'Midnight Love' could be summed up as a 'series of outtakes wrapped around 'Sexual Healing'. Maybe a bit harsh. Just my opinion, for what it's worth. 'Lifetime' is a must have set. Marvin left a very rich legacy, which is still making musical waves today. This is a final edition of a library that also offers some closure on the career of this 'Troubled Man'.
Formed by Jeff Lane (who had his finger in just about every dancefloor album pie during the mid 1970's), the Brooklyn Transit Express were one of the less well known bands in the Lane entourage. It was really Brass Construction, with their pulsating street funk driven rhythms, and en mass protest chants, that filled (and fuelled) many of the clubs of this era. Jeff Lane's stylings permeated themselves into his other projects, B.T. Express being one vehicle helped on it's way by the man. Funnily enough, the early Express efforts really borrowed from the Norman Whitfield School of Dance. Sure there were the 'Construction style' jerky string arrangements, however, these were interspersed by the Whitfield-esque wah wah guitar licks. Having said all of that, the Express broke ranks for their first major club smash, 'Do It (Till Your Satisfied)'. 'Express' from the same set followed in a similar groove, irresistable to anyone with a rhythmical bone in their body. Express were 'looser' in their funk delivery, looser than Construction, who were almost militaristic in style. When Express felt the call up, blazing a Randy Muller trail around the dancefloor, they went all the way. 'Can't Stop Groovin' illustrated this perfectly, almost uncomfortable, frenetic and giving the listener the impression 'the Express were coming off the rails'! I remember this tune very well as a brand new 45 release. By now Jeff Lane was in full 'I am going to slice up some rhythms with my string section and repeat and repeat and repeat myself until I get the message across. If you don't like that, you'll be hearing from me and the homeboyz!' All told, these are state of the art street funk rhythms from that particular era. I think my favourite track by the band is the meandering 'Depend On Yourself'. Not sure why, it just hits the toe tapping spot and gives Jeff Lane carte blanche in the string department of the B.T. Express store. This is a fine release, nicely packaged, summarising perhaps one outfit that deserve a few more props dancefloor wise. Both the Marvin and B.T. albums have retail and tracklisting links at Amazon below. Hope that helps!
O'Bryan is an artist who has not been on the Soul Scene for a while now. He recorded 5 albums during the early to mid nineteen eighties, all of which had something of great merit contained within their sleeves listings. His folks got in touch with me 'out of the blue' and spoke at length about a new album called 'F1rst' (yes spelt that way), which was his follow up to his 1986 offering 'Surrender'. 20 years? Doesn't seem that long ago, however times move on and, Soul Singers get left by the wayside, unfortunately, over the years. When O'Bryan's folks mentioned a new set, I asked them if they might have a review copy. They sent me to the man's Myspace page (link below), where you can stream some audio. I liked what I heard and waited for a CD to arrive. I guess these guys were rushed off their feet, although they did send me to i-Tunes, where I bought a copy of the whole set and contacted a label here with regard to, perhaps, obtaining an official release here in the U.K. Whatever anyone tells you, an MP3 doesn't have the richness in sound that a properly mastered release posesses, however, you do get a pretty good idea of exactly what a gem of an album this is. Very downtempo (unlike much of his Eighties material), with, probably, 'Caught In The Middle' being the only track causing a rippling dancefloor!. I like this album a great deal. Reminiscent of Gary Taylors recent releases in many ways. I guess, for a real release, it is a case of watch this space and hope.
Maysa's album made me laugh. Surely this has been out before? Another album of covers? She has just recorded one of those! Well the selection on offer here shows Maysa being very particular in her choice of material. Her previous album could have been called 'The Usual Suspects', however, on this latest Shanachie release, the woman selects some 'not so obvious gems', such as 'You Are My Starship' (old Norman Connors tune as you know), Evelyn King's excellent 'I'm In Love', a beautiful take on Michael Jackson's Stevie tune 'I Can't Help It'. Finally there is my personal favourite, 'Zoom' (a highly regarded Commodores tune in this house). This set is out at the end of this month. If you like Maysa, you'll love this. P.S. Well done Shanachie in getting the cover artwork up at Amazon with some haste! Check the Amazon link below.
Couple of years ago, a real nice guy called Dwayne Palmer got in touch with me regarding a project he was working on at the time called 'Stars On Broadway'. Dwayne sent me the CD and the music was wall to wall 'timeless Soul' (as one deejay once described the set). Timeless Soul it certainly was. Dwayne stayed in touch and we mainly spoke of music and influences, with the man very kindly contributing to the site financially. Thanks for that Dwayne. The man spoke one day of a friend of his who is making music in L.A. and would I take a listen to her album. Well a full on package arrived just as I was dealing with other matters, therefore, I ignored this set criminally. Dwayne's friend is called Nikkole. She has this set at Amazon as I type. I have finally had some time to myself and I gave the woman my 'undivided' for the albums duration. Very pleased I did as well. Nikkole certainly has taste. I can hear that she has been listening to Teena Marie, whilst utilising the likes of The Emotions on proceedings. There are commercial moments, tastefully handled, musically, highlighted by the highly infectious 'Gon Bounce'. Title did make me wonder, however, whatever she is referring to, well that is very much her business! LOL. I am playing the set for the fourth time right now. Only just dawned on me that I haven't yet reached for the skip button on the stereo (yes there were stereo's before i-Pod's, for the younger readers out there! There were two 'speakers' and you had to go buy two small dogs to sit one in front of each! LOL). 'It's Too Late' is the vehicle that gives the Emotions a lift. Very nice mid tempo melody. Nikkole really excels when the tempo drops a little. The cream of the crop of this variety arrive via the strong melodies 'Waiting', the gorgeous 'I Think Of You' (my current fave), 'Amazing' (beautiful ballad) and 'And You Love Me Too' (possibly a future fave). I could really only find a couple of songs that 'missed' me. All told Nikkole has a real nice album here. Highly recommended. Thanks for turning me onto this Dwayne.
Donnie is another artist that, if he plays his cards close to his chest, could go all the way. This CD cover shown above is quite an adventurous piece of artworking in todays homogenised, pasteurised, politically correctly grown music market. There are many artists (Glenn Lewis, Don-e etc.) that are likened to Stevie Wonder. Usually, this refers to the singers vocal inflections. Musically it is how the artist deals with their own writings that maketh the singer. Donnie certainly can write a tune. One similarity to the 20+ Stevie, is the man's political edge to many of the lyrics on show. 'The Daily News' offers a hint as to exactly the lyrical content and the journey Donnie is about to take you on. Donnie covers all sorts of contentious issues on a, generally, all uptempo outing. 'Impatient People', '9-11', Suicide', 'Atlanta Child Murders', 'For Christ Sake' and 'Mason Dixon Line' all hint to the fact the man must have been having a real bad day when he wrote this (or had just finished watching an episode of the U.K. soap opera 'EastEnders'!) LOL. Personally, I love this stuff, None of this will be making it to any of the various talent shows that invade our television screens like folks attempting to sell you insurance when you are trying to put the kids to bed. I love this material. Donnie rocks the musical industrial boat, something that is long overdue, and he cleverly does so by not 'being too in the recipients face'. '9-11' is lovely. Americans should be proud of Donnie. He offers a human face, which will give us all hope that folks don't take exception to a gene pool and go off shooting other folks offspring on college campus's the other side of the pond. Sure the U.K. has it's own 'Jones', and Donnie, his like, and those prepared to take a political risk deliver their message right to your front door by the global post person. Of the various issues dealt with here, well we will all have one close to our heart, so where will the 'hit song' come from? Well in my humble, it shouts its own case from the rooftops. 'If I Were You', I am sure has Stevie taking his harmonica out for a spin. So catchy a song this, well, one can dream can't I? Do pick up this album. Dome are handling the business stuff U.K. wise, although there is another label entitled Soul Thought Records involved. Now if some of the guys (who drive those cars with some rapper talking about how great he is, all the women love him, but he hates them as women are second class citizens) dropped them, accidentally, out of the vehicle window and (accidentally ran over the 'parentally advised' CD), stuck Donnie on....well that is what I would call bold! Dome's link is in the review below. More power to their elbow. Check the Amazon button as well.
Two years ago a twelve inch single landed on the doorstep here, manufactured in Italy on a small label called Schema. The song was entitled 'This Is What You Are'. It was performed by a group, unusually, entitled Was A Bee. I liked the single so much, it still sits in my top 20 songs for 2005 on the relevant page at the site. The label states I may be a year late regarding release timings. Was A Bee featured the vocal talents of one Mario Biondi. Three years down the line, along comes a parent album to that 45, with Mario rightly receiving his full props this time round. I have listened to this album a great deal. I love everything on it and pondered as to how the markets might deal with a set like this thesedays. Certainly 'This Is What You Are' ought to sit at number one in the national pop charts. Strong song, catchy, danceable, possibly too classy for it's own good. If the set saw the light of day 25 years ago, Mario's image would be plastered all over the Face magazine with folks clammering for an interview with this man. What does the album sound like? Well, the best description I can give the set is 'Mark Murphy, on a Jazz Juice album, reaching the masses'. Mario has a completely distinctive vocal delivery, powerful, eloquent and....as I said, just brilliant. I have listened to this set over and over again. I don't reach for the mouse, skip button, record deck at all when this is on, with perhaps one exception. That is to replay the reworked version of 'This Is What You Are'. The song has been mellowed down slightly, yet still retaining it's irresistable danceability. As the soccer manager Kevin Keegan once stated 'I don't make predictions...I never have done and I never will'. In my case, my prediction is...well, more of a prayer for justice. This track should be a number one song on any pop chart. What are the chances? Check Soul Brother or Amazon for copies.
Full Flava's second trip onto the dancefloor arrives a good few years after their excellent debut on Dome Records. Still with Dome (bless them) the sista's have taken over the nightclub, and the house is really rockin'! The teamsheet reads Chantay Savage, Beverlei Brown, Kelli Sae, Carleen Anderson, Joy Rose, Donna Gardier, Hazel Fernandes, Ce Ce Peniston and Dee Johnson. What you have here are some great contemporary interpretations of some quality dancers, carefully selected from Soul Music's amazing back catalogue. Donna Gardier is a particular personal favourite U.K. singer in my books. Donna handles two evergreens beautifully, namely 'Lovin' You Is Sweeter Than Ever' and 'The Glow Of Love'. Tastefully embellishing this great album are some lovely interpretations of Terri Wells 'You Make It Heaven' and Jean Carn's 'Was That All It Was', with the blue touch paper lit at the outset via a great reworking of the Earth, Wind & Fire's classic 'September'. None of these versions are straight takes on the originals. 'Reworking' is a good way of describing these songs, let's face it, we all know and love. They have been enhanced in many ways. Transported carefully into the new millennium if you like. All I know is the whole album really lifts the spirits. Great set all round. I hope Dome don't leave it too long before we see a volume three of this series. Go girls.....!
draw is made on the 16th of may 2007 to find the deniece williams album winner:
*The winner is Kristi Redcross from Richmond, VA., U.S.A.
Eric Roberson's album 'Left' kicks off this quartet of releases, the first two of which are albums from the excellent U.K. based label, Dome Records. This is, actually, Eric's fifth release, following 4 previous albums, financed by the man himself for his Blue Erro imprint. Dome have landed this fifth excellent release, an album that, if any album deserved the tag, is a real 'grower' of a set. 14 tracks on offer here, tenderly delivered and carefully side stepping the run of the mill releases that masquerade as R & B thesedays. Sure this set may not be 'the cup of Earl Grey' for the Northern purist out there, however, if you feel as I do, well there is only so much mileage in crop rotating the same old material, after all, where will the 'oldies' of tomorrow eminate from? Hey.....stop looking at me! LOL This is one good, solid, illustration of where todays musical creators ought to be headed. The songs? 'Pen Just Cries Away', ILuvU2Much', 'Pretty Girl', 'Too Soon', 'Tha Baby Song' and 'Open Your Eyes' (Eric wrote this after taking a Stevie album off the stereo!) all really appeal. Not a one track album. Recommended.
Gordon Chambers take us into the second half of the Dome extravaganza. Gordon has one thing in common with Eric. They both deliver their material in a very strong individual vocal style, avoiding the 'soundalike American Idol template' which is the fashion of the day thesedays (ask any of the budding wannabee's who their favourite artist is and they will say Stevie. Nuff said). Gordon's songwriting curriculum vitae is second to none. Those who have indulged themselves with material from the Gordon Chambers songbook include, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Anita Baker, Angie Stone, Patti LaBelle and the evergreen Isley Brothers. 'Well Mr. Chambers, you've got the job!' One real nice aspect of Gordon's songwriting prowess, is the man seems at home whether moving along slowly ballad style, or moving up the gears until the bass bins begin to temble! Nice to see the lovely Ledisi on board here, helping out with the vocal chores on 'To Love Again'. If there are any budding Soul songstresses out there, check out Ledisi. Amazing dynamism in her vocal chords, and the woman just won't keep still! The songs 'Get To Know', the orchestrated 'Violins', 'Bygones, and the Gospelly 'If You Love Me', all did it for this old Soul fan. Another winner from Peter and Santosh at Dome.
Shanachie's (Deniece's current label) school report ought to read: Content: 10 out of 10. Album artwork availability: 2 out of 10. The '2' is because the sleeves do eventually appear, however, the feeling the reviewer is left with is, well, do you want to sell these albums or don't you? The shame of releases such as this one and the Vesta Williams album a couple of months back, is that the sets arrive with an almost whimper and give the impression that the parent company isn't that bothered. I am sure that is very far from the truth, however, 'if you've got it darling's, flaunt it!' My gripes aside, the music here is top drawer. Deniece chooses some personal favourites and gives the listener her take on these old evergreens. The whole project kicks off with the assistance of a certain Stevie Wonder. Blimey, if this bloke can sing as well as he can play the harmonica, he will go far! The song in question is Deniece's take on 'That's How Heartaches Are Made'. Real nice version. There are very nice versions of the songs 'Lover's Holiday', 'This Time I'll Be Sweeter', 'If You Really Love Me', 'Someday We'll All Be Free', 'Never Too Much' and, the track that did make me smile, Deniece Williams sings....Deniece Williams! Yes, the woman revisits her 'This Is Niecy' album for her reworking of a personal favourite of mine, 'Cause You Love Me Baby'. All told, a lovely album, without a sleeve at the moment....now which song was track 5! LOL. The image above is from an earlier album. Nice, album covers, aren't they? (this one finally arrived on the 4th April)
Last, but certainly not least, is a completely outrageous CD sent to me by a band out of Paris called Swade. Why is this outrageous? Well, remember the dancers that were coming out of Italy back around 1981? Releases by the band Change, with Stateside bands such as BB&Q doing similar things across the pond. Well I thought all of that style of material had been laid to rest, along with the Street Sounds albums, and then this landed on the matt. Swade sent me a URL for one of the songs on this set, which had me curious about where these guys were musically coming from. When I first listened to the album, there were hints of the Ian Levine Motorcity melodies from some 17 years back, although, without doubt, these guys have been listening to BB&Q and Change. Directed by a guy called Thomas G, I believe these guys are unsigned right now. All I would say to them is there are many Soul Fans who will go for their sound in a big way. I think that if you were clubbing back in 1981 - 82, you will know exactly where these guys are coming from. Very infectious material. I do hope the group get a deal. Today's market has been so tied up stylistically, that quite whether this band will do well, well that is anyone's guess. All I have here for them right now is an e-mail address (see below). If you run a record store, get a copy of this CD, cover up the label and tell the customers it is an unreleased BB&Q album from 1980! Goes for £500 thesedays! I am not supposed to like this, I am not supposed to like this, I am not supposed to like this....oh what the Hell!
Four reasons to be optimistic regarding music this year. Some fine music, all solid sets from varying aspects of the various pieces of the Soul and (true) R&B jigsaw out there.
Adriana Evans third album is a real delight. The woman ought to become part of the Brazilian tourist board, as her recollections and music is more heavily influenced by the place as time passes. Been holding onto a copy of this album for a few weeks now, waiting for the green light from the label (Expansion Records and other parties) before I posted the set at the site. Adriana doesn't make bad albums. She carefully sidesteps the musical templates on offer by the industry, and creates minor masterpieces of her own. A 'minor masterpiece' is a good description of this set. No bad tracks, just strong melodies, beautifully delivered and defying an industry that has 'a sound' that all young Black artists are supposed to slip neatly into, however, all told, that template is sounding a little passed it's sell by date thesedays. Great label. Great album. Year end finest? Well, it will probably grace many a Christmas stocking come December. Personal favourite? Well 'Never Knew'. Guilty as charged! A beautiful album release all told.
Kokoh's album came out towards the tail end of 2006. I couldn't allow the album to pass us all by, especially as the set is a vehicle for Mr 'I Want You' Leon Ware's songwriting expertee's. I don't know too much about Kokoh as this was a personal i-Tune download (bought and paid for by yours truly) and is most notable for the mellower moments. Funny that the most popular songs are the uptempo tracks at Apple's website. To these ears, they sound a little like an after thought within the whole album concept, a concept which is, basically, an album for lovers. For me these uptempo tracks are the weakest and, thankfully, the fewest in the line-up on offer here. The average punter thesedays is steered away from ballad material in favour of the American Pop Idol sounding R&B where the singer demonstrates their vocal dynamics at the expense of melody, and more criminally, quality. Shame. Anyhow, the music on show here is pure 'Ware-house' material. The title track could have come from any of Leon's own albums. Lovely stuff. This album gets a good 8 out of 10 in this household. Very listenable and reasonable if downloaded. Check the usual retail outlets for copies of the full CD which will contain further liner information.
Lamar Thomas has been in touch for a while now. Real nice man from Mississippi, who is an accomplished songwriter. Been Grammy nominated in the past, so you get the picture! If you are into the Bluesier side of Soul Music, you'll love this album. Real instruments and pure Southern Soul Music. The opener, 'Trying Not To Break Down' is bright and breezy. Really enjoyed 'You Do Magic', and a previous 45 'Livin' For You' receives a new lease of life here. That is a great tune. On the real side, 'No Dreams Today' is beautiful and very Sam Dees in delivery. Fine stuff. Finally, I must mention the charming ballad 'I Smile'. I had pictures in my mind of Lamar sitting down with the family and singing this as an acoustic number to the family. Lamar's best set in a long while.
Last, but certainly not least, is Expansion Records second outing, which is a compilation set by the excellent deejay Geoff Bingham. He is a deejay on a mission here, and I am glad that his mission reached fruition in the form of 'Soul Desirables'. I guess track one will generate the most interest amongst Soul fans as it comes in the form of a Japanese only release track by a singer called Luther Vandross. 'Bad Company' is as good a song as any recorded by the gentle giant of Soul Music in the halcyon days before his passing. The man is already missed by many and quite rightly so. One track compilation? In no way. This is full of gems, some of which haven't passed these old ears over the last couple of years. I did know the Lathun track 'Love Came in'. Just never owned a copy of the parent album 'Fortunate'. Great Soul Music. I don't know who on earth K. Fox is, however, the song 'For Goodness Sake' really is top drawer material, as are the offerings (new take on an old personal favourite) 'Cloud 9' by the underrated Donnie, the infectious 'Tell Me' by Tiffany, the previously unreleased 'No Matter What I Do' by Donald McCollum, Incognito's nice new interpretation of 'Where Did We Go Wrong?', the moody 'For You' by Jack Herrera and the excellent Trina Broussard's gorgeous 'Dreaming Of One (Good Love)'. Highly recommended compilation.
I don't know anyone that doesn't like James Brown. A deejay friend of mine once said to me (when the dancefloor at the gig wasn't as full as he wished) 'when in doubt, James Brown out'! No doubting those artistic credentials as James could even get my grandmother up and partying (and she passed away several years ago! LOL)! For myself, loving the dance music the man has left us, is a done deal, however, in my humble opinion, some of the man's finest moments are when he slows things down a little, as he does on my favourite moment on this CD. Quite when these unreleased recordings were originally conceived, well that is anyone's guess. Mine is, some stage during the mid Eighties. Henry Stone e-mailed me and told me about this new album release. Henry (nice man) had been in touch previously as he was responsible for Gwen McCrae's last outing. James 'gets down and funky' in several places on this set, prime examples being 'Funk On Ahh Roll' and the excellent collaboration with Bobby Byrd on 'Say It Again'. The family (as the album title suggests) get involved via the daughters Yamma and Venisha's input. 'All Weather Girl' is a curious number slightly reminding me of Chaka Khan's evergreen 'I'm Every Woman'. The pearl in the oyster shell, with this set, and in my humble opinion, is the gorgeous 'That Lucky Old Sun' with it's echoes of 'Georgia On My Mind'. Five and a half minutes of pure bliss. If he has more of this material in his musical stash, well the sooner it hits the streets the better. One of Brother James' best songs in years.
Pastor Steven Pellirroux is a new name to me. Gospel in roots, obviously, this set has been received really well in the better publications, especially those based north of Watford Services in the U.K.! I was alerted to this mini album by the excellent Bill Buckley in Blues and Soul magazine. Bill enthused about this release just before Christmas in that publication (the album states it was originally recorded in back in 2005) and I began to notice a song called 'Do The Right Thing' appearing in various charts by those in the know. I contacted the excellent 2Funky people, who I bought a copy from and I am very pleased I did. The overall feel of the CD is pretty laid back, however, 'Do The Right Thing' is one of the more uptempo outings on offer here. I must confess to really liking the melodic title track as well. I hope Steven makes enough finance out of this release to make further future recordings. He is very talented, has a nice voice and can pen a tune! Can't say that about many of today's artists. Great recommendation, Bill.
Three albums that, at the tail end of the first month of the new year, herald the beginning of the musical tone, about to be set, for the rest of the year.
Joy Denalane hails from South Africa, has a German dad and arrives on the 2007 Soul Scene as one of the best kept secrets of the last 5 years or so. Back in 2002 she released her first set 'Mamani'. That album was a multilingual affair, whilst this album positions her very much in the contemporary R & B field. Joy has an almost child-like delivery vocally and the Alicia Keys influences really come to the fore on the likes of 'One In A Million'. '7 Year Itch' is a lovely old skool style Soul ballad. Very Seventies sounding.'Sometimes Love' is another decent ballad, 'Start Over' a great dancer, and the title track a highly melodic mid tempo offering. Now that beats the two track album problem methinks! She even gets political on her personal take regarding the developments in 'Soweto 1976 - 2006'. Very satisfying album.
Karl Frierson has, basically, hit paydirt, with the Modern Soul crowd, regarding the fabulous dancer 'Ten Minutes', which graces the proceedings here. You can argue over many tunes, however, with songs such as this little gem, there is, largely, a consensus amongst Soul fans (apart from the odd argumentative old misery...whatever happened to that Christmas spirit!). Put it this way. Go buy this blind (proverbially!). A great song. Of the other melodies on offer here, well, 'Good Thang' is a pretty decent offering. Out on the Phazz-A-Delic label. By the way, both Joy's and Karl's albums have been made available through iTunes, which, if that format is your bag, then get out your purses! It's the music, not the format that is important.
Mikelyn Roderick's album arrived this morning (29th January, one month away from the official release) from the excellent Dome Records U.K. record label. Dome have carved their own niche within the Soul Scene within the U.K., almost becoming a branding 'imprint of quality'. Mikelyn's CD will just add to their impressive arsenal. Mikelyn is from the Cape Verde Islands (West African / Portugese) and that part of the World sounds a very appealing place to be headed, away from the greyness that is London right now. Mikelyn used to sing in the group By All Means, a group that came to prominence in the early nineties. On her debut set this singer moves through several soulful sides, sounding almost Syreeta like in her interpretation of Stevie Wonder's evergreen 'If You Really Love Me'. A nice take on the song, ably assisted by the excellent Rahsaan Patterson, no less. The title track does offer a hint of the great Roberta Flack song, 'First Time Ever I Saw Your Face'. All told, a very strong album that is consistent throughought and deserves to be welcomed with open arms (and ears!) by Soul Music fans. 'Bless You' is my favourite song (for whatever of my five pence that might be worth). Nice key changes embroidered into that song.
Must admit that this CD did raise a wry smile for this old Soul fan. In a way, this illustrates just how far things have gone pear shaped for those with the genuine talent and ability out there, whilst those of little or no substance rule the current musical roost. Perhaps this is a reflection of society on a larger scale presently, especially as, what amounts to a racist yob can, through ill chosen comments on a television programme, cause a diplomatic incident between two generally harmonious global communities. I digress as usual. That is the nature of this beast! Another side to this beast is a a genuine admiration regarding the Soul artist Lamont Dozier. Lamont Dozier is an individual who can be described by one word. Quality. Lamont doesn't release the bulk of product that used to grace our local record store's shelves in the 1970's, however, when the spirit moves him, we are all the better for it.
'A Soulful Tale Of Two Cities' represents the collaboration of the sounds of Detroit and those of Philadelphia. The Funk Brothers meet the great MFSB. To enhance proceedings, various artists from each of the respective communities come together to produce a double album of classics from their respective rich musical stables. There is a listing below of the tracks, so you really pays your money and you makes your choice. Funnily enough, way back some 50 years ago there were two versions of the group the Romeo's. Lamont Dozier was part of the Detroit version...Kenny Gamble the Philly version. Now the various parties come together. Some classic melodies here, delivered by each of their cities finest Soulful exponents. The first release of substance for 2007. Lamont's take on Teddy P's 'Close The Door' really is quite lovely. Here are the songs:
1. Higher Ground (featuring Jean Carne)
2. Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing (featuring Bunny Sigler)
3. Ain't That Peculiar (featuring The Philly Degrees)
4. Dancing in the Street (featuring Kathy Sledge)
5. Knocks Me Off My Feet (featuring Russell Thompkins Jr.)
6. Fire and Desire (featuring Bunny Sigler & Jean Carne)
7. The Girl's Alright (featuring Phil Hurtt)
8. Just My Imagination (featuring Ted Mills)
9. Isn't She Lovely (featuring Jimmy Ellis)
10. Ooh Baby, Baby (featuring Bunny Sigler)
11. My Cherie Amour (featuring Major Harris)
12. My Baby Loves Me (featuring Barbara Mason)
13. Baby, Baby, I Need You (featuring Phil Hurtt, Carl Helm & Bunny Sigler)
14. Just Ask the Lonely (featuring William 'Poogie' Hart)
15. Got To Give It Up (featuring Bunny Sigler)
16. Ain't No Stopping Us Now (featuring Ali 'Ollie' Woodson)
17. Betcha by Golly Wow (featuring Freda Payne)
18. Me & Mrs. Jones (featuring Lamont Dozier)
19. One of a Kind Love Affair (featuring The Velvelettes)
20. Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time(featuring Carolyn Crawford)
21. Love Won't Let Me Wait (featuring George Clinton)
22. Love Train (featuring Bobby Taylor)
23. When Will I See You Again (featuring Freda Payne)
24. Close the Door (featuring Lamont Dozier)
25. For the Love of Money (featuring Ali 'Ollie' Woodson)
26. Expressway to Your Heart (featuring George Clinton)
27. Sunshine (featuring Bobby Taylor)
28. TSOP(and D) (MFSB)
29. Sadie (featuring Bobby Taylor)
30. When the World is at Peace (featuring George Clinton, Bobby Taylor, Kathy Sledge, Ali 'Ollie' Woodson and Kim Weston)
Shanachie Records seem to have taken many a good Soul songstress under their company wing, giving the likes of Miki Howard and, as illustrated here, Vesta Williams, a new musical lease of life. As with Miki's album, this is a set of cover versions. On no, not another set of Soul Standards, I hear you say. Well, if a company sets off down this artistic road, well Miki's and Vesta's albums are just about as good as it gets, of this particular format. Well, what does the listener get treated to here? There are covers of 'Use Me', 'Whip Appeal', 'Distant Lover', 'If You Want Me To Stay', 'With You I'm Born Again', 'No Ordinary Love' and the Spinners 'Could It Be I'm Falling In Love', all of which are treated with reverence, along with Vesta's own personal touch vocally. Personal favourites are 'Free', 'Knocks Me Off My Feet' along with Smokey's 'Ooh Baby Baby'. As I mentioned, this is 'state of the art' regarding albums of cover versions. Very highly recommended and available from
Marva Whitney was one of Brother James Brown's great backing singers. She has recently been having her biography written, and has been working with the excellent Soul Power crew (check the main page at the site) along with the Japanese funk band Osaka Monaurail. This new album could have been recorded some 30 years ago. Almost the album James never got round to performing and recording. When the initial 45 arrived (a song that has now become the title track of this album), I feared that Marva had recorded that awful 'show' song, however, my fears were unfounded as this dancer would have any nightclub rocking. Fantastic dancer. Marva moves through Funk, the blues and pure James Brown influenced material, none more so than highlighted by the instrumental 'We Sing Soul'. If that doesn't get your feet tapping, well, you haven't got any feet! This is a great old skool sounding set. Very highly recommended. Available on the Shout label, although check the Soulpower folks if you are a retailer.
Don't you just hate this time of year? LOL. You sit down with a pen and pad and begin to think about, just exactly, what has turned you on musically this year. There can't be anything of any quality to hit the streets this close to Christmas, can there? Wrong! The trend seems to be that Yuletide is bypassed as a time of peace and the market forces are kept running. Guess they have to, what with the artist being 'fleeced' left right and centre.
Rosie Gaines, I liken to Frank McComb in many ways. If you are in a room with a few friends, and a track comes on the stereo by either of these guys, there is always someone asking after who the singer is. That shows individuality and quality. Rosie imparted a few years back, that she has not been rewarded for her efforts for all her fine efforts over the years, by the powers that be (or were at the time). More fool the majors. They have cut off their musical noses to spite their faces. They may make some fast bucks in the short term, however, in the long run, they lose out.
This new album is a lovely effort on the SuSu label, the same label that brought us the first take by one Kenny Thomas on his song 'Crazy World'. On offer here, well, you pays your money etc. All quality and very nicely priced by the Prangell Brothers at Soul Brother Records. 'Sun Moon' and Number One' are instant faves here, along with a reggae version of the song 'Sun Moon'. The title track carries the same title as the Mass Production album of 1976. Really nice song (very different from the 'Mass' guys dancer). All told, Rosie Gaines doesn't make bad records. This is no exception. 'Sorry, who is this singing?......'. Highly recommended.
Well, over the Christmas period, I spent quite a lot of time listening to Lonnie Hill's new offering. One of those albums that arrive before Christmas, however, there was no time to place a review at the site as the place turned festive, quickly followed by the shock news regarding Brother James' passing.
With Lonnie Hill, well the man has almost made a proberbial rod for his own back, as, for this listener, Lonnie created a 'great' moment in Soul Music, over the last 25 years, within this genre, in the guise of the song 'Galveston Bay'. Really, all told, I have never met anyone who doesn't like the original song. Accident of fate...whatever. It is a moment of pure Soul perfection, as I mentioned. This new CD arrived and, lo and behold, there was a new version of the classic. I must admit at being a little aprehensive regarding listening to this new interpretation. In fact, I squinted as I hit the play button. Now, this is a very nice new take on that particular tune, perhaps not instrumentally as substantial, however, Lonnie performs a very good new take on the whole senario. I especially, liked the man's guitar inflections. Very nice indeed.
The rest of Lonnie's album is a huge improvement on his last offering. Someone has told Lonnie to bring out the 'Johnnie Taylor sound' within his music, which all makes for a very nice album indeed. I am sure Lonnie won't mind me saying that this album won't change the World, however I have heard a great deal worse this / last year. Recommended. Available at www.hillshideawaymusic.com