Soul And / Or Related Artists

listen out for 2012...


• rhonda dorsey - chocolate sound / lanette hester - favor

Rhonda DorseyLaNette Hester

Rhonda Dorsey hails from Philadelphia, whose University of Pennsylvania, she attended back in the day, achieving a B.A. in Psychology. As a performer, she has toured throughout Europe, prior to the release of this excellent debut album. All told, the European Soulful vibe emanates throughout the grooves of this fine 13 track release, which sees the light of day on her own label. The album was, actually, produced in Los Angeles by Bryant Siono (Chaka Khan, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Rowland, and Israel Houghton). When the album arrived here, I loaded it into the i-tunes on the computer, and as you guys know, there is a really irritating section of that programme, where you can give a track stars. Recently, due to the bulk of material sent, I have been using that system to remind myself which tunes I ought to be returning to to cherry pick here. The ratings are realistic, in as much as very seldomly I give a song 5 stars, however, a song is a fine melody if I post a four star rating for the tune. 11 of the tracks on offer here I posted as 4 star, which is most unusual thesedays. Three had a five star, after a few listenings, as the songs have a vibe which grows on this listener. 'The Sun', 'Living It' and the beautiful tune 'Giving' are really top drawer songs. The title track gave those three a good run for their money, whilst I heard echoes of the Reverend Al Green running through 'It's All Good Day'. There is something very haunting going on in the inventively titled 'Supernaturalcirclesoflove'. Great song. 'Far From You', the final song, is the type of tune that Anita Baker would be completely at home with. Very strong album indeed. Bodes very well in the future for this fine Philly based songstress. I'm off to take 'Giving' for another spin....

...for the second release, onstage we welcome LaNette Hester who hails from Missourri. She is the wife of Randall Hester, an Elder at the Tabernacle of David Worship Center, Lansing in Missourri. LaNette is a minister herself at the same place of worship. 'Favor' isn't her first release. She released 'I’m Comin’ Out' in 2007, (a live performance). The second album release, 'My Destiny' saw the light of day in 2009. LaNette has performed with many of the contemporary Gospel singers today, including Marvin Sapp, Donnie McClurkin, Vickie Winans, Micah Stampley, Earnest Pugh and Dorinda Clark-Cole. 'Favor' is one of the best Gospel releases I have heard this year. As with many gospel singers around, LaNette has no problem with any scale or musical note placed in front of her! As with the ex Side Effect singer Helen Baylor, LaNette allows the power of her vocals to articulate the message. After all, if a song has a message, the message ought to be understandable, and she does a fine job here as the Lord's messenger. The opener 'Duty Driven' is a real delight. Toe-tapping Gospel of a very high standard. I know I mentioned the excellent Anita Baker in Rhonda's review, and I will bring to the table another melody here, namely the title song, which would be very well suited to Anita's stylings. There are some lovely key changes in this terrific ballad. Not many ballads of this standard being recorded thesedays. Thank the heavens for the likes of LaNette. Beautiful song. 'Take Your Burdens to the Lord' is another great song recorded in a similar vein. Upping the tempo to mid, 'Pursue, Overtake and Recover All' is a lovely slice of midtempo magic. Another song with some lovely key changes running throughout. Additionally, the interesting 'Nay 2 the Naysayers' makes a respectful retrospective nod to Marvin's 'Inner City Blues'. Of particular interest to Soul Fans, is the track 'If God's People', which sees LaNette putting her political hat firmly on. Lyrically, not dissimilar to the Winans 'Let My People Go'. Very clever slice of message Gospel. Now politicians take note...literally! 'As I mentioned previously, this is a Gospel album as good as any I have heard this year, thus far. If you like Helen Baylor's style of Gospel music, you'll go for LaNette's as well. Great album.

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• vick allen - soul music / kylie auldist - still life / various artists - soul togetherness 2012

Vick AllenKylie AuldistSoul Togetherness

Vick Allen has appeared on these pages in the past. Guess it highlights a love for the Southern Soul sound in this house! Personally, I am delighted that there are still folks around who record a more rootsy style of Soul Music. 'Soul' has become a term that is utilised so loosley that it could be applied to almost any genre out these thesedays. Status Quo? Great 'Soul' band!! Vick must have an album collection at home that, if I guess correctly, must include the likes of Bobby Bland and Johnnie Taylor on his shelves. This new album sees the man at Soul 1st Records, who have released this great 10 track CD. I must give credit to my friend Chris Bangs for alerting me to this new release a couple of weeks ago. Been sidetracked somewhat with the departure of the great Terry Callier from this room into the other one, however, I filed this album for review, as I think it is pretty terrific. The title track could be a track of the year for many a diehard Soul punter out there. Lovely Floaters-esque bass running through a generous slice of the real deal. The opener isn't half bad either, namely, 'Have A Good Time', another essential tune for the Soul purist. Vick's play on the old Bobby Womack chestnut 'Woman's Gotta Have It' (in Vick's take, the song entitled 'I Gotta Have It') really brought a smile to this old Soul Boy. Great stuff. The midtempo 'Crazy Over You' has echoes of the Temptations in the overall vibe. A very nice Southern Soul set, which I hope really places this great artist right in the spotlight. Recommended.

Kylie Auldist is an artist who I was first introduced to through her contributions within the ranks of the excellent band, the Bamboos. Hailing from Australia, Kylie is continuing the line of great female Soul singers from that part of the globe (and I am not talking about the Minogue emigrants!), who included the likes of the great Renee Geyer (in the Seventies and Eighties). Kylie is very respectful of the musicians from previous Soul generations, such as the likes of Dusty Springfied, with the music sounding retro, but fresh in delivery. At times I can hear hints of Swing Out sister in Kylie's grooves, all of which make for a hugely enjoyable listening experience. This latest album release showcases on the fine Tru Thoughts imprint, and, in my humble opinion, this is her best album release to date. The three opening tracks are all uptempo dancers, all of which echo different time periods in dance music. Probably, from 'Still Life', 'Counting On You' and 'Changes', I would cherry pick the latter dancer, although all three are top drawer tunes. 'Daydream' has a real 'California Soul' vibe running throughout, whilst 'Letterhead Life' drops the tempo a little and is perhaps, my favourite song on the album. Why I say, perhaps, is the last track, entitled 'All In You' has really grown on me, since this fine set arrived here. This is a very haunting melody, which is repetetive rhythmically, which is a very good thing in this instance. A real grower of a song. Kylie Auldist is a breath of fresh air, who doesn't belt a song, but just does her own thing with any melody she imparts to the listener. Highly recommended new album.

Expansion Records annual review of the year, 'Soul Togetherness' is an album I always look forward to annually. The label co-owner, Ralph Tee, and myself have very similar musical tastes, so any track I may have missed throughout the year, he kindly plugs any of the musical gaps, which, for this old fool, I am eternally grateful for. On this cd, we are treated to 20 great songs, some of which have graced some of the better dancefloors on the scene this year. There will be many Soul fans who will be delighted to see the excellent Gregory Porter's Opolopo mix on his dancer '1960 What?' featured here. Been very much in demand over the last year, that tune. The opener, Big Brooklyn Red's dancer 'Taking It Too Far' took me a while to be won over with, as I couldn't make up my mind as to whether I loved the vocal, or the original sample of Lowrell's evergreen 'Mellow, Mellow, Right On', in preference within this groove. I think Big Brooklyn has treated the original with kid gloves, and the song works well. Soulpersona handle the old Kleeer tune 'You Did It Again' very respectfully, maintaining the retro feel, whilst bringing the overall proceedings carefully into todays marketplace. The personal picks of the bunch here on this fine compilation are the lovely Jarrard Anthony melodic 'I Love You', Atlantic Starr's midtempo 'You' and the welcome return of Beggar & Co. in full on 'London Town' mode, with their tribute to London's 'Victoria Park'. Some of the finest music within this genre around today. Make sure you pick this set up. Great stuff.

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• angie stone - rich girl / tracey whitney - i am singing songs of love / various artists - the hurst selection 2

Angie StoneTracey WhitneyHurst Selection

For myself, Angie Stone is something of a 'musical comfort blanket artist', in as much as you know that her music will always be of a good standard, and there's that voice of an angel. Hard to believe that stax allowed an artist of this calibre, to leave their ranks. No accounting for taste I guess! This new release sees Angie at Saguaro Records and realises a sixth release since her departure from the ranks of Vertical Hold and Devox. Angie's new album comprises of 15 new songs, no covers, just good contemporary Soul Music. She has stated recently, that parts of this album were recorded with the singer, Amy Winehouse in mind. A singer Angie admired, and regrets her passing. 'Rich Girl' is a title, passing on the message to folks out there, that riches come in many formats, not just to be seen in financial terms. Of the songs on offer here, I particularly liked the Tweet duet 'Sisters', and the personal pick of the bunch here 'Proud Of Me', the type of melody where Angie truly excels. A very good, and safe album, if you are planning on buying your best friend a copy for a festive present. Angie recently stated that 'there is much more to come from me'. Amen to that sentiment. Great album.

Tracey Whitney has been in touch here over the last couple of weeks. Initially, she pointed me to her website, where I took a listen to her second album release 'I Am Singing Songs Of Love'. Tracey sang backgrounds for the late, great, Ray Charles, an experience which has seen her hone her vocal skills beautifully. All told, if you love the music of Maysa, I am sure Tracey would not mind me drawing a parallel with that other fine songstress. This new album is released on her own label, the Baby Doll Entertainment imprint, out of California, and features many fine cover versions of some of Tracey's favourite songs. The choices are quite different to many regular choices, which is refreshing. Her take on these melodies are respectful of the originals, but embellished with her own interpretations. Artists songs included feature the writings of the likes of Stevie Wonder, Garth Brooks, Michael Franks, Laura Nyro, Brand New Heavies and Antonio Carlos Jobim. What is of particular interest to Soul fans out there, are the songs penned, or part penned, by Tracey herself. These are notable melodies, in as much as, they stand up very well in amongst the evergreen melodies which encircle them. I loved her song 'I'd Be Lying (I Miss You)', which is as good as any song gets this year. 'Heartbreak 2011' is another great self penned song, which is musically embroidered from the same material the likes of Leon Ware utilises to weave his own tapestries. Terrific stuff. Do go check, and check the music for yourself. Excellent new music for 2012.

Soul and Jazz's Brian Hurst has been at the forefront of some of the best independent Soul music releases over the last couple of years. This new set continues to release the publicity oxygen for many of the lesser known independent performers out there. You should all be aware of the releases of the great Gregory Porter over the last couple of years. '1960 What?' has become the 'This Is What You Are' (Mario Biondi) of recent months. both songs, in differtent era's would have been national pop hits, however, with the chart doors now closed, and becoming something of a 'private party', the likes of Gregory and Mario will have to put up with the adulation of the likes of ourselves (for whatever that is worth), in the knowledge that at least we appreciate someothing of quality when it rears it's musical head. Gregary's track here is the mix that most folks are looking for, for the better dancefloors out there, so that should be enough for you to pick up this great album simply on that basis. The bonus ball here is that the rest of the CD is particularly good as well. Cherry picking favourite tracks is a delight here as there are quite a few to choose from. I loved Milan Ring's 'Pay Day', Temika Moore's 'Let It Go', Moonchild's 'Be Free' and the Ananda Project's 'Two Hearts. My favourite song here is Farnell Newton's moody 'Everything Is Clear'. Lovely music indeed. Highly recommended compilation.

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• cody chesnutt - landing on a hundred

Cody Chesnutt

Cody Chesnutt is a new name to me, although I do have a recollection of a 2002 album by this man someplace in my grey matter. This album came up in conversation with the www.soulandjazzand's reviewer Bill Buckley. I have a great deal of respect for Bill and an even greater respect regarding his musical tastes. Bill said he thought he had heard his album of this year in the form of Cody's new release 'Landing On A Hundred'. He asked me if I would like to review the album, and, whilst I was waiting for the postman, a sampler of the album came through from the label here. Last night I was in the posession of 5 tracks from the album. Loved all of them, and had them on repeat all last night. The full album arrived today, which is an extension of the high standard set by the sampler. I am not going to talk about any one track here, as this is an album full of masterpieces, in my humble opinion. Quite what that amounts to, I don't know. One man's enthusiasm is another man's disinterest, however, what I will say is, albums such as these, I wait all year round hoping they might come along. Tommy Sims album was the last album that had me jumping with joy over a decade ago. Cody's new set is full of so many influences. I hear Jackie Wilson, then Marvin, then Curtis, then Sam Cooke...some of the songs would have been huge chart hits back in the day. Will this break through onto the major stage? Well, if it doesn't, it would be a doggone shame. Cody has been to some dark places in his life, since his last album release. He has come through these trials and tribulations, and is now passing on his life learnings to those in similar points in their lives. This suffering has, undoubtedly, contributed to his writings. I do hope this album is a huge record for this man. All I can say to him is, thank you sir. You made the hair stand up on the back of neck after hearing this 13 tracker, which is out next month. File under 'too good for the charts, and a very good lesson in how to make a great album, for those who think the new R&B sausage machine is the route to success. Cody will have to go some way in bettering this album. Made my year. A big thank you to Bill Buckley and Steve Ripley and Soulfood Music, for turning me on to this terrific album. Love the hat by the way, my man!

Cody Chesnutt

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• tatania ladymay mayfield - a portrait of ladymay / brenda boykin - we have all the time in the world

Tatania MayfieldBrenda Boykin

Tatiana Mayfield is a songstress hailing from Fort Worth, Texas. Tatantia attended Jazz Studies at the University of North Texas and was featured on the University of North Texas Two-O' Clock Lab Band CD released in 2009. In 2010, she was chosen as one of the twelve semi-finalists to compete in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competition, held in Washington, D.C. at the Smithsonian Museum. It was there she performed alongside Al Jarreau, Dianne Reeves, Patti Austin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Kurt Elling. 'A Portrait of Ladymay' is her follow-up release to her debut album 'From All Directions', (which was a collaboration album with pianist Erskine Hawkins III). Tatania has also opened for several performers, including, Kirk Whalum, Randy Brecker, Dave Valentin, Bobbi Humphrey, and The Main Ingredient. This new release sees her recording for the Sparks imprint, and reminds me very much of the Kim Burrell album from last year. That release was pure quality, as is this fine album, which is hugely song led, full of Soul, Fusion and Straight Ahead Jazz influences, with it's only downside being that it may be of too higher standard for todays 'popcorn disco' market. The opener, 'For You' will please any Modern Soul fan undoubtedly. Almost the song Norman Connors never recorded! Class from start to finish. The album comprises of 13 great songs, all of which drift between the Soul and Jazz genres seamlessly. To cherry pick a track as a favourite is a very hard task indeed, however, the duet with Joel Cross, entitled 'Distance' is my current choice, very closely followed by the Soulfully acoustic 'It's Over now'. The moody, 'Judgement Day' is another wonderful, socially aware slice of Soul music. Lot of mileage for any true Soul jock out there in this release, and rightly so. File under 'Top 5 of the year' albums....

The ex-Bahama Soul Club vocalist, Brenda Boykin, has carved herself a niche in the Jazz-dance-vocal arena on the circuit these days. Really surprised me that her debut 'Chocolate and Chili' set is now some 5 years old. Came and went, and then came again, and then went again…uh oh, here she comes yet again! Nice to have an album like that under your CV belt. Certainly shows that class endures, and now we have a second album, this time for the ChinChin Records label. The title, 'We Have All The Time In The World'? Yes it is the Louis Armstrong song, although, if you know Brenda's music of old, you know you will be listening to a very different version of the original song, and that is certainly the case here. Almost a samba take on this, late Hal David penned, evergreen. Brenda's album comprises of 15 songs, all performed in her very unique style. My killer track here is the very moody 'Don't Take My Love Away'. Very familiar song in many ways. I am sure someone will tell me if this is a cover song. 'El Ritmo' is a great dancer here, with it's very Herbie Hancock 'Tell Everybody'-esque driven bass line. 'La Diva' is a very eerie song, which is haunting and compelling. Very much sounding as something lifted from a movie soundtrack. The final song 'And You Know How' is another memory jerker to these old ears, with it's echoes of the very last album Sarah Vaughan recorded in the late Eighties. A very beautiful melody, and those vibes…! By the way, don't miss Brenda on the latest Club Des Belugas album, which is doing the circuit right now. Some crackers on that album (especially 'Dat Thing').

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mark stephens - the dream of the peaceful warrior / karyn white - carpe diem / the drizabone soul family - the recipe of life

Mark StephensKaryn WhiteDrizabone Soul Family

Around 10 years ago, and album such as Mark Stephens set (which I have listed here as a 2011 release?), would have made huge waves on the Smooth Jazz market. The elevators ruled the roost back in those days! Mind you, in amongst the different floors of brain death :)), there were some great albums, such as the Bob and Hilary James release, and the great Armsted Christian albums. Mark's new album sits alongside those sets very neatly. Sure, there won't be a top 10 single off this album, but the intention to have one, was never there. Mark hails from Los Angeles, and plays keys on this very interesting set, whose line-up includes Chaka Khan, Andrae Crouch, Tata Vega, Karen Bernod, Take 6, Kirk Whalum, Jonathan Butler, Marcus Miller, Boney James and the late, great Michael Brecker. Terrific line-up, which is not a pure instrumental offering. Far from it. Take 6 have a new album out at the moment, and they also appear here on the lovely harmonised 'The Light Of Love'. The guys at their best. Another track that would really suit the fusion stations is the unusually titled 'Sseesamirembe', which features the great Andre Crouch, along with the 'Get It Up For Love' songstress, Tata Vega. That is my pick of this particular bunch. Chaka Khan contributes to the album on the very funky 'Stand Up'. 'Renewal' features Jonathan Butler, another great track. A very good album, from a new source to myself. One for the better fusion stations. Out on Groove Junkie Records.

Karyn White is a particular favourite singer of mine. I bought her material back in the day, some of which was produced by the great Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, some 20 years or so ago now. Has it really been that long? In fact, this album is Karyn's first release in 18 years. Karyn has taken her recording career out of the hands of the major labels, and has repositioned herself someplace between her older, more soulful material, Aretha, with a touch of Shirley Brown thrown in for good measure. The overall effect is a transormation of sorts. Always loved Karyn's voice, and, as with the great Betty Wright, her voice has simply improved with age. The lead track 'Sista Sista' is about as Soulful as it gets. One of the tracks of the year so far, and, thrown in for good measure, is an acoustic version, which is growing on me even more so than the fully instrumentalised take. Other winners include the steppy 'Sooo Weak' (one for the Modern Soul folks), 'Unbreakable', which is as good as any ballad can get, and the beautiful title track. The killer track turns out to be the penultimate song 'Heaven'. Pure song led Soul heaven, if you don't mind me saying. Very pleased that Karyn is back in the studio again. Out on Music Access Inc., or on her website

I reviewed the Drizabone Soul Family's last album at the site a couple of years ago now. Great album that was, which was released on the excellent Dome Records imprint. This time around, the guys release their new album on the Soul Family imprint, and there is a change in direction in parts of this new set. Firstly, what I would say is that, when this album is good, it is very good. When the guys reproduce the Motown sound, well that is a more acquired taste for this reviewer, although I am sure that these particular songs will receive huge airplay on many of the stations out there. That said, (when the songs are as good as, probably another track of the year in the form of 'Summers Day' is), they are truly terrific. One bonus ball for some of the Soul folks, who missed the song first time round, the group have re-recorded 'Brightest Star', which was hugely overlooked following the immense interest in their debut 'Real Love'. Be very interested in hearing the group re-record their Angie Giles collaboration 'Submerge', which is a modern classic in my ears! Other winners include 'You Come Around', 'New York Nights' and the fine title track. Interesting how influential the early eighties sound is on the Soul circuit thesedays. You can certainly hear the influences of those bygone days in many of these grooves. The head and shoulders track here, all told, is the beautiful 'Summer's Day', which will fill many a Christmas stocking long after the musical doors have closed on 2012. Great track indeed. Miss it and miss out as they say. Tune.

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onita boone - onita / yvette freeman - in my arms / rob white - just kickin it

Onita BooneYvette FreemanRob White

Great to get a couple of hours to myself, to look at a couple of the newer albums around this Olympic summer. Sorry for the recent inactivity....

...Onita Boone is a new singer to these old ears. She must have a great pedigree, as Universal have decided to run with this singer, who is a very refreshing change from the other great vocalists, who are normally encouraged to 'belt' rather than deliver a great 'manifestation of the terpsicorean muse' (sing a nice dance tune)!! Onita hails from Newburgh in New York, where she attended the Newburgh Free Academy High School, where she, not only, honed her vocal abilities, but was a pretty good sports woman as well. Onita also featured in many Broadway shows and has performed with the likes of Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Holliday, Stephanie Mills, Teddy Pendergrass, The Clark Sisters, Take Six and BeBe and CeCe Winans. She knows her stuff, and has a great taste in musical company! This album is a very diverse set, which drifts in and out of several genres, each capably handled by this singer, notable tracks include a couple of hugely retrospective pieces in the form of 'I'll Carry You' and the delightful 'Sugarfree' (the latter being a personal favourite here). These could have been recorded in the Sixties, which is a decade that is seeing a resurgence of interest in some newly recorded Soul product. There is a 'muscular' take of the Rufus evergreen 'Ain't Nobody', which will be popular on daytime radio. Also, very radio friendly, is the final track on this 15 track album, namely 'Bring It On', although my favourite track from this set is hugely Soulful 'I Feel Love' (not the Donna Summer track!), which will please those into the real side of Modern Soul, sitting alongside a track or two by, say, Brenda Russell. Very nice album indeed....

...which leads me onto a very tasty album by the songstress Yvette Freeman, who releases this fine new album on the Lambie Music imprint. This is, perhaps, a more straight ahead Soul album release, showcasing strong songs, delivered again, rather than screeched, so a hugely all round listenable experience. Hailing from Wilmington, Delaware, Yvette developed her singing skills from her father, jazz pianist, Charles Freeman. After graduating from the University of Delaware, Yvette performed, as with Onita, on Broadway, and developed into quite a stage actor and performer in her own right. She acted on television and in the movies, thus we have a very multi-talented woman here. This album has a very relaxed feel throughout, highlighted by the very moody 'I Ain't Got The Time', and a very unusual choice of covering the Ohio Players classic 'Heaven Must Be Like This'. 'Funny' follows the moody melodic vibe of the set, which is no one track album, but a great set of modern Soul melodies, of which we could do with a greater supply round abouts thesedays. My pick of the bunch is the very Chapter 8-sh 'Sometimes'. Another very fine release for 2012....

....and finally, I don't normally cherry pick a fusion album, however, as many of you know, sometimes there is a hidden killer of a tune parked away on one or two of these releases. Based in Indiana, Rob had his first break in Indianapolis, where he met Erica Williams of E2 Entertainment, who enrolled him into the artists ranks at Beau Huggins, Orpheus Enterprises. He recorded 'Let It Ride' for the label, after hooking up with Rahni Song, who collaborated on this great follow up release. The album contains covers of a couple of songs by Chris Brown and an interesting take on the Jones Girls evergreen 'Nights Over Egypt'. The likes of those who yearn for the 'Funkin For Jamaica' dancers of yesteryear, will love 'R U Ready For This', which samples the aforementioned Tom Browne classic. There is a lovely cover of 'Anyone Who Had A Heart', sung very beautifully by Naomi Emmanuel. Probably the most Soulful take on this classic melody I have heard. Naomi also delivers a fine version of Michael Jackson's 'Earth Song', however, the track that really hooked me, is the Crystal Faith fronted 'Everything'. This is a real corker of a song, which is in, very much, 'blink and you'll miss it' territory. Keep your eyes and ears open for this lovely song, tenderly sung and hugely full on on the melody front. One of the better songs I have heard this year thus far. Recommended.

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r kelly - write me back / cool million - cool million 3

R KellyCool Million

note: Just one quick message before I get to the heart of the Soul platter. Over the last month or so, due to my design commitments, I have become involved in some pre-olympic projects, one of which is currently keeping me out of the house for about 13 hours a day. A junior doctor would laugh at me, I know, however, this does cut the time I can work at the site. Folks have asked, that's all. I haven't gone away. Just got submerged somewhat, however, in a month or so, I should be back in full on business. I am still contributing to the site. Just a little less, that's all. Thank you for your patience with me.

Two new albums, with one similar aspect going on between both offerings. That is the full on nod to the music from byegone era's. R Kelly's roots stretch from Doo-Wop to the Seventies releases, whereas, Cool Millions era is almost precisely, set in 1982. Robert Kelly's last album 'Love Letter' came as a shock to many a Soul purist (myself included), as he had took a 'leap of musical faith', and recorded his best album to date. The follow up release was always going to be about, whether the man was going to jump back into R&B 'safety', or was he going to 'tread boldy'. Boldly is precisely the decision reached, and, along with many of my Soul contemporaries, I am absolutely delighted he made the right decision. After believing he could fly, Robert Kelly has now both feet firmly positioned on terra firma, and all we have to do is cherry pick from a very ripe bunch of fine melodies. Myself? 'Believe That It's So' is certainly one of my tracks of 2012. Hugely melodic and almost samba in it's delivery. The six minutes duration time is still too short for my big ears! 'Tune' as they say. You would be hard pressed to find a better song this year. 'Feelin' Single' really had me guessing at the roots of the song, and I have come to the conclusion, that this great track is an amalgam of 'Lovely Day' and 'Too Hot' (the Bill Withers/ Kool and the Gang evergreens). When you pick up this album, do get the iTunes version, as you will be treated to 16 songs, no less. The song 'One Step Closer' really did make me smile. A beautiful ballad, that you can't help but sing 'Distant Lover' along to in the opening bars. The very Northern influenced 45 is on show of course, in case you initially missed 'Share Your Love'. Great Seventies-feelgood Soul. 'Fool For You' is hugely derivative of the Reverend Al Green, which is notable in an album, which my guess is a throwback to the tunes Robert's Mom and Dad used to spin around the house when he was just a kid. Great album, and one of the years best, no question.

Cool Million are a duo who comprise of Frank Ryle and Rob Hardt, who hail from Denmark. As with many of the European Soul performers, the releases of the Eighties provide a fertile hunting ground for influences and performers alike. The likes of Kashif and the Jam and Lewis writing team influence many of the better performers borrowed from this genre, with Cool Million, perhaps, the finest examples, turning Eighties Soul into dance material for the new millenium. This album is the guys third release (for Sed Soul Records), and showcases some of the singers from 25 years ago or so, along with some of the better singers from this era. I am sure many of you will remember the singer Peggi Blu, who appears on two of the songs here. The U.K. pitches in with the likes of the excellent Donna Gardier, Gary B. Poole, the West Coast Allstars and Kenny Thomas amongst others. As I mentioned, Cool Million can turn an Eighties beat into a work of art, epitomised by the, oh so D Train, 'It's Your Life' (which borrows hugely from the group's 'You're The One For Me'....but who cares!). You get 14 tracks on this great release, which I can hugely recommend. One final aspect that is worth mentioning regarding this album, is the recording of some half decent ballads, highlighted by the Francisca delivered 'You Don't Care', which is something I have been wondering about recently. The art of writing a top drawer ballad, thesedays. Sure a lot of folks can record something with a mellow beat, however, the writing of a decent ballad is an art we have well and truely become a stranger to. Let's hope that artists such as these guys wake up a few romantic songwriters out there! Check the song 'Sunday Morning' from the Soul Trend album, or this great Cool Million ballad, and you will know exactly where I am coming from. Great album guys.

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papik - music inside / ty causey - false faces

PapikTy Causey

Papik are a terrific group, created by Nerio Pogg, out of Rome in Italy. 'Notes Of The Past', from their first album has been a firm favourite in this house, and was championed by Robbie Vincent at Jazz FM at the time of it's initial release. That first 2009 release was a fine, fine album. 'Music Inside', if anything, is a better album all round. Utilising the excellent vocals of Alan Scaffardi (from Parma), the wonderful Ely Bruna, Dagmar Segbers, Wendy D. Lewis, Clizia Aloisi and Paco Di Maso, this album is one of the best releases this year thus far. When I run through an album here, I do use the star rating's that are part of the iTunes kit of parts, which helps me to return to a tune or two, if they need a second listen. This album I highlighted 9 of the tracks as four or 5 stars, which, in today's market of many one track album releases, is a pretty good return for your finances. The killer track, in this iTunes Library, is the Alan Scaffardi fronted 'This Happiness', which really is a corker of a track. 'The Puzzle Of Life' did raise a smile here, as I was sure Ely Bruna was about to break into her rendition of 'It's Not Unusual', however, the song has an identity all of it's own, and is a definite must listen. Other corkers include 'Open Eyes', 'You Must Have Come From Heaven', 'Sign Of Your Love'...truth be told, this band are about as good as it gets in 2012. Italy's finest. Cracking album.

Ty Causey, if nothing else, is Mr. Consistent, musically. He makes albums which always have some great tracks on show, perhaps we still await a killer tune, however. Ty's albums are all about an overall vibe. Set at mid-tempo (or thereabouts), with a perfect example here being 'Tap Into The Chemistry', which is a great stepper in style. Ty treats every track with reverence, leaving the vocal gymnastics to the weekend talent show wanabees. Slightly more uptempo in sound is 'You'll Never Be Lonely', which is another groove, very reminicent of Leon Ware. Lovely hook line in this song. 'Creepin' (Showdown)' is another winner out of the same template. Ty's albums are as regular as clockwork regarding release regularity, and are 'put on and leave on' CD's, which something to be hugely thankful for thesedays. Consistent and a highly recommended release, especially if you are a 'Ty Causey' regular purchaser.

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incognito - surreal / soul trend - groovy nights / jessica lauren - jessica lauren four

IncognitoSoul TrendJessica Lauren

Three albums here, with a couple of things in common. Firstly, I am terribly late in turning to all three of these albums, for no other reason than, for two of them I had to wait until they were available to buy online. Secondly, I annoy myself with my own habit of trying to look for the most obscure album, made on the smallest of budgets, to champion at the site, which is an error at times, as sometimes some things of true worth are staring at you right in the face, and this fool just can't see them! Nurse! Time to put the Soul glasses on and get to work with these three great albums released this year.

I am sure that, when Bluey puts a new Incognito album together, he has one eye on the CD being released and retailing well, but the other well and truly focussed on how the songs, on his new baby, will sound on a live stage. His Incognito albums have always had a 'live vibe' running throughout, along with a huge nod of appreciation weaved into the Black music of the previous decades. I make this Bluey's 15th Studio album (barring remix releases and live sets) by this great employer of musical talent out there. One of his great vocal mainstays is the fine singer Maysa, who appears on this new album, which is released on the excellent Dome Records imprint. Maysa guests on the album's opener, which has created some debate as to the the bassline influence on the song 'The Less You Know'. Consensus states that Lamont Dozier's 'Going Back To My Roots' might have played a part. Whatever the scenario, Bluey has taken the riff and developed the track into a hugely infectious toe tapper. There are 14 tracks on this very good album, which is a very solid set, the proof of that pudding is different folks have gone for different choices of favourite. Maysa always lifts a song, which, if the song's foundation is sound in the first place, just takes matters onto a different level. 'Goodbye To Yesterday' is already the track of choice for the better stations out there, so what of the tracks that are my five pence worth? 'The Stars From Here' featuring the excellent Natalie Williams, is a lovely constructed and delivered melody, 'Don't Break Me Down'...well, likewise. Great track. My pick of the bunch is another Natalie Williams song called 'Restless As We Are', which is about as good as it gets thesedays. You will have your own favourites, just make sure you buy a copy of the album, so you can go off 'cherry picking' your favourite track!!

Soul Trend's album had sat in my iTunes folder for nearly two months now. Bought the Italian recorded set and kept meaning to write about the release since that time. Time to rectify my omission! The 15 tracker is, in it's own way, sitting in the same musical shelving in which the Incognito album currently resides, musically. Live vibes on mainly dance material. If you imagine Blueys album, with an Italian spice added, then you are not too far away from the sound and quality of this release. I, originally, bought the album after hearing Robbie Vincent play 'To Fall In Love Is So Easy' on his Sunday morning show on Jazz FM. Very old school in sound. 80's Soul minus the drum machine sound (which did sound like someone in a steel factory banging on a sheet of steel, I seem to remember back in the day! After a while, though, I died from metal fatigue!!). 'To Fall In Love Is So Easy' is a very uplifting tune, which I would place in the same rack as Sunfire's 'Step In The Light' from back in the day. After the I bought the album, other tracks really began to grow on me. Not an immediate album, however, if you allow the set to grow on you...grow it does. 'You Got Me Wrong' is one such track. Slow to mid-tempo, and very moody. Great to see the excellent Ely Bruna making an appearance on the album track 'Merry Go Round'. Her song '1986' was one of the songs of 2011, without any doubt. This is a fine album, which, if you bought Bluey's album, this would make for a perfect partner on those CD shelves you should have put up last Bank Holiday, but forgot to!!.

Jessica Lauren's music is something I, criminally, have ignored at this website. 'Jessica Lauren Four' has been around for an age on daytime Soul Radio, but has only just reached the shops, so, even in mid recession, this was a 'must buy piece' of fusion. Last Sunday, the fine deejay Jeff Young stood in for Robbie Vincent on his Sunday Show on Jazz FM, and stated that he thought this album, is probably the best album released on Freestyle Records thus far. Jeff played the cracking 'White Mountain' from this album, after which I found it hard to disagree with the man. This album has been championed by Robbie, Ralph Tee and Peter Young at the station, so we have an all round thumbs up from that particular knowlegable Soul Music Hall Of Learning!!. Jessica has certainly surpassed herself with this album. This album reminded me of some of the great fusion releases, which saw the light of day during the late Seventies and early Eighties. 'White Mountain' is a perfect example. Jessica has shown a level of discipline within this music, which, when it is allowed to run free, some folks call it freestyle. This can be another way of describing a mess on some albums, however, this particular vibe is fascinating, drawing in the listener and keeping them there. 'Vaya Con Dios' is the killer track on offer here, with it's echoes of 'Little Sunflower' drifting effortlessly through the whole proceedings. The powerhouse of a singer, Jocelyn Brown, pitches in on the glorious 'Happiness Train'. Jocelyn has a huge vocal range, which she utilises only as the song demands, which leads to a hugely endearing listening experience. Check her vocals on 'I Believe'. Lovely song. The other track which really caught my ear here, is the melody 'The Name of Fela Will Always Stand for Freedom'. Very haunting stuff, from an album, which it is hard to believe, features only four musicians. Jessica has delivered an example defining whereabouts fusion ought to be in 2012. Recommended without hesitation!

You can pick up all of these releases at Soul Brother, Amazon or iTunes.

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stereo venus feat. rumer - close to the sun / tavis minner - unity

Stereo VenusTavis Minner

It has been a couple of years since Rumer released her first album. What a tremendous success that album was, ascending the upper reaches of the charts (with some velocity), and seemed to fill every welcoming stand at your local HMV store a couple of Christmas's ago. Last year I caught her on the television, performing at Glastonbury. I didn't post her album at the site, not because I didn't like it, however, I do lean towards helping the guys who may not receive many of the props I think they deserve. Rumer, almost instantly, achieved success, so she didn't need my nod of approval. The ground was already shaking with the combined 'nods' of half of the U.K. and the rest of the World! So what of this talented singer since that debut release? Well look no further than the Bethnal Green Working Mens Club! Together with Rory More (a talented keyboards player in his own right), the duo have combined to form Stereo Venus from those working class surroundings. Thier MySpace page seemes to indicate that this may be an older recording, as the duo were collaborating as early as 2007 on this project. 'Close To The Sun' is certainly housed very much in a Sixties environment, with echoes of Dusty, Astrud Gilberto, and even, dare I say, Karen Carpenter!. The melodies are very definitely song led, and quite delightful. There are 10 tracks on offer here, which, to pick a best song is an almost impossible task. Perhaps the track that cries out to be a 45 here is 'John Sebastian's Girl', which, I can already hear all over daytime radio. The nice aspect of this album is, once the immediacy of some tracks pass you by, there are several which are real growers. 'Coffee & Honey', 'June' and the albums title track are three such songs. The likes of Rumer may showcase a retrospective yearning for a bygone era, however, with the likes of her and Rory, along with the brilliant Swing Out Sister, these guys take that environment and work with it. The result is something of a progression of that time period, building an extension on an era, and for that we should all be very thankful. Out on Sudden Hunger Records and highly recommended.

Tavis Minner is a new name to me, but not to his students! Born in Wichitaw, Kansas, Tavis now resides in Tulsa, and has now released something of a 'Soul Tour De Force' in 2012. Those of you who loved the Al Olive song 'Slowdown', which surfaced a couple of years ago on Expansion Records (initially), will really appreciate this set. These days Tavis is teaching at the Sam Houston Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he has also won awards for his contribution to teaching, however, his vocal range certainly came from his contributions to the gospel genre in the churches in his local area. 'Unity' contains several songs which, as with the Al Olive album, do show an appreciation, along with a respectful nod to the Luther Vandross school of songwriting. In many places Tavis sounds much like Luther, however, I can hear aspects of the late David Peaston in his style of delivery. There are several tracks on this album which demand a Soul punters attention. For myself 'Whatever It Is' is certainly a song of 2012, although 'A Better You, A Better Me', 'Scat Like That', 'A Treasure Found', 'Oh My' and 'Lay Your Troubles Down' are all, nothing short of, simply superb songs. There are few albums of this quality released these days, so do go listen (and hopefully buy) a copy at CD Baby. Out on Tavis Minner Records right now. Praise the Lord, and no gossiping at the back of the classroom! Highly recommended.

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georgia anne muldrow - seeds / lo carter - seasons

Georgia Anne MuldrowLo Carter

Judging by the previous review, and these two gems, the sista's out there are taking centre stage at this point in time in 2012! Georgia Anne Muldrow (as you will know, if you check the charts at the site for previous years) is a songstress I really rate. Very much in the same way folks had to sing the praises of Ledisi from the mountain tops before she received any recognition, so should the same apply to Georgia Anne Muldrow. Her shows are well attended on the West Coast in the States, however, once you leave the hood, the 'woman of local fame', becomes 'that woman...what's her name'. This album will surely change the lay of the musical land, if there is any justice out there. The sleeve of 'Seeds' had me making a double take, thinking that the album was a release from yesteryear. That is a point certainly made by the music, which has been unashamedly borrowed from the rare groove scene, however, Georgia has taken the concept and moved onto another level with this album. The opening title track has one of those samples, that you are instantly familiar with, but took me a few minutes to work out the Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes 'Where's The Concern For The People?' sample, woven into a pretty special song. The Harold Melvin tune comes from their 'Now Is The Time' album, by the way. Another sample comes in the track 'The Birth Of Petey Wheatstraw', which was originally a track by Rudy Ray Moore, from a movie simply called 'Petey Wheatstraw, which is cleverly sampled on Georgia's own tune. If you had a chance to read the piece I penned regarding music on the opinion pages at the site recently, I did mention the need for the current generation of artists to encompass in their musical understanding, the history of the culture and it's roots. Georgia is very much a singer who has an empathy with her roots. A hugely positive thing thesedays. The Modern Soul fan will understand the roots of this album, understanding the empathy, and not the theft, of the historical library which these great singers nod their musical heads towards. This is an eleven track album, with only one fault, as I can see it, and that is the final track 'Remember' is only just over a minute long! You can really hear the vocal range of this singer at it's finest here. Out on SomeOthaShipConnection Records (I kid you not!). A real eye and ear opener for 2012!

Lo Carter's folks got in touch with me recently. They mailed me Lo's CD, which immediately had my interest, as a certain Jonathan Winstead contributes his vocal arrangements to this fine 10 track set. Jonathan's own album is sitting happily a couple of reviews below this one on this page! If anything, Lo's CD is much more set in a commercial Soul environment than Jonathan's recent offering. One thing that both albums have in I like both sets as much as each other! 'Bill Collector' is the album's opening song, a track which will undoubtedly receive a great deal of airplay (very radio friendly), if given the oxygen of that said medium. I am sure this album will be picked up by the better stations out there. There's an abundance of quality songs on this album. The title song is a lovely mid tempo melody, seeing Lo ably assisted by a singer called Sincere. My favourite song is the lovely 'I Don't Wanna Love You No More', which is about as good as music gets in 2012. A grower of a song, with a great melodic hook of a chorus, giving the song longevity on the listening front. Nice harmonies on this song. 'Let Go' is another killer song on offer here. Really like this album. I hope the likes of Soul Brother run with this CD. I am sure they will as this is right up their retail street! On Loc Over Time Publishing out of Nashville (Jonathan Winstead's next door neighbour!). Many thanks to Joerg Schmitt for the recommendation, and Michael West for sending me this great album. Highly recommended.

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orly - distraction / carmen lundy - changes / quasimode - four pieces, the best selection

OrlyCarmen LundyQuasimode

Orly has a lovely voice. She has been in touch here ever since her first E.P. saw the light of day back in 2009. I reviewed that set at the site, homing in on the Brenda Russell-esque song 'The Way'. That was a great single, and now we are treated to a full debut set. 'Distraction' showcases 9 new songs, which prove to these old ears, this fine singer has matured in the three years since her first outing. The songs on the new release have hints of several singers, however, what sets Orly apart, is she is very much her own artistic woman overall. Orly hails from Australia, although, thesedays, she resides in New York City. There are some great bands from Australia making some of the better Soul Music around right now. Electric Empire and The Bamboo's are testament to that fact. Orly further enhances that particular nations musical culture. 'Distraction' contains many moments that reach the heights of 'The Way', none more so than the beautiful 'Temporary', and the hugely song-led, 'I'm Ready'. 'Recover' sounds like an initial 45 from this album, with it's Motown retro vibe running throughout. 'If boogie is your thing 'Now's The Time' will certainly fit the bill for you. 'It's Alright' is another Modern Soul winner, as is the radio friendly 'This Time'. As most of you will know by now, I do like my killer track, and the solo piano ballad 'Beautiful Disguise' is my favourite song on this delighful collection. This song is the type of ballad I would love to hear the likes of Adele take on. 'Making the right noise for the current market' is one thing, however, quality cannot be denied, and this is one of the best songs I have heard of it's type this year. Lot of one track samey albums around at the moment. Safety in numbers? It is the 'unsafe' that folks remember in time. Thank heavens that there are albums around like this release, which not only buck the trend, but enhance the market with a huge positivity. Lovely stuff.

Now who else doesn't ever seem to make bad records?...Carmen Lundy! I have always loved Carmen's voice. There is a penetrating clarity about this woman's vocal delivery, which has been apparent ever since we first were treated to her lovely 'Good Morning Kiss' release back during the mid Eighties. That was an album choc-a-block with goodies, and was followed later by another favourite album by this great songstress in the form of 'Self Portrait'. Carmen's take on 'Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most' was sublime. That word, according to the dictionary here describes that word with three other ones, namely 'excellence', 'grandeur' and 'beauty'. Well it does what it says on the tin, as does this latest release, which I make Carmen's 12th release, this set entitled 'Changes'. This is another 9 tracker release, floating between several different fusion moods, all beautifully delivered by Carmen. The opener 'The Night Is Young' has an almost dreamlike feel throughout. I often wonder why Carmen has never been approached by Norman Connors to embroider one of his many concept albums with her individual vocal artistry. 'So Beautiful' is just that. More mid-tempo magic, showcasing Anthony Wonsey's fine keyboard stylings. 'Love Thy Neighbour' moves the tempo up a notch or two, featuring a couple of hooks that remain in the grey matter after the final bars have faded. 'To Be Loved By You' is lovely, as is my personal favourite, the toe tapper, 'Dance To Dance'. I am a bit late in reviewing this release (due to family matters), however, reviewing material of this calibre is something that has to happen...whenever. All told, another great album, from a great singer, and another string to her bow and curriculum vitae. By the way, this singer is a pretty good painter as well as songstress, to add to her increasing skills database.

...and Carmen isn't quite finished on the reviews front, as this new collection of songs by the group Quasimode has a track featuring this vocalist on it. Hailing all the way from Japan, 'Four Pieces' is something of a retrospective of Quasimode's releases for the Blue Note imprint. The track which features Carmen is a lovely song entitled 'Objects In The Mirror'. With a completely different backing band, the strength of Carmen's own style of singing really allows the listener to appreciate just how integral this singer is to any song she is involved in. If anything, this is Carmen a few years earlier in fusion stylee. Very much in 'The Lamp Is Low' mode. Great stuff. The band cover the Dan Hartman chestnut 'Relight My Fire', which is thankfully a million miles away from the 'Take That....or else' 'cover version' of the song. That song was covered by that group, but covered in exactly what is anyone's guess! Quasimode's own version is an interesting and witty cover. I love the Carmen song on here, although the killer diller is the Hanah fronted dancer 'Music Can Change The World', which is as uptempo and optimistic as it gets. Proof that I don't shy away from the dancefloor when the spirit moves me (it's just a shame that when half of me veers to the left, the other half heads in the other direction with a vengeance!). Great song that ought to turn even the glummest listener into a spring chicken!!. Hints of T.S. Monk's 'Can't Keep My Hands To Myself' in there someplace. Worth tracking down.

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jonathan winstead - lovestry / anoinette manganas - chains / various - dome twenty years

Jonathan WinsteadAntoinette ManganasDome

Jonathan Winstead is a new singer to me. A very nice woman, who represents this Nashville native, got in touch and sent me a copy of this great new release. One mark of quality, is if an album appears on the Soul Brother Records front cover of their latest brochure. (Jonathan's does), I am interested straight away. Soul Brother really know their music. As with many R&B performers, the educational adolescent experiences of performing in a local church, does lend to the vocal dynamism of the upcoming performer. Jonathan does possess a great vocal range, and to add to his own personal musical arsenal, Jonathan has his own studio in Nashville OneStaj Music. I know that Jazz FM's Ralph Tee has cherry picked the song 'SexyLadyLove' for his Sunday Shows, which has to be said is a killer of a mid tempo Soul tune. The set comprises of 15 beautifully penned songs, of which, the larger part comprise of downtempo songs, my pick of which is the 6 and a half minute opus 'Back Again'. The type of song which would have been huge a couple of decades ago. The industry is cruel to those who want to impart the tender sides of peoples emotions, to their detriment, in my humble opinion. The blurb that accompanies Jonathan's beautiful new CD, draws parallel's with Donny, Marvin and the greats from the Old School. All I would say is this singer is all those things, but very much a singer in his own right. 'Lovestry' / 'Tapestry'? Co-incidence? Perhaps, although I think that Jonathan is giving that great album a gentle nod, and demonstrates an appreciation of the efforts of the songsmith above those who pen nursery rhymes to disco beats. On a final note (pardon the pun), one track really struck me on this album. That song is the very Chill-Fact-Orr-esque 'Get Wit It'. Incredibly catchy song, and in another era, a top 40 hit. In todays market, bypassing the firewall of musical dirge is not an easy task, however, this deserves to be a hit. Great album. Highly recommended.

Antoinette Manganas? Now where have we heard her name before? Well, if you bought Norman Connors last album, Antionette graces the grooves of that fine release. She followed up that album with the excellent solo release 'Verbal Crush', which was another cracking album, and now comes along her follow up album, the Roger Hatfield produced 'Chains'. With a new producer, the punter will always be wary of a change in style musically, which is dispelled by the first track on offer here. 'Clara's Song (Love Is Now)' is a very Phyllis Hyman crafted song, which showcases everything which previously reached fruition through the production hands of Norman Connors. It is easy to see why he was taken by Antoinette's style of delivery. Very sultry, which has always been his way with singers. Roger takes Antoinette into uptempo territory on a couple of songs here, which partially diminish this fine singers talents, however, the larger part of this release is excellent. 'Someone To Love Me' is a beautifully heartfelt ballad, which has echoes of the Emotions in parts. Antionette also performs a lovely version of the Isley's evergreen 'Make Me Say It Again' (one of my favourite Isley's songs), and is handled very well on the production front, remaining faithful to the original, without losing any part of Antoinette's personal vocal embroidery. Lovely music indeed. Very much on a par with her 'Verbal Crush' album release, and head and shoulders above much of the mainstream product out there.

Dome Records and Expansion are two of the longest running labels on the U.K.Soul Scene. Peter and Santosh Robinson's imprint has been responsible for some of the finest Soul Music releases across the twenty year span, (since Dome was born), this album celebrates. I forgot that the label used to handle the affairs of a certain singer called Lulu during it's early incarnation as a label. Peter and Santosh have worked tirelessly, promoting and supporting many of the names that have now become household names within the Soul Music fraternity. Rosie Gaines, Beverly Knight, Rahsaan Patterson, Incognito, Dennis Taylor, Angela Johnson, Heston, Carleen Anderson, Martha Redbone (one of my favorite singers!), Eric Roberson, Brenda Russell, Don-e, to name just a few of the great performers. More recently, artists such as Avery Sunshine, have passed through the doors of this very welcoming home for 'Lost Souls'! Peter and Santosh are very personable people, who know their music, love everything that is pressed at the label...and I would add, love it with a passion. That is to their credit indeed. This beautifully boxed 3 CD release, features several musical stop off points along the road that has brought these nice folks into 2012. There is a lovely booklet with photo's and articles, along with a list of credits that could stretch round the globe several times. These guys have made a lot of friends along the way, one of them is sitting right here! If you have never brought any product from this fine label, break the habit and pick up this piece of U.K. Soul history. Long may the label continue.

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fred hammond - god, love and romance / lee fields - faithful man

Fred HammondLee Fields

Fred Hammond used to be in the Gospel group Commissioned. The Detroit born singer has released many albums since his 1991 solo debut. Some of these albums are sitting on the shelves here, possibly because Fred walks a fine line which steps, at times, into the secular pond, and then walks in the light of the man upstairs for much of the rest of the time. I am very partial to Gospel Music. Folks have learned not to holla at their maker, but instead charm the person with harmonies, converstaions and rich melodies. This album reminded me a little of the Carmichael album, that graced our shores some two years ago now. This, as with that release, is a double album, some of which sounds as if has been recorded live. If that is the case, it has been recorded so well, that 'I can't tell studio from live show'! Enough of the telly ads, this double album is full of some of the best Soul music out this year so far. Easily up there with the Gregory Porters...just a little longer. If you have any doubt regarding the pedigree of this album, well suffice to say that a certain Frank McComb pitches in ofn the killer song 'My Love Is Real'. This is Frank at his finest in my humble opinion. Hugely radio friendly groove. One for the better Soul charts I think. I counted 9 songs out of the 18 (on the first disc!) that are all great examples of Soul Music in 2012. Add to that that many of the other tracks are spoken 'bridges' between songs, then you get an idea of the overall standard on show here. The double release, for myself is a 'release of two halves' in many ways. The 'Soulier' first disc, is the release that appeals to these ears, although there are several notable tracks on offer here. Folks can't criticize Fred for staying power, as this album is released on the same imprint as his 1991 album from 20 years ago, namely Verity Records. Do go pick up a copy of this release. Certainly put a spring in my musical stride!

Lee Fields album is released on Truth and Soul Records, and sounds like it was recorded in 1974! He is one of those artists, who must own a time machine! He has released several albums recently, all of which give a passing nod to the melodies released back in the day. In fact, this North Carolina native was in his time machine back in 1969, where he stopped off to release some of his first material, and now some 40 years on, and after recording for 12 different imprints, we see this new set of gems hit the streets. Over the years Lee has toured with the likes of Kool and the Gang, Sammy Gordon and the Hip-Huggers, O.V. Wright, Darrell Banks, and Little Royal. His blurb says that the longer his career endures, the closer his music moves towards the sounds that were around way back at the birth of his career. That is realised, in no small way, by the song which appeals most to this old Soul Boy. 'You're The Right Kind Of Girl' is such a charming song, which makes me very grateful that this music is still being faithfully recorded and delivered. 'Who Do You Love' is another Southern winner, and 'Moonlight Mile' is almost Al Green at his finest. If you are into Beyonce or Jay-Z, keep your distance from this album. If you love Otis Redding, Stax etc, this is definitely your bag, so go fill up that bag, as this is a cracker of a Real Soul album. Keep that time machine runnin'!

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Gregory Porter - Be Good / Tasche - ...A Love Worth Fighting For / Glam Slam And His Combo - The Riviera Sessions

Gregory PorterTascheGlam Slam and His Combo

Gregory Porter has been embraced, with great speed, into the hearts of many Soul and Jazz pundits, after a period of nearly 3 years since his album 'Water' arrived here, (with hardly any fanfare I might add). 'Water' saw a re-release last year, and it became the album nearly everybody missed after it's initial outing. Gregory hit the television screens over the festive period in 2011. Oddly, Betty Wright makes an appearance below here, and she performed on the excellent Jools Holland's Hootenanny programme, along with our Gregory here. That show does encourage the performer to work on their most popular material, due to the nature of the festive gig, I guess. Gregory also showcased on the Carole King and Friends show at Christmas as well. His performance was a little less intense on that show, which allowed Gregory to showcase the tender aspects of the man's delivery and music. One aspect of this fine singer, that did shine through on both shows, was his very appealing disposition. Gentle giant of a man, who certainly has a great appreciation of the heritage of this music. Perhaps the best song around at the moment, eminates from the grooves of this new album 'Be Good'. 'On My Way To Harlem' is a terrific song, which is perhaps a more effective 'message song' than the dancer '1960 What', which is also a great refective dancer, but is much more intense as a song. That tune has been remixed from the 'Water' album, so it does not make an appearance here. On the Carole King programme, Gregory sang the title track from this album 'Be Good (Lion's Song)' on the show. A very tender ballad, almost nursery rhythmic in format, which adds to it's charm. 'Be Good' is released on the Motema imprint, by the way, and is a 12 track CD. So what of the other winners (and that is exactly what they are, all told)? 'Painted On Canvas' is a beautiful and eloquent opener, and sets the downtempo theme of much of this album. 'When Did You Learn' is a killer track, that would be the type of song I would imagine that late Donny Hathaway vocalising, should he had endured and been helped during his period of despair. In many ways, this album could be descibed as the album Donny never Gregory did. I have always loved 'God Bless The Child' and Gregory almost records the track as an acapella song. It's great that people like Gregory are making albums such as this release, if for no other reason, that his music encourages folks into a musical room that, at times, is perceived as a 'be-bop hip' closed shop. Great album, and will be one of the best of 2012, albeit we are one twelth of the way to the next Hootenenanny.

be good

Tasche is a new singer to me, although this set is this Californian based vocalist's second album release, according to the blurb that is posted with this release. This album is released on his own Tasche Vibe Music label, through several retailers, including CD Baby. Tasche has a very soft vocal style, which is complimented by some warm soulful background intrumentation, reminding me in places of the Kem release from a few months ago. I would say at this point, that this album is a pretty much downtempo release (as was Kem's), however, there are some very nice moments on this release. As a 'complete' album, I think the jury is still out on that aspect, although, it is worthy of your attention for those high points. The killer track for me here has to be 'Nothing I Can Say' which has a lovely steppy groove, in the way Imprompt2 often craft much of their musical material. The more I listen to this song, the more it creeps up on this listener (especially the keyboard groove half way though). Hints of Kenny Lattimore in my humble opinion. Of the other songs on offer here 'Memories' is a very tasty slice of modern Soul music. Perhaps not to many folks tastes, however, ignore 'Nothing I Can Say' at your peril!

a love worth fighting for

Lemongrass Music employ a nice guy called Daniel, who has sent me links on a regular basis for many albums his label have been releasing. Many of these albums are great for many folks out there, although I have been waiting for an album which is aimed right between these particular turnatbles, and it arrived this week! I think for, generation of product alone, these guys deserve an honour bestowed upon them. I am always impressed by the mass of music generated by these guys....and now the content is coming through! The wonderfully named Glam Slam And His Combo (echoes of Kid Creole I think!) release this 6 track mini album, which is full if ingenuity and humour. A dancer based on Bridgette Bardot opens proceedings, whilst 'Intermezzo' drifts in and out of the James Brown suite stylistically. Great track, full of energy. 'Blues De Soleil' is a straight ahead Jazz track, which ought to be described as 'dinner', although Glam and the gang enthuse their own intensity, which keeps the listener on their toes! Getting to the meat of the music here now....well the track 'The Riviera Stroll' is almost Basia/Matt Bianco at their finest. Finger clicking Jazz stepper of a very high order. If you feel the post festive blues, this will certainly lift the spirits...and mine's a... Highly recommended release. Cheered me up no end! Thank you Daniel!

the riviera sessions

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Betty Wright & The Roots - Betty Wright: The Movie / Ward Brown - Where I Should Be / Alicia Myers - Peace Of Mind

Betty WrightWard BrownAlicia Myers

Ten years ago Betty Wright released an album entitled 'Fit For A King' on her own Ms B. label. Since that time we have heard very little from Betty, and, out of the blue (and ten years down the line), one arrives, this time seeing Betty performing with the group the Roots. They recently collaborated with John Legend, and, as with that album, the group acknowledge (with the greatest respect) the recordings from years gone by. Betty is in very fine voice on this new album, and on here she records tracks alongside Lil Wayne, the great Lenny Williams and the U.K. singer Joss Stone (who has worked with Betty for a while now I believe). The album title suggests a movie is in the pipeline, although I am not sure whether that is ready at the moment, or whether the album is simply titled as a soundtrack. All that aside, this is a very good new release, recorded with real instruments and is hugely authentic in recreating the sound Betty achieved at TK during the Seventies. The killer tracks on here, for these old ears, are the retro flavoured 'So Long, So Wrong', (which could have been recorded back in 1975), as could also be said of my favourite track 'Whisper In The Wind'. The latter song is my favourite track on offer here, and is a collaboration with Joss Stone (who is not my particular favourite singer, although I do know I am in a minority there), however, Joss enhances the song, rather than 'breaks the sound barrier' with the melody. Very nice tune, which has all the hallmarks of being a big song in Chicago, as it is a top drawer stepper of a tune. A very welcome return to the studio for one of the great Soul songstresses of recent years.

Ward Brown is a singer, who I have been in touch with for a while now. He is a real nice man, who has the knack of communicating very well with people. Something that is hugely important in promotion etc. Ward makes great music, as well as having a very good empathy with the music of the past. This is highlighted on the album opener 'Love Is On My Mind', which has a Jackson'-esque 'Heartbreak Hotel' rhythm running throughout the song. I think this track will be the most radio friendly song on the album for many deejays out there. There are nine tracks on show here, which cover all tempo's, and are all of the highest quality. Of interest to Soul fans is the song 'The Beg' which sees Ward collaborating with the band Instant Funk (of 'Got My Mind Made Up' fame). 'Privacy' is another tracks that really appeals, set at mid tempo, this is a very memorable song, as is another winner in the form of 'You're All I Need'. The choice track for myself here, is another, almost Chicago style stepper, 'Last Call'. There is something that is hugely appealing about this particular format, as it lends itself to a Philly-style treatment. A very good new album, out on Early Park Entertainment, from one of the good music guys out there.

Alicia Myers used to sing, as you know I am sure, with Al Hudson, whether he was either with his 'Partners', or as part of the group One Way. Alicia is, probably, best known for her song 'I Wanna Thank You', which has now become something of a Modern Soul Music classic. In fact, this is Alicia's sixth album, no less. Bet none of us would have guessed that! This new album is something of a renaissance for this great singer. I forwarded a copy of this album to two deejays, who have both given the set a huge thumbs up, which it thoroughly deserves. The most radio friendly track on offer here, is likely to be 'Higher', although, this set is certainly not a one tracker album. In fact it is probably, one of the best releases of the year. 'I Will Stand By You' is my current pick of the songs from this album, although I know that will change on future spins. 'United We Stand' is a hugely catchy opener, followed by the very strong melody realized in the form of 'Fallin' Apart'. 'I Really, Really Want You Now' is a really lovely Soul tune, set at mid-tempo, watch this song as it is a real grower. 'Journey' is a retro dancer, which could have been lifted from one of her earlier Eighties albums, as could have the song 'Fancy Dancer' (not the Lenny White tune, by the way). The album closes with the ballad album title track, which simply lets us know that Alicia still can reach all of the notes she reached back in 1982, with a fine melody thrown in for good measure! Probably one of Alicia's finest, if not the finest, of all her albums. Hugely recommended.

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