listen out for 2018...
various artists - soul togetherness 2018 / lori williams - out of the box
I really look forward to the end of September, beginning of October, periods of the year. This is where I can get a bit lazy, and allow Expansion Records to cherry pick, certainly, the better dancers around in recent months. Ralph Tee’s label never ceases to impress, with the quality of material, they, either unearth, or generate themselves at Expansion, and Soul Togetherness 2018 maintains their very high standards throughout.
Cornell CC Carter’s ‘That Feelin’ has been one of the mainstays at our own monthly gigs in Kingston over the last few months. Certainly tests those bass bins! Great singer and song. There are some great new dancers by the likes of, the ever reliable, Kenny Thomas, Jaki Graham (whose own solo album saw the light of day this year....’why didn’t anyone mention ‘Ready For Love’, one of this years best songs) and the excellent John Reid (here with an exclusive extended mix). It was also a surprise this year, to see a new album from one of the great bands of the Eighties, namely, Change. ‘Hit Or Miss’ is here in it’s album format, and, if you are asking yourself ‘is their music today, ’Hit Or Miss’?’, well, ‘No’ is the answer to that one! They are right back on form. Brian Courtney Wilson and Lexi are two artists who are in the roster of Motown's new gospel label (and promise a great deal, judging by these fine dancers), and, in the same vibe as the Devonns from earlier this year, we are treated to the excellent ‘Do Something’ by Ernest Ernie & The Sincerities. Great to see the Richie Family included here with 1982’s ‘One And Only’, taken from the same early eighties set that featured the classic ‘Walk With Me’ (an old Robbie Vincent tune). The album features 15 superb tracks, all of which would get any Soul & R&B party started right! Whilst everything around us changes repeatedly, on the World stage, thank heavens for material and releases such as these, which are more reliable than any Brexit plan dreamed up this side of the planet!...
...this week, I received a gentle ‘nudge’ from Gary Van den Bussche (discogoldssoul), regarding this superb album by Jazz vocalist, Lori Williams. Gary was quite right to get back in touch withe me, regarding this ‘overlooked by Toby’ album. I had listened to the album a month or so ago, went away, Aretha passed, and I became distracted, which I shouldn’t have done, as this is a very good album indeed. Thanks for reminding me, Gary.
Washington native, Lori Anne Williams music I have been listening to for a while now. Whether it was with Maysa, the Blackbyrds (on ‘Gotta Fly’), Phil Perry, Yolanda Adams, Howard Hewett, Will Downing, Stanley Jordan, Nathan East, Norman Brown, Tom Browne, Terri Lyne Carrington, Angela Winbush, the Stanley Clarke/George Duke Project or Bob Baldwin, one thing that became apparent to me, is this woman only works on music of a very high standard. Bob, actually, plays on the beautiful (personal favourite) track ‘I Like the Way You Talk to Me’, which is one of the album’s highlights. ‘Out Of The Box’ is Lori’s fourth album release, and features a couple of very well delivered cover versions, firstly the Stevie/Susaye Greene penned, Michael Jackson sung, melody ‘I Can’t Help It’, Will Downing’s own ‘Sailing On A Dream’ and the Isaac Hayes/Dionne Warwick evergreen ‘Deja Vu’.
Talking of Will Downing, the man duets with Lori on the mid-tempo ‘Where’s That Smile?’ here, (and the man also sounds on great form). My personal favourite tracks here, are the aforementioned ‘I Like the Way You Talk to Me’ and the downtempo ‘Little Girl Blue’. Real beauty that one. ‘Lori may be classified as ‘Adult R&B’ in some local record stores, however, I think her appeal will spread further and wider than most folks might expect. More than ever in 2018, people are beginning to ask for more than the computer melody generated dirge that seems to prevail on today’s radio networks. Folks are prepared to look a little deeper for music of substance and standard, and with Lori Williams, this Sista goes that extra mile for all of us.
Two really terrific albums, which showcase two contrasting styles within the many faceted tapestry, woven into Soul Music overall.
Brandon Coleman is probably a new name to you and me, however, if you have been following the career of the pioneering and groundbreaking fusion artist, Kamasi Washington, you will have already heard the keyboard playing of Brandon Coleman.
His new album ‘Resistance’, his debut release for Brainfeeder, could almost be described as the third release by Herbie Hancock, following on from his ’Sunlight’ and ‘Feet’s Don’t Fail Me now’ albums of the late Eighties. At the time, Herbie utilised the vocoder, as a technique to bring back into line, the drifting tones of his own vocal delivery. In 2018, the vocoder is used, by and largely, as a novelty item by many lesser singers who permeate themselves into the ‘airwaves from hell’ :)). Older Soul fans have come to hate the instrument, likening it to the children’s character Sparky (he of the ‘Magic Piano’ fame). The great aspect of Brandon’s utilisation, is he brings the instrument back into the melody, giving the sound a whole new lease of life, and making it a hugely enjoyable ride for this old punter. Certain tracks do remind me very much of Herbie in his ‘Come Running To Me’ vibe, especially in the song ‘Walk Free’. As with Kamasi, the music is hugely ‘joyous’ in many sections. ‘Live For Today’, ‘All Around The World’ and the superb ‘Just reach For The Stars’, are very fine examples. Brandon is based, with Kamasi, in Los Angeles. Kamasi plays on horns on this album, in which Brandon describes himself as a ‘keyboard maestro, vocalist, composer, producer, arranger and astral traveller’. Very bold! What I would say is, (and the two artists both have a similar vibe going on) the album is a breath of fresh air, in an industry which we, increasingly, demand very little from an artist, and the artist often delivers just that. Thank heavens for the likes of Brandon Coleman, Kamasi Washington.....
....and Young Gun Silver Fox! Who on earth are Young Gun Silver Fox? Well, one of my favourite albums of 208, has to be the Mamas Gun set, which brought us melody, Blue Eyed Soul, genuine songwriting and, best of all, the sound of Mid-Seventies Soft Rock/Soul radio. I thought that there would be a long wait before another album of that quality came along, and yet, who’d have thought it! London Buses! Here is another. I think that ‘AM Waves’ is as good an album as Mamas Gun’s recent release. So who are these guys? Andy Platts (who is the ‘Young Gun’) and Shawn Lee (who is the ‘Silver Fox’). The album was not recorded in the West Coast of the States, but in The Shop in London and Roffey Hall in the English countryside. These guys are on their way to becoming some of the best songwriters around at the moment. If you like your Daryl Hall & John Oates, you will love this album. You can hear the inspiration within the songwriting on this album I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to over the last couple of weeks. You pays your money, you takes your choice, in the favourite tune department. I absolutely loved the song ‘Lenny’, ‘Mojo Rising’ reminded me a little of Ace’s ‘How Long’, whilst ‘Kingston Boogie’ is quickly becoming the theme tune for our once a month nights in....Kingston upon Thames! There are 10 track in total here, and no filler songs. A superb piece of songwriting, superbly delivered in every department. These guys should be given the O.B.E. in the New Years honours List! Fine stuff indeed.
jonny drop - the only sound
In the last 18 or so years, hosting this website, and reviewing many artists releases, I think this is just about the hardest record to review thus far. Normally, I sit here, mouse in hand, wondering whether I am about to be lynched by a mob of irate Northern Soul purists, accusing me of selling out. Quite why I might feel this way, is a mystery to myself, as I review many albums that would get the ‘hang ‘em high’ Soul police alerted. Kamasi Washington for one, however, I have one driving principle, and that is, a) I won’t be told what to post here and b) I actually have to really the like the product on offer. Jonny Drop’s album ‘The Only Sound’ fits the bill perfectly. In places, very ‘Cafe Del Mar’ (if you know those releases, you get a very good idea exactly what is audibly going on here), if you don't, there are many descriptions such as 'broken beat' and similar, which go to make a well delivered album, featuring Sarah Williams White, Shea Soul, Tamar Osborn and Grace Walker. Oddly enough, that last one has the same surname I do.....as Grace is my own flesh and blood! Our kid.
Lets take a step or two backwards in time. Jonny Drop is a member of the U.K. Fusion group, the Expansions. Grace and the Expansions have some previous! Indeed, we have been along to hear her singing a slowed down version of an old Curtis Mayfield evergreen, whilst sharing a stage with Omar a couple of summers ago. Dave Koor, from the group, played keyboards for Alton, McClain & Destiny in London fairly recently, so the Expansions know their stuff musically. As with many of the better bands out there, they keep their heads well below the film of daytime radio dirge, and now we see Jonny releasing, what might be categorised as a broken beat album, by some. Too many compartments for music out there, I think. Being the old stick in the Soulful mud I am, I hear the Old School embedded into sections of this release (especially on ‘Think It Over’ feat. Shea Soul). This is a very intelligently constructed album, which, thankfully, contains no 'hits', (or whatever excreta passes as a pop hit in 2018), but a firm labour of love’s foundation in melody, within which Grace takes her own place on the track ‘Flashlight’. It’s not just Grace that enhances the listening experience, but all of the assembled team, and for this, Jonny should rightly be proud of his debut release, which could fly or fall, but nonetheless all comprising a great deal of time and effort, and is a very good album in my humble ‘old’pinion. I guess the only issue I have here is with myself. I want to tell Grace she has really impressed me with this release, however, it should not be praise from myself that is taken into consideration. My opinions are somewhat irrelevant in this case, however it is the opinions of others that fascinate me. Objectivity and parenthood are strange bedfellows. Entangled within my own dilemma, is an excellent album, of which the cast should all be very proud. Grace, nonetheless, has impressed me, and I know BBC Radio 6 have given this set the thumbs up. Strangely, that station is the other collaborative reviewer I was looking for here.
Sounds of the Universe and Phonica in Soho both told me the album is selling well, so perhaps I don’t have to be worried about personal preferences affecting this review. Fine work Jonny. I hope your album does really well. Of it’s genre, or whatever your chosen genre, this s about as good as it gets in 2018.
adam & kizzie - the book of eedo vol. 3: threedo / agapesoul - conversations / michael franks - the music in my head
After a long period of work and other matters, My wife and I set off for a two week break, armed with the latest musical releases loaded onto my old iPod. I was looking forward to listening to whatever is around right now. Listening to music whilst away, gives me another perspective on the genre, and these three releases rose head and shoulders above, what seems to me to be a neo-soul, downtempo, musical format, which seems to be the trend, but doesn’t do a great deal for myself, all told. Slow without much melody? Maybe a bit harsh, but that’s the impression left....
Thank heavens for (firstly) Adam and Kizzie Ledbettter’s third album release. The set is entitled ‘The Book of EEDO Vol. 3: THREEDO’ (no prizes for the titles of the preceding albums here!) for this married couple from Oklahoma City. The duo remind me (not in sound but in the style) of the duo Kindred the Family Soul, in as much as they are a) a couple, and b) they are building a career from the best laid foundations. Their material has a sound to me that will grow slowly and surely on the ear. Their sound is based in Jazz, Soul, R&B and Gospel, although they, themselves as ‘The Originators of EEDO’, which means their own non-genre genre. I can live with that, as the term does not confine them to a tag, but more a quality/standard of music, which to these ears, is very highly rated indeed. Adam and Kizzie are ripe for London’s Jazz Cafe, gigs-wise. A couple of dates there, and an interest will grow methinks. In their earlier days, Adam & Kizzie were enrolled in an arts school where they both became close friends. The two were later married. On the new album, the duo tell us ‘EEDO’ is the essence of freedom. It is anything good and right. A book or song that inspires you to feel or do something good, freedom to express, feel, & inspire growth, joy & love. This album I listened to a great deal, whilst I was away. A seven tracker, from which I would cherry pick the excellent ‘Perimeter’, as a sure fire winner. Better still is the textural ‘It Was Almost R&B’, which is quite superb. A great pleasure to listen to people pushing boundaries, without breaking ear drums! I wish them both the greatest success with this project. It really is very good
Another set which really had me reaching for the repeat button, is this new album from AgapéSoul. A little like a new Incognito album, if I might say. Essentially, AgapéSoul is a project from bassist Darryl Anders. Daryl was originally a trumpeter before switching to bass. The Californian based artist released his self-titled debut album in 2012. Been a while until this follow-up set, ‘Conversations’, and the wait has been well worth the passing of time. Daryl says ‘The name AgapéSoul comes from the idea of God’s agape love for mankind, soul- the place within in us where music comes from, and our overarching love for that music’. Daryl has enlisted musical accompaniment from members (drummer Aaron Green, guitarist Cam Perridge, and vocalist Zoe Ellis). Of particular interest to myself, is the inclusion of the singer/songwriter/producer Tommy Sims, British singer/songwriter Geoffrey Williams, jazz guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr., guitarist Levi Seacer (of Prince’s New Power Generation), New Orleans music scion Ivan Neville (clavinet), guitar sensation Eric Gales and saxophonist Chris Bullock and trumpeter Michael Maher, along with members of the three time Grammy winning fusion band Snarky Puppy. The music reflects the calibre of these guys. The 10 track album is strong throughout. Highlights for myself comprise the three openers ‘ Kite’, ‘The Way That We Love’ (beautifully delivered by Zoe Ellis) and ‘Changes’. There is a great mellow moment called ‘Home’ (the Tommy Sims led inclusion, how about some new solo material Soul man?), along with a surprise interpretation of the Ohio Players evergreen ’Sweet Sticky Thing’. Nice version of that one by Judy Roberts a few years ago, I recall. A very satisfying album on many levels. Unreservedly recommended.
If you are a long time visitor at this site, you will know the high regard I hold for the singer Michael Franks. I can’t think of a cleverer lyricist, and an even cleverer disguiser of the complexity of those lyrics in some beautiful material musically. The artist from La Jolla, California, has his own page at this site. His albums are consistently, of a very high standard, which has never dropped below ‘superb’ ever since his self titled debut back in 1973. ‘The Music In My Head’ is a Shanachie Records release, which, some 20 releases down the line, still stands up with any album in the singer/songwriters back catalogue. In these days where many of the ‘senior citizens of music’ still exercise their craft, Michael’s voice and delivery have not changed much in the passing of time. On this new 10 track album, Michael has drafted the likes of Jimmy Haslip, David Spinozza, Chuck Loeb, Eric Marienthal, amongst many other fine musicians. As with the AgapeSoul album, it is the opening tracks with instantly hit home here, namely, ‘As Long As We’re Both Together’ and ‘Suddenly Sci-Fi’, although, sitting on a far off beach these last two weeks, whenever the album came on on my playlist, I left the whole story on from start to finish. There is something very uplifting, humorous and articulate about the music of Michael Franks. I have every record or CD the man has released here. When the digital copy arrived here, I went out and bought the CD. Michael Franks’ music is to be treasured, it is irreplaceable......and it must be owned! A very, very fine album indeed.
tower of power - soul side of town / soul basement - oneness / the devonns - come back b/w i think i'm falling in love
A new Tower of Power album is always a welcome event. In recent years, I’ve been sent downloads of their releases, and by and largely, really liked the albums. ‘Soul Side Of Town’ represents the group’s 50th anniversary. Most of the album tracks are mainly composed by the group’s founding members Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Kupka (who are both segments of the Tower of Power Horn section. As part of the rest of the rhythm section, the group comprise: drums and bass lock of David Garibaldi and Francis Rocco Prestia, guitarist: Jerry Cortez, Hammond B3 organist/keyboardist: Roger Smith, 1st tenor saxophonist: Tom Politzer, and trumpeters: Adolfo Acosta and Sal Cracchiolo. On vocal chores the group features Ray Greene and Marcus Scott.
What sets ‘Soul Side Of Town’ from the group’s more recent releases, is the strength of the melodies, of which ‘Can't Stop Thinking About You’ and (especially) ‘Do You Like That?’. The latter track had me thinking to myself ‘I really need this on vinyl’, so I went to the local record store here, and bought the album, which covers 2 records, probably to get that bass resonance going on on the album. ‘Do You Like That?’ is worth the entrance fee alone. One of the tracks of 2018.
In 2018, Soul Basement are making a return visit to this website, with their new release ‘Oneness’. Released on their label, Moosicus, Fabio Puglisi and Jay Nemor’s new release is a fine return to form on this new 8 track release, filling the spaces left by the likes of Gil Scott Heron, and also evoking some of the early releases from the group The Last Poets. Jay Nemor’s voice is very easy on the ear. All of the 8 songs are written and composed by Fabio and Jay, and are full of messages, which are articulated intelligently, and melodically. On initial listening, I rated all of the tracks (at least) 4 stars, with the final track ‘Count On Me’ brining echoes of the Crusaders ‘Keep That Same Old Feeling’ going on in there someplace. The music of Soul Basement is not for those who like todays pop charts. Their albums are, almost, like picking up a novel, which you want to enjoy, but have your ‘thoughts provoked’ at the same time. Melodically, the album is beautiful, and leaves the listener leaving proceedings a richer person, artistically and educationally. Love ‘Count On Me’. That really is a tune.
The Devonns are a four piece group out of Chicago, Illinois. They comprise of, Keys & Vox: Mathew Ajjarapu, Guitar: Cam Cunningham, Bass: Khalyle Hagood, and Percussion: Khori Wilson. ‘Come Back’ represents something of a recent renaissance in music, showcased by the likes of Mama’s Gun’s ‘Stranger On The Street’, Jon Allen’s ‘Stay’, Tower Of Powers ‘Do You Like That’....and now, The Devonn’s ‘Come Back’. All of these songs would have been huge on daytime radio, circa 1975, falling into line with the likes of sides by England Dan & John Ford Coley, Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds, Hall & Oattes etc. The Devonns (pronounced "De-vaughns" by the way) are to release an album later in the year on the Record Kicks imprint. The group say they are hugely influenced by the music on the Soul Scene from the Sixties and Seventies. Boy can you hear that here. The flip side of the single is a beauty as well. Big nod to Bill Buckley for turning me onto this track.
mamas gun - golden days
Is it nearly a decade since the debut release, by the band Mamas Gun? Seems like yesterday, I was singing the praises of ‘Let’s Find A Way’ at this site. Great track as that was, as with many bands, I felt the group had more about them, than just a stand-out song from a first album. ‘Routes To Riches’ represented many aspects of the group’s sound. I metof the guys briefly at Jazz FM’s Love Supreme a few years ago, and spoke about that track. The feeling I got from the group, were they really were ‘finding their way’. Mamas Gun are Andy Platts, Cameron Dawson, Dave Oliver, Jack Pollitt and Terry Lewis. Subsequent album releases by the guys, namely ‘The Life And Soul’ (in 2011) and ‘Cheap Hotel’ (in 2014), saw some minor developments, without being earth shattering. For myself, ‘Let’s Find A Way’ hinted at the sound of Seventies daytime radio, when the likes of Hall & Oattes, England Dan & John Ford Coley, or Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds, were the order of the day. 2018’s ‘Golden Days’ sees the group realising their potential. This is my album of the year, thus far. A quite superb, no nonsense, stream of song led melodies, containing no filler tracks, and, all told, it is an absolute joy to behold on every level. I was sent some mp3 files of this album, and walked straight into my local record store, and bought a ‘proper record’ to place in my ‘favourites box’ in this house. Superb from start to finish. Where to go to first for advice? Well, can I recommend ‘Strangers On A Street’, which is certainly a track of the year, if ever I heard one. Whether Mamas Gun will ever improve on this album, well, who knows. They might emulate the songs, however, tilting my head to one side and listening again, I think this could well be a high watermark album. Go and treat yourself. This really is terrific stuff.
jon allen - blue flame / tyra levone - testimony (a soul set free)
Jon Allen is a ‘pop’-ular singer, on the folk-rock scene, whom I have been aware of, via appearances on Jools Holland’s late night shows, amongst others. By and largely, I have been too immersed in the Soul Scene to pay much attention to the mainstream flow of pop music. Most of the stuff, I can take or leave. Every now and then, one of these artists has a ‘eureka’ moment, and this Winchester born singer’s ‘personal moment’ is, just about, now! Firstly, this artists new material would have simply passed me by, if it hadn’t been for (that meddling kid :))) Bill Buckley (a fine reviewer from the excellent http://www.soulandjazzandfunk.com/ website), who suggested the track ‘Stay’ to me a month or so ago. Jon has taken off his ‘rock music hat’ and slipped on a very comfortable blue eyed soul replacement. ‘Stay’ is one of my tracks of the year. Out and out Soul music, full to the brim with melody and joy. If this doesn’t get your spirits lifted, then nothing much will, is all I can say. The parent album ‘Blue Flame’ is more mainstream in sound, however, another real gem, is the Soulful ballad ‘Since You Went Away’. This is very strong on melody, song led, as they say, and Jon’s vocal stylings suit the track down to the ground. Another winner! ‘Blue Flame’ is out on Monologue Records, with ’Stay’ and ‘Since You Went Away’ worth the entrance fee alone. Thanks Bill, and thank you Jon....
...Tyra Levone is a new singer to me. Recommended by, the excellent promoter, Gary Van Den Bussche here, this album is constructed from hugely impressive materials. Tyra hails from Silver Spring in Maryland (born in Washington). She writes, sings and produces much of her material, and stylistically, I would place her sound somewhere between Regina Belle and Maysa Leak. High praise, all told. ‘Testimony’ is a 12 track release, which, marking up the album track by track, the ratings hit 5 star on several occasions, and never dip below 4 stars throughout. All told, a superb debut. ‘If Only I Knew’ is the album’s initial single release. I found myself returning to several tracks including ‘You & You’, the bass bin trembler ‘Can You Feel It’ (great dancer), the tender ‘It’s You’, ‘Fantasy’ and, perhaps the killer tune ‘What Do You Want’. Tyra’s roots were honed in her local church, singing with her father, later playing piano in two choirs, and, interestingly, she has collaborated with the previously reviewed band here, Spur Of The Moment. That aspect has a comforting aspect with this reviewer, in as much as it showcases that, if nothing else, my tastes are consistent! :)) We certainly will hear more from this singer in the years to come. Cream always rises, as the late Gregg Diamond once informed us!
janelle monae - dirty computer / spur of the moment - n2 deep
I have to admit that much of today’s mainstream ’new R&B’ doesn’t do a great deal for me. It wouldn’t do, would it. An white English bloke over 60? This stuff just wasn’t made for the likes of myself, so I should get on with the 40 year old vinyl re-releases, and mind my own business ‘old man’! :)) Here’s the thing, though. I completely ‘get’ what some of these artists are trying to do, and.....’hold on to your hats’.....I like the music that goes with this stuff as well! Stick that in your carburettor and ‘rev’ it! Beyonce, I have to admit, if I had my complete collection of her material removed from this house, the space would remain the same. That cannot be said for the likes of Vivian Green, Chrisette Michelle and Janelle. They are trying to ‘move and shake’ the music, to see what falls from the trees. ‘Dirty Computer’ is this singers fourth release, and, for myself, much of each of the albums I could take or leave the music, however, with each release, there are terrific pieces of music. On her ‘Archandroid’ album, there was ’Say You’ll Go’. With the ‘Electric Lady’ album, the superb ‘Dorothy Dandridge Eyes’, and with ‘Dirty Computer’, the cherry on top of the cake has to be ‘Don’t Judge Me’. Janelle’s ability to shock, for myself, doesn’t come with the Cab Calloway-esque dance routines, or the outlandish costume changes, but in this album’s case, is the inclusion of a certain Brian Wilson. When I read the sleeve notes from the CD here, I thought ‘she probably means the Brian Wilson from that Gangsta Rap band’ (yeah ‘Big Bad Brotha Brian from tha Bronx’:), or the ‘Brian Wilson flown in from a hideous version of the Voice’, and yet, yes it is, ‘him from the Beach Boys’. I wish this track ran longer than the two or so minutes on show here. As with much of this singers ingenuity, the ‘least likely’ works! More power to her elbow. The only thing Janelle has to decide on from this juncture is, whether she is a singer, songwriter, actress or model. She has the potential to do all. I think within herself, she would find the future as a singer and songwriter, most rewarding. Janelle certainly ain’t boring! :))
Spur Of The Moment confused me for a short while, as the album title ‘N2 Deep’ is also the name of a Rap band from the early Nineties. Once I had taken off my ’stupid hat’ off, and put on my ‘thinking head’, everything fell into place! This is one of the better albums released this year so far. The harmonies reminded me a little of the ‘Otis & Shugg’ group from the Nineties. In fact, if you want an overall guide to the feel of the album, you could do worse than to start from that aspect. Spur Of The Moment have been around for some 20 years now. They have worked with the likes of the late George Duke and Al Jarreau, Patti Austin, Ledisi, Stanley Clarke, Oleta Adams and Lalah Hathaway. The blurb that came with the album suggest a 2014 release for this album, and yet, the distributor sent me this album as a new release. Very pleased they sent the album from whenever is was made. It was a real pleasure to listen to something of a greater substance than much of the current material out there. Even the lovely Maysa makes an appearance on this album. If that isn’t a ‘kite-mark of quality’, then I don’t know what is! The group have assembled many famous followers, who include the likes of Will Downing, Eric Roberson, Ledisi, Lalah Hathaway, Brian Culbertson and Raheem Devaughn. Of the 11 songs on show here, the tracks that really rose to the top were the title track, ‘Free Urself’ and the superb ‘Love Her’. Hugely refreshing in a very stale ‘musical market of re-releases’. I will be looking out for these guys in the future.
soulutions - thankful
I went to see a friend yesterday, who is a deejay. Nick and I both work together on our, once a month, gigs at our local Soul shindig, and I took a copy of the second SouLutions album round to play to him. He said to me one thing, about this group, which I absolutely agree with. That is, today’s sound is very much about setting a ‘back in the day, moody, groove’, which can be at times a wearing affair. SouLutions music, if nothing else, and even in it’s ballad format, is nothing short of joyous. Steve Lee and Louise Mehan have a very clever knack of taking segments of Soul history, and re-inventing them. Whether the intention is for a new generation, well, that is down to the listener. All I know is I can play this music to my 24 year old daughter, and she gets the same vibe and enjoyment, from this rabble, that I do. I want SouLutions to continue making music, so, even though I get sent a digital review copy of the album to listen to, I also go buy the CD off the band’s website. I am always left wanting for more with this group. 40 years or so ago, SouLutions would be up there on Top Of The Pops along with the Real Thing and Heatwave.
In 2018, folks are prepared to put up with anything the industry tells them to like. Failure Swift and Lazy Gaga? Give me strength! Those who utilise the left hand side of their grey matter, are looking for more. With SouLutions you get that. Track-wise, you guys will already know the singles ‘Thankful’ and ‘I Got To Party’, which would almost be enough for most punters to go buy the album on their own. There are 11 other fine songs on show here. For myself ‘Get Out’ is superb. ‘Don’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover’ was released a couple of years ago, and makes a welcome return here. I think Louise has met some shallow people out there, who do judge that proverbial book by it’s cover. I am sure you guys are not amongst those foolish folks. ’Shooting Star’, ‘Thinking Of You’, ‘Second Guessing’ and about a further 5 other tracks (or so), all made the five star rating for myself, with this set. Louise has a beautiful vocal delivery, and is allowed to develop the songs melodically and lyrically, articulating each gem for the better radio stations in 2018. Probably the best album so far this year (respect to Diane Shaw and Swing Out Sister I would add). Now how many of these CD’s do I have to buy to keep this group in business......:)))). I need to know!
lindsey webster - love inside / tatiana ladymay mayfield - the next chapter / jazzy d feat. amber sweeney - sweet light
In recent weeks, I have been away from home, working in a design company in London. When I started work there, during mid-January, the best albums around were Diane Shaw’s and Swing Out Sister’s superb new offerings. Since that time, much of the music I have been listening to has been, mainly, funk and dance music from the Seventies. I began to think this year was going to be a fallow year, and, following my first break in weeks, along come two of the ‘music police’, who are so reliable, they re-install your faith in music. Both Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield and Lindsey Webster, are regular inclusions at this website. The types of artists, you can buy their albums ‘blind’, as you know you are about to hear the best music around, even before kick off!
Lindsey’s career I have followed on social media, always interested in her progression, and how that is transpiring. ‘Love Inside’ was the initial single, which was great in itself, and now we have the full monty, and I have to thank her and Keith Slattery for delivering yet again, music of the highest quality. Normally, when I set up a review, I mark various tracks of (pardon the pun) ‘note’, which I feel are worth revisiting on subsequent listens. Of the 12 tracks I have here to re-listen to, I have twelve tracks marked for revisiting. In today’s marketplace, if you have three tunes of merit, on any album release, you are doing well, but to have a complete ‘put it on and leave it on until the run out groove’ type of album, well they are usually destined for ‘album of the year’ status. ‘Love Inside’ is certainly a real contender. Real music, real instruments, along with a delivery that isn’t screeched, but ‘articulated with feeling’. Of the complete set, the cherries on this proverbial cake, for myself, have to be ‘Free To Be Me’, ‘Opportunity’, ‘By My Side’ and ‘It’s Not You, It’s Me’, however, I would point out that I am being pretty fickle in my choices, as, you could choose any track in all honesty. A very refreshing relief to see the light of day through the ‘mundane mayhem’ on daytime radio. Thanks to Lindsey, Keith and all the folks that constructed this mini-masterpiece. Brownie points to all concerned!.....
....and talking of deserving musicians, Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield is another woman who is a particular favourite at this website. Whenever I hear she has new material about, my ears prick up. In the true Rose Royce tradition of ‘putting my money where my mouth is’, I set sail to CD Baby and bought this set. Worth every penny, all told! ‘The Next Chapter’ is the third in a trio of superb releases from this fine singer/songwriter. With this new album, we are now looking at the real deal. Tatiana has penned 10 all new original compositions on show here. The melodies move from the simplest of love songs, to a woman with her, full on, political hat on. Comparisons can be utilised in describing her stylings. Is she the new Billie Holiday, or, perhaps the female Gil Scott Heron?, but hey, I can hear all sorts of influences going on within her delivery. Everyone from Joni Mitchell, to Minnie Riperton. Of the 15 tracks on offer here, Five stars definitely go to ‘Me and You’, ‘Insomnia’, (the gorgeous) ‘Forgive Me Someday’, ‘Sweet Refrain’, along with two genuine epic songs in the form of ‘The Next Chapter’ and the inspirational ‘Freedom’. As a white man, it is unfair of me to try to understand the civil rights aspect of the politic, as I am a bystander. I completely empathise and write about these things at Soulwalking. If anything, I am as annoyed about the actions of my ancestors, as much today, as I was as a child in the Sixties, asking my parents ‘why do people treat others differently, just because of the colour of their skin? It is a stupid thing to do’. I still believe that some 50 years on. Tatiana is a mouthpiece for many, who may have received a verbal equality from the powers that be, but that doesn’t mean diddly-squat, if it isn’t followed by action. The struggle certainly goes on. Artists like Tatiana are hugely important in music generally. The stage is the artists soapbox. Listen up!
Finally, a single! I don’t usually add a 45 to the mix on these pages, however, ‘Sweet Light’ by Jazzy D feat. Amber Sweeney, is certainly worth a mention. Jeff Young at Jazz FM gave this track a run out last Sunday, and the melody shone out of the whole playlist for me. From the Land of the Rising Wallaby, comes this beautiful piece of Soul heaven. If only people demanded more from the ‘nursery rhyme set to a disco beat radio fodder’ these days, this would be filling daytime radio. Superb piece of songwriting. Thanks to that nice Jeff Young for bringing this to my attention. First rate!
diane shaw - second chance / various artists - the wants list 4
Is it really 3 years since Diane Shaw released her debut album ‘Love, Life & Strings’? Yikes! Time really does fly. That album embedded itself into most of the better charts, for a large part of that year, and quite rightly so. In the same way the group Soulutions, just get on with making the music they understand, and love the most, the same applies to Diane Shaw. At times her sound is set in an early Seventies, Detroit Spinners-esque vibe, and then she sneaks in to a Sixties mode, before returning to her Real Soul pastures, musically. Wherever Diane lays her hat, she fully embraces the term ‘song-led’. Her songs are not pastiches or remakes, but are very much melodies in their own right. I nearly didn’t make track 3 on this album, after first listening to ‘Through The Rain’ (track 2). What a true beauty. One of 2018’s finest, thus far, and I am sure I will be saying likewise come the end of November this year. Folks don’t make music of this high standard in pop’s mainstream, so I think I will reside in Soul Music’s ‘quality slipstream’ this year, if the going is going to be of this standard. ‘Second Chance’? There should be no question of ‘chance’ involved in future recordings by this fine singer. She put be placed firmly on the U.K. obligatory musical curriculum! A national treasure! Now, not forgetting there are 11 further songs following ‘Through The Rain’, cherry picking is a hard task, as I honestly, love the overall product here. ‘(Come Back) Halfway’ will become a live show favourite, I am sure. I really love the mid-seventies sounding ‘Love Has No Right’, a song out of it’s era today, however, would have been a hit in those times, and should be in 2018. It’s a shame the hallmark of a good record today, is that it isn’t a huge pop hit! The penultimate ’Shall I Wait For You’ sits perfectly in the albums ‘departure lounge’. An ‘end of the night’ melody, which is a quite moving listen, all told. Folks like myself, and yourselves (if not the case, what are you doing at this site in the first place! :))) will not be able to have enough of Diane Shaw albums in years to come. More power to her elbow, is all I can say. The woman and her team, are, quite simply, superb!
‘Want’s List 4’ I thought might never see the light of day. The previous issues date back to 2003, with the last (‘Want’s List 3’) release dating from over a decade ago at the time of writing. Why the break? who knows, but I am very pleased that the guys have decided to run with the reissue process, making hard to find tracks, more easily accessible to those trying to track this fine music down. With the help of the guys at Soul Brother in East Putney, you can now pick up a copy of the likes of, say, Almeta Lattimore’s beautiful, ‘These Memories’, Tommy McGee’s rare 45 ‘Now That I Have You’, Dee Edwards’ superb, ‘(I Can) Deal With That’, Carolyn Franklin’s evergreen ‘Sunshine Holiday’ and Maxine Weldon’s gorgeous take on ‘I Want Sunday Back Again’. Other great tracks featured include songs by The Ebony’s, The Manhattans, The Impressions, Natural High, Bobby Wilson, Margie Joseph, Aretha Franklin, Jocelyn Brown, Zulema, McArthur and Pat Lundy. Boy, there are some rare tracks on show here, and better still, is they are about to retailed by Soul Brother on vinyl, as well as CD. The release date is the 23rd of February, which I know many of you will mark in your shopping diaries, and why not? Not often so many gems are released in one great package. Highly recommended.
various artists - sir wick - a tale of two fools
Sir Wick (a.k.a. Chad Hughes) hails from Detroit, Michigan.
He, previously was featured at this website, regarding his 2008 album ‘An Interpretation Of A Universal Language’.
As he says himself ‘ Sir Wick sees no lines between classical, jazz, and R&B’. That aspect is certainly apparent on this new album by this intriguing artist.
Recorded at the House of Wick Studios, the new album, is entitled ‘A Tale of Two Fools’.
Currently the Director of Bands at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, this artist has performed with the the likes of Kid Rock, Tia Fuller, the Temptations, Martha Reeves, Dwele and Marcus Belgrave.
The new album covers several genres, including classical, gospel, hip-hop, and R&B.
Many of the songs, which relate this story, feature the singers Anthony Saunders's and Angela Birchett.
The story, imparted by the music, goes as follows:
‘Eli’ Brooks is a music major whose main objective is perfection. He works tirelessly in a practice room to become the best trumpeter in the world but his dedication to his music makes him a social hermit. Despite his focus, he unexpectedly falls in love with Alexandra Hylton: a young MBA student who is being courted to work for a major-marketing firm post-graduation. Although she loves Eli, Alexandra realises that her life may be better by returning to her ex-boyfriend Harrison, a six-figure executive who can give her everything she desires’.
That said, it would be easy to ignore the music, within the story, which is of a very high standard. Highlights, to these ears, are the songs ‘Give My All’, ‘I Love You’, ‘You Will Never Know’, ‘Dream Come True’ and ‘I Refuse To Say Goodbye’.
As an artistic piece, this is a very fine album. Whether many reviewers are prepared to listen closely to some 25 tracks, is debatable, however, I would encourage them to do so, as the album is a very rewarding listen.
The Gospel version of ‘Down By The Riverside’ is worth the entrance fee on it’s own!
The Swing Out Sister musical bus is arriving less and less frequently these days, which is a real shame, as they never release poor product. The influences are Sixties and Soulful more recently. Very Jim Webb in places, and orchestrated richly, giving Corinne Drewery a perfect backdrop for her vocal skill set. When I talk to my daughter about her own singing career, I point her in the direction of albums by Swing Out Sister. Music influenced by bygone times, but not replicated. Corinne and Andy Connell’s self released album, ‘Almost Persuaded’ is, to put it simply, lovely. They seem to get on with what they do best, despite todays ‘trends’. Song led, beautifully arranged songs, that would be top ten melodies in another era. Who wants to be like Taylor Swift in 2018? Only attraction is a financial one I think, but certainly no yearning for artistic parity. There is no comparison. If you are a young musician, this is what you should be listening to. 12 songs that create pictures in your mind. ‘Which Wrong Is Right?’ is a perfect canvas to build the rich tapestry which forms the overall album. One thing this album definitely isn’t, is a ‘bang on’ house music album! The melodies are easy on the ear, and flow seamlessly between the tracks. Corinne has become very Dusty Springfield-esque in her new recordings, offering that ‘yearning’ quality which wasn’t a part of the group’s earlier, excellent dance formatted, melodies. This album will certainly receive heavy rotation on the jazzier stations out there. Folks who love their music with a ‘Northern’ aspect to the scene, will love this set. Check ‘I Wish I Knew’ (my favourite track on show here). First rate. Old Soul boys, such as myself, are simply grateful that music of this standard is still being crafted at the latter end of this decade. For ourselves, bookmark ‘All In A Heartbeat’ or 'Everybody's Here'. Nice to be sung to, and not have your brains drilled out and lobotomised by mainstream daytime radio! Terrific stuff, all told, and all I can say is thank you Andy & Corinne. Hugely appreciated and quite superb.
One of the few things to look forward to, in the post holiday season, are the annual new releases from the fine Expansion Record label. Ralph, Richard and their fine team, always deliver albums of quality, and more importantly, reliability. This 3CD release features some of the tracks which made the chart at this site, throughout 2017. Will Wheaton and Bridgette Bryant’s superb ‘How Do You (Do The Things That You Do)’ is one tune in point. I had this track on my iPod (yes, I still use my old technology here!) on rotation over the summer. Very underrated IMHO, and pleased to see the guys running with the fine song again. ‘Give Love’ is a tune that I missed (by Marcus Anderson). Another great find and a track. Soulutions are a band that are beginning to embed themselves into the U.K. R&B market, and deservedly so. As the group’s new singles arrive, they are consistently of a very high standard. Gordon Chambers ‘The Diamond Inside’ was another 2017 highlight, and Chris Jasper arrived in a series of excellent Boogie Back remix formats on different artists. These guys certainly know how to get the bass bins thumping in the systems out there. On the retro front, I was very pleased to see the Uno Melodic 1982 12” single instrumental version of Bobbi Humphrey’s ‘Baby Don’t You Know’. I uploaded this track to my YouTube channel, a year or so ago, and it has become one of the most listened to tracks on my playlists. Great to be able to pick up an actual hard copy of the track here. Essential listening, all told. I believe that Ralph has now signed the excellent Robb Scott to the Expansion artist roster. Robb can best be described as the U.K.’s answer to Norman Connors (my humble opinion). He listens to all of the better artist from back in the day, I think. On disc 3 here, Ralph and Richard pay respect to Kashif, who passed away a few months ago, including his song ‘So Emotional’ here. Lost a great artist there. Also receiving a posthumous mention, is Leon Ware, whose very fine ‘Heartbeat’ is also included here. Other welcome inclusions are Linda Clifford’s, lovely ‘’I Just Wanna’ and the Jones Girls fine ’If You Don’t Start Nothin’. To complete a very nice triple CD collection, is the superb ‘Galveston Bay’ by Lonnie Hill. I think that is one of my favourite songs from the last 50 or so years. Essential collection, all told, and thank you to the guys at the label.
galveston by - lonnie hill
Also on Expansion, comes the third collection of DJ Tony Monson’s choices of material from the vaults, along with the newer choices around right now. Tony is a very fine deejay, whose shows I have enjoyed over the last 35 years or so, whilst at various radio stations. Tony isn’t afraid to choose something that isn’t an ‘I’ve got it and you haven’t’ rare groove tune, or something left field, which is aspect of the man I really empathise with. Which Soul jock out there would include a Judy Collins, Judy Tzuke or an England Dan & John Ford Coley tune in amongst some of the ‘hipper’ Soul tracks doing the circuit? ‘Ethreal 3’ I think is my favourite of Tony’s 3 collections thus far. I think it is the diversity of the material which stops the listener from becoming bored! I was hooked, and found myself ‘bullet pointing’ several tracks, such as the excellent Buford Powers ‘Bluz 4 Eyes’, which was an inspiring listen. Loved the Ola Onabule tune ‘The Picture’ here, and Judy Collins take on the Randy Newman song ‘I Think It’s Going To Rain Today’. Check out Dusty Springfield’s fine version of this on YouTube. Both are great takes on a song from a fine songwriter. The CD also features ‘You Will Rise’ from Sade’s backing group Sweetback, Kazu Matsui’s wonderful ‘Time Flies’, the Jones Girls ‘Children Of The Night’, along with some great sides by Faze-O, The Isley Brothers, Lesette Wilson and Bobby McFerrin, sitting alongside 16 other songs, which go to make up another must buy CD from a man whose taste is impeccable. Roll on ‘Ethreal Magic 4’!
buford powers - bluz 4 eyes