listen out for 2013...
Chrisette Michele is a singer, whose career I have followed with interest since her first album ‘I Am’ was released 6 years ago. That album contained the track ‘Best of Me’, which for the following months I couldn’t understand why more of a fuss was not being made about that great song here in the U.K. The epitome of the term ‘radio friendly’. Music is a very personal thing, which, if you love something, one thing I have learned over the years is, don’t look for anyone else’s approval before you give a song the thumbs up in your house. Babyface penned that great track, which sits very nicely alongside some of his finest songs (‘You Can’t Run’ by Vanessa Williams being another). Chrisette’s surname is actually Payne, which makes sense when the listener reads through the liner notes regarding who wrote which song etc. You see the credit ‘C. Payne’ on every track here. The woman herself hails from Central Islip in New York, and spent her early years there in Patchogue. Her father was a deacon and her mother a choir director, so the musical foundations were being laid at a very early age. As she reached her late teens, she began to perform on several rap artists albums, which brings certain parallels with the career of Janelle Monae (another fascinating performer). ‘Better’ is Chrisette’s fourth album release, and highlights a growing maturity in her songwriting and vocalising skill set. She has been recognised as an artist of substance in her 21st year, as this set is seeing the light of day on the Motown imprint. Musically, of interest to Soul fans will be the song ‘A Couple Of Forevers’, which is a melody joint penned by Chrisette and Gamble & Huff, no less. Lovely song, as you might expect. I enjoyed the opener ‘Be In Love’, and the infectious ‘Let Me Win’. Very radio friendly indeed, reminding me of the track ‘I’m In Love’ from the Isley Brothers Christmas album from a couple of years ago. The track that had me thinking that Chrisette could nudge Alicia Keys towards her modern style of recording (and would further enhance her own ‘style with soul’) comes in the form of ‘Love Won't Leave Me Out’. A really lovely song. Nice to have a major league Soul singer, whose vocals are instantly recognisable as this particular woman, and not ‘the crowd’. I hope her career develops in a direction led by herself, as the finished product is top drawer.
Robin McKelle I have been turned on to by http://www.soulandjazzandfunk.com/’s Bill Buckley (who I also have to thank for point out the great Cody Chesnutt album, in it’s early days, last year). Although the label says Sony Records, the distributor for this album is the legendary OKeh imprint. Robin is a native of Rochester in New York, and an ex teacher at the famous Berklee College Of Music. She has penned many of the recordings on this fine new release, which will gather huge interest with the Modern Soul fraternity, via a duet performed with Gregory Porter (the man who can do no wrong these days!) on the track ‘Love’s Work’.
Influenced by the likes of Nina Simone and Gladys Knight, Robin’s musical heart is set in a very Soulful place, covering on this album the Bacharach and David evergreen ‘Walk On By’. What is refreshing is that particular cover has been re-worked into an uptempo groove, which brings something new to the musical table. As the albums group title showcases, Robin is keen to give credit to her jazz influenced musicians Sam Barsh (piano) and Derek Nievergelt (bass). On ‘Soul Flower’, Robin collaborates with some established vocalists, apart from the aforementioned Gregory Porter, Robin also has enlisted the great Lee Fields on the cover of the BeeGees, ‘To Love Somebody’. Hugely Soulful and tastefully delivered. One theme that does emerge through this fine set of songs, is the empathy that she feels for the plight of people suffering, in one way or another, all across the globe on a day to day basis. Nice to know there are people around like Robin, as the World can appear as a very introverted and cold place at times. Oh yes, the track ‘Fairytale Ending’ was the tune Bill sent me initially. Northern Soul at it’s finest, and my pick from a fine bunch of songs. Scenically, musically, very much set in a Kylie Auldist/Bamboo’s stylee, with a whole lot more. Very highly recommended.
Lynn Marie is a new name to me. She hails from Detroit, a city steeped in the finest Soul music, and on this new set, the quality certainly has soaked up the musical roots of the area. Released on the Mocy Music Group, LLC imprint, ‘Phoenix’ is actually penned by Lynn herself and her sister, with co-production chores also handled by Lynn and her sister, Patricia Loreen Shannon. As far back as 2005, Lynn released her first self named and produced CD entitled ‘Lynn Marie Smith’, after which she worked with Stevie Wonder, and acted in an opera entitled ‘Forgotten: The Murder at the Rouge Plant’. ‘Phoenix’ is a lovely mix of Modern Soul with a nod to some of the artists who have left us over the years, one of whom is the singer Phyllis Hyman. Lynn covers her song ‘Living All Alone’ very competently on this album. Lynn and Patricia certainly have their musical direction fixed very much in the right place, showcased by three real corkers which open this fine 13 track release. ‘Round and Round’ has an almost Drizabone vibe running throughout the melody. ‘Diggin’ U’ and ‘She Ain’t U/He Ain’t U’ are two very fine examples of the better style of Soul songs going on out there. I noticed from Lynn’s own website, that Soul Brother in the U.K. have an interest in this singer, and they are pretty much a kite mark of quality over here. Cherry picking a tune here, for myself, has to be the flowing, melodic ‘Can’t Get U Off My Mind’. Lovely song showcasing the influence that Stevie Wonder seems to have had on her writings. Definitely an album to watch. Great stuff!
The Cuban Brothers album ‘Yo Bonita’ was actually released at the end of January, although I have only just caught up with the set recently, and very please indeed I have done. The album sees the light of day on Jam City Records, and the group comprise of Miguel Mantovani, Archerio Mantovani and Kengo San.
The ‘Los Hermanos Cubanos’ have performed for the likes of Elton John, Richard Branson and Robbie Williams, but, more credibily, have supported James Brown, Chuck Berry, De La Soul, along with working with the likes of Chic, Roy Ayers and Jocelyn Brown. Perhaps one of the reasons why this album has bypassed me, is the cover does look a little like a release that might be on sale at your local Marks and Spencer! The music certainly isn’t of that standard, but will appeal to many old school soul and funk fans. Guest appearances on the album include Mica Paris (on the excellent ‘So Sweet’), KT Tunstall (a very fine version of the Stairsteps ‘We Must Be In Love’), Kurtis Blow, Tenor Fly and Omar. There are a couple of odd inclusions, one of which is a take on the metal track ‘Ace Of Spades’, by that hairy bloke who name slips my mind! Of real interest to the old schoolers is the track ‘Ain’t No Need’, which could be played in amongst a group of dancers from 1976, and no-one would bat an eye! The dancer had me thinking about the roots of the song, which I think I have pinned down to the break in the Double Exposure tune ‘Ten Percent’. I know a great many Lacy Lady’ers who will really take to this track. Remember when you heard the Haggis Horns 'The Traveller' Pt. 2'? Similar in experience, although a genre change. Very interesting album (if you ignore the sleeve! :))))
Sheree Brown is one of the most talented singer songwriters covering the last 30 years. Quite why she never is not more widely accepted as a major artist in her own right, is beyond me (and probably accounts for my dislike of today’s ‘instant’ pop stars). Sheree writes a simple song, multi textures the melody, and delivers the song in a neat, clear and hugely appealing parcel. Perhaps her first two releases on Capitol were released within a too shorter time space at the outset of the eighties. You can speculate as much about this proverbial bridge, and the water that has flowed under it’s supports, however, with the passing of time, some melodies maintain their charm, whilst others suffer from dated arrangements, and the ‘sound of the day’. All told, if you are a gifted songsmith, the quality of your work will endure. Sheree’s two Capitol albums are now hugely collectable, 'rare groove' being one epithet that has been adorned to those classic Soul albums. ‘It’s A Pleasure’ is certainly a Soul Classic, and should be a mainstream classic as well. Problem with songsmith’s without gimmicks, are they are ignored for the shiny musical trinkets that come and go like ships in the night. I would file Sheree’s work alongside the likes of Bill Withers or Carole King. One day mainstream pundits will rise from the unconsciousness they seem to drift in and out of, and herald the likes of Sheree and her kind as being the bedrock which todays music was laid out, planned and constructed upon. Sheree, herself, got in touch with me some 13 years or so ago, and sent me some of her collaborations with her good friend Patrice Rushen. With the help of the fine Expansion label in London, she has emerged with a new release, which showcases her fine songwriting abilities. Ralph Tee at Expansion is a fan of Sheree’s and re-released her Capitol albums a couple of years ago, for a new audience. This 14 track album is a fine, fine album for this L.A. based songstress. Sheree has collaborated with the great Leon Ware on the album’s title track, and also performs a very good cover of the song Leon penned, and was recorded by the late Minnie Riperton, in the shape of ‘Inside My Love’. The original songs stand up very nicely on this album, alongside the Leon Ware songs. Sheree penned the lions share of the melodies herself, standouts for this listener being ‘Where Love Grows’, ‘Just A Simple Love Song’ and, the bright and breezy, ‘Being In Love With You’. This is a great album, which sits alongside her previous releases, despite the 30 year gap between releases. Sheree sounds like she did way back in the day, vocally. To top all of that off, in my correspondence over the years with her, she is plain and simply, a very nice woman.
P.J. Morton is a singer, whose albums have not shaken the foundations of the music industry, but always have something which is of the highest standard. He has spent a short stint with the group Maroon 5 as a session performer, and now returns to his solo career for this, his third album release. The ‘P’ in his name stands for Paul, he hails from New Orleans (thus the album title) and is a youthful 32 year old, which I mention as his music has a much more mature conception, than his years may suggest. As I mentioned, Paul’s previous albums contained some songs which really appealed to myself. If you check the charts at the site, I am pretty sure, in previous years, you will find a review and a chart position from each relevant release year. This new album, in parts, very much reminded me of the Tommy Sims album from 2000. Songs you think you have heard before, but are new creations that seem like the getting together of old friends. His enlisting of Stevie Wonder, on the song ‘Only One’, was a stroke of genius. What a corker of a song. Terrific. Songs of such magnitude can distract the listener from the other writings on offer, which certainly should not be ignored. ‘Always Be’ is a case in point. Another tune cemented in a Tommy Sims-esque vibe. There are some parallels which could be drawn with the excellent group Electric Empire here. Although the Busta Rhymes track missed me somewhat, an odd collaboration with Adam Levine, in the song ‘Heavy’, well it certainly seems to gel very nicely indeed. A very interesting release, beautifully delivered, and, as for that Stevie track...worth the admission price alone! Well worth seeking out, and sees the light of day on Republic Records.
I really like Sabrina Starke. As with P.J., I always seem to find a tune or two which hit home from this Rotterdam based vocalist. She is not a singer afraid to melt together genre’s and come up with a song or two of real substance. Her new album was something of a surprise to myself, as it is an album of cover songs. It is a debatable matter as to how many cover albums we can endure before we lose the will to live, however, when they are as empathic as this album is for the music of Bill Withers, well that is very much a different ‘kettle of poisson’! The accompanying musicians and the orchestration give the whole set a very polished sheen, comparisons with Quincy Jones productions would not be an out of place description. Sabrina’s only difficulty in recording this great man’s C.V. is which of this back catalogue should she cherry pick from. ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’, ‘Lean On Me’, ‘Use Me’ and ‘Grandma’s Hands’ chose themselves, and would create something of a stir if they were omitted, however, it is the lesser known Bill penned tracks which really come into their own here. ‘Let Me Be The One You Need’, ‘Hello Like Before’ and, my favourite song from this set, ‘I Don’t Know’ are all really great songs, covered sympathetically and very competently. The albums full title is ‘Lean On Me - The Songs of Bill Withers’ and features the Metropole Orkest, conducted by Vince Mendoza. I liked this album very much indeed. Out on 8Ball Records.
Peven Everett is one of my favourite performers, of the latest generation of ‘Soul songsmith’s’. He first came to my attention back in 2001, when I was sent a copy of his album ‘Studio Confessions’. To state that this is a debut release is something highly debatable, in as much as, I could also describe Peven as the ‘Pablo Picasso of Soul’! Why so? Well, the great artist had a self imposed agenda, that he would flood the art market with his drawings and paintings, in order to regulate the pricing of his artworks after he passed away. Peven has created so many songs over the years, that the term ‘debut’ becomes something of a discussion piece. I liked the CD that was sent, and further sides, up until 2006, when ‘Power Soul’ hit the streets. that album contained one of my favourite tracks from that decade, in the form of ‘This Just In’. Anyone I play that track to, loves it from that point onwards. A similar occurrence transpired with 2008’s ‘Sincerely Yours’, where the track ‘Miss Chicago’ became one of my songs of that year. These tracks are hugely soulful in style, which is interesting, as the man’s roots are sown in the Jazz genre. miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie have both witnessed Peven at work. I think Miles would especially appreciate this performer, as he ‘rocks the musical boat’ so to speak. As with the likes of Todd Rundgren, one moment you are lulled into thinking an album is going to deliver one style, only to have your cage rattles as another creation moves the whole shabang in another direction! to fullyb appreciate a Peven Everett release, you have to be prepared to wear several different listening hats, whilst immersing yourself in the man’s music. ‘King Of Hearts’ is my third ‘wow’ experience, where, not only one track hits the spot, but two do, initially. ‘I Just Want To Make You Happy’ is classic vocal jazz fusion in a seventies style. Danceable, optimistic, and very ‘Groovy Kind of Day’ by the Fatback Band. Remember that tune? ‘Taking Me Back’ is the second danceable winner. Frenetic with hints of the Archie Bell tune ‘Tighten Up’ going on in there someplace. Peven excels on the sparse arrangements, which for many artists, simply do not work, however, with Peven’s ‘Leroy Burgess-esque’ (and slightly more versatile) vocal stylings, everything comes up smelling of the finest summer roses. The album is a danceable affair, and probably, Peven’s most accessible release to date. ‘I Just Want To Make You Happy’ will be in my year end top ten tunes of 2013. Message to Peven? Keep on doin’ what your doin’!
Chris Jasper’s album I am a little late with in reviewing. Thankfully, the man sent this fine new album to me, personally, so I thank him for taking the time to do so. As you all know, Chris was a huge songwriting contributor and partner in Soul with the Isley Brothers ensemble. When you hear a tune, penned by Chris, you can hear how much influence this man had in the Isley’s curriculum vitae. I mentioned the term ‘songsmith’ in the previous review, and I will use the term again with Chris in mind. He is certainly an expert writer all told. Chris is classically trained and is very much at home writing either hefty protest funk sides, or the tenderest of Soul ballads. This latest album showcases both sides of the Chris Jasper writing skill set. ‘Keep Believin’ and ‘Let My People Go’ beautifully illustrate his social awareness, and his aspiration for a better society and a better world. ‘Inspired: By Love, By Life, By the Spirit’. When the mood changes, the midtempo and downtempo tracks illustrate his ability to write, simply a great song. Check ‘Any Day’, ‘Faith’, ‘In My Dream’ or ’Someone’, all of which could have been written and recorded anytime during the last 20 years. Chris’s music has a timeless quality, and the world is a better place for that fact. Amazes me that this album takes Chris into double figure for solo releases. No bad albums in any of those CD’s either. He is one of the few artists who could contain a kite mark of quality for every album release. A quick thank you to Chris’s wife, Margie, who is the main point of contact , and is always charming whenever we are talking about Chris’s latest releases.
I was very surprised when Glenn Lewis’s new album arrived here, in as much as, the only previous release I can remember by the man was 2002’s album ‘World Outside My Window’, which is over a decade old these days! I remember at the time, Glenn was the darling of American television, with the parallels being drawn between Glenn and Stevie Wonder. I really liked that album by this Toronto born vocalist. Glenn’s real name is Glen Ricketts. He had, apparently, another album release due a year after his debut, but that set was shelves, was called ‘Back For More’, and never saw the light of day. What a shame. Whoever was responsible for the man’s career, must have had a ‘heads gone’ moment, as Glenn certainly has the potential to become a great artist, however, as with Cody Chesnutt, for a decade or two the proverbial water has been passing under the Soul bridge of time. During the albumless period, Glenn released a few singles and was awarded a Grammy nomination for his contribution to Stanley Clarke's ‘Where Is the Love’, a duet also featuring the songstress Amel Larrieux. So what of ‘Moment Of Truth’? Well, it is as if the man has never been away. His voice, writing and key changes, do have similarities with Stevie, which really helps the proceedings move along very nicely. I really like Glenn Lewis as an artist. The tracks that really jumped out of this fine 14 track release are ‘Random Thoughts’, ‘Up and Down’ and, (the killer track for me) ‘Better With Time’, which is a lovely ballad, which could have been lifted from any of the albums from Stevie’s ‘golden 5 album period’ in the early Seventies. I do hope this vehicle has enough gas to keep the Glenn Lewis show on the road. He is hugely talented, and I if I have to watch one more ‘Britain and America’s X Factor of Talent Karaoke, (but can any of these guys actually write a song themselves....) 2013’ starring Simon Foul and Paula Madbull, I will have to go visit the shrink! Don’t lie, you know what I am talking about, don’t you....
Two albums which are both retrospective’s of music, new to the scene some 50 or so years ago. Having recently been involved in assembling a compilation set of albums myself, one of the hardest aspects of this task is, how to cherry pick the right music, which so many folks out there are so familiar with. Sure, these are well known songs for the most part, but the compiler is left with the questions, such as ‘Should I just put out the material which is, all told, a very obvious choice, or should I try to dig a little deeper, running the risk of perhaps choosing something of a lesser melody, but more desirable to the prospective purchaser?’ When all is said and done, you cannot ignore the obvious, as, first time round, it was one of the several building blocks that form the foundations of these artists careers. Both of these sets are terrific examples of certain sections of the Sixties Soul genre. ‘Northern Soul’, in my eyes/ears is another term for Sixties Soul. Sure, the leanings are towards the bass driven Motown beats of that era, however, when a track such as Gene Chandler’s take on ‘Nothing Can Stop Me’ is sheltered under the ‘Northern’ umbrella, the verdict has already been reached, that the song is a Soul song, pure and simple. This new double CD (with a DVD included to make a three disc set) is impressive, in as much as the release does not go for the more obvious tracks, which are included in umpteen other Northern releases, but concentrates on many tunes, I personally, have never heard of. Many are classic ‘Northern’ tunes. These include ‘Out On The Floor’ by the late Dobie Gray, ‘I Spy (For The F.B.I.) by Jamo Thomas, ‘Getting Mighty Crowded’ by Betty Everett and the much sampled ‘’I’d Think It Over Twice’ by Sam Fletcher. The two CD’s , amounting to 40 Sixties Soul sides, are fine examples of the best in Soul Music from that era. For myself, Soul Music is all about raw emotion. I love the way that this music can paint a picture in your mind of an era, an old flame perhaps, which combines to create an emotional tapestry of the past. When certain sides do just that (and it varies from person to person), you begin a love affair with a song, which stays with you from that moment onwards. On this album, two such songs came along one after the other, which were buses both going ‘my way’. ‘I’m A Fool, I Must Love You’ by the Falcons, and the glorious ‘That Other Place’ by Wade Flemons, both of which have an Impressions style vibe, and defy any category or bar code, other that they were both written and aimed in my personal direction. If these particular buses are going your way as well, jump on and take a ride! Truly beautiful, beautiful music...
....and talking of the Impressions.....well, another new double set of musical CD’s now see the light of day, and thanks to http://www.soulandjazzandfunk.com/’s Bill Buckley for sending me this lovely new release. Bill penned the liner notes for this new retrospective release, which, as I mentioned previously, must have been a hard set for the man to compile. Many retrospectives have been issued on Curtis and the Impressions over the years. It is a tricky tightrope to negotiate, getting the mix to just the right temperature, that it satisfies those who want the familiar, with those who wish for something filed away deeper in the Impressions vaults. Seems to me the mix came out just about right. Several of the more familiar sides are released in their original single format’s, whilst, a few gems are inlaid into an almost perfect back catalogue of five star songs, which, if the trades descriptions would allow, I would embellish with the sporting ‘110%’ that is allocated to those who have traveled that extra mile to create that moment of genius. Indeed, in allocating the star system iTunes allow the listener to credit to a particular choice from an album track, well, all but two of the songs on offer here were all 5 star rated in this house! The four star remaining songs, would be 5 star tracks on any other artists album, but we are talking Curtis Mayfield, Fred Cash and Sam Gooden here! The music of the Impressions has no sell by date. It is always fresh, right from the album to your stereo, and is sure not to gather dust on any of your shelves at home. If you have kids, you need to play them these guys music. In fact, it ought to be written into any constitution, that the Impressions are part of any national curriculum. Bill is lucky guy in being given permission to handle these Stateside national treasures. Curtis Mayfield can lift your soul up to the heavens, and then impart a heartfelt empathy with the listener during emotional hard times. In the meantime he can be found sorting out the American Constitution! Check ‘Just One Kiss From You’ and then ’Never Could You Be’, after which I will finalise my arguments and rest my case M’Lud. Part of the foundational bedrock in the history of Soul Music. ‘Essential’ just doesn’t cut it as a description. You plain and simply need this music. Thanks for sending me this set, Bill.
Louie Vega and Elements of Life's album ‘Eclipse’ is probably the best received album of 2013 so far. On this new set, Louie merges many genre’s, covering some tracks in parts, however, showing a true appreciation of the sounds that have taken us to this point musically. The Robert Glasper album from last year, tested a few boundaries, being received famously in some quarters, and a cooler response in others. Louie has been picked up by the legendary Fania imprint, and responding favourably to the signing by releasing this excellent set, very much in the vibe of the Nuyorican Soul album from several years ago. There are multi influences showcased within the walls of this album, including African and Brazilian rhythms, Jazz, Soul, R&B, Gospel, and mainstream. ‘Eclipse’ if nothing else, is certainly an epic release, highlighted by the 17 tracks, covering 78 minutes on offer. Highlights include the ‘Balance in All Things’ and ‘Canto Para Ochosi’, which harken back to an era covering the fusion vibes around 1980 - 82. The performer, Josh Milan, penned nearly half of the tracks on this album, with the man vocalising on several songs, including ‘Children of the World’. There is a great reading of the Webster Lewis evergreen ‘Barbara Ann’, and the Fela Kuti song ‘Overtake Don Overtake Overtake’. Other covers include ’Sodade’ (originally by Armando Zeferino Soares), the Larry Mizell penned Bobbi Humphrey classic ‘Harlem River Drive’ and the Roy Ayers' tune ‘You Came into My Life’. This set will be many pundits album of 2013. Who am I to argue? Great music is simply great music.
Les Dion is a new name to myself, although the man has been on the scene for a few decades right now! He was 12 when Sylvia Robinson signed him to her Sugarhill imprint. He toured with New Edition, Earth, Wind and Fire, and yet his own solo career has been a long time coming. Les served in the military, and then settled down, however, domestic tragedies saw his wife struggling with leukaemia for nearly 10 years, and the loss of two of his children meant artistic endeavours had to go on hold. Les recorded Gospel material for the JJireh imprint, however, it wasn’t until the development of technology, which allowed him to take control of his musical direction, that we now see the fruits of his songwriting efforts. He describes this new album as an ‘album of a lifetime’, but perhaps it might have been labelled ‘an album that has taken a lifetime’, and thank heavens the man has finally delivered a very fine set of songs indeed. All told, Les is a singer, songwriter, musician, producer, and music executive, all rolled into one! ‘Back 2 Smooth’ is a very fine album throughout. You can hear the influences of the Old School etched into this new set of songs here. Three tracks immediately lept out of the grooves here, namely, the catchy ‘Godstrong’, the melodic ‘Callin’ and my pick of this fine bunch ‘Gotta Believe’. ‘Back 2 Smooth’ is not over produced, but simply allows the melodies to come to the centre stage, and that is fine by this old scribe. Thoroughly enjoyable debut. ‘Been a long time comin’ as the songs states.
Los Angeles based Dexter Story is obviously a big fan of Earth, Wind and Fire! His new release ‘Seasons’, is full of that particular sound, with a leaning, perhaps, to the fusion side of that classic group.
All of these songs were written by Dexter and co-produced by Carlos Nino, with L.A. based guests including Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Mark de Clive-Lowe, Dwight Trible, i_Ced and Gaby Hernandez. Dexter’s own blurb states that ‘Seasons’ is influenced by the likes of Bill Withers, Steely Dan, Donovan, and Earth Wind and Fire. This album began it’s development as far back as 2010, penning some 300 melodies, of which 14 have made it to this new release. The opening track is pure EWF, and goes under the title of ‘Underway (Love Is)’. Within this track, you can hear the influences of ’Sun Goddess’. A nice touch is a complimentary version of the song as an album finale, this time featuring the vocals of Jimetta Rose. ‘Underway’ is certainly one of the best songs around in 2013. Terrific stuff. I highlighted 8 other tracks from this fine album, which I would recommend you track down. 'Water Bearer' is lovely, as is 'Underneath It All' (a very strong melody here). 'As Is' is more of the great EWF vibe, with a very Maurice White sounding lead vocal. As with the Louie Vega album, Dexter is experimenting with all sorts of genre’s here, and they all seem to come off. Reminded me of the old saying which goes 'if you want to make a great omlette, you have to break a few eggs'. One of the most interesting releases of 2013 thus far.
I was going to commence this review with the line, ‘this album represents something of a renaissance for Jean ‘Bluey’ Maunick a.k.a. Bluey, however, after some consideration, this fine singer/songwriter has never released an album as solo artist, until now! In fact, over the previous 15 or so albums, Bluey and his Incognito ensemble, have become something of a full time employer of some of the U.K.’s finest vocalists, along with being a hugely committed employer of that fine singer Maysa. So after 4 decades of being the driving force, Bluey has taken up the central part of the stage, releasing his debut solo album ‘Leap Of Faith’. Although the title of the set, you might have presumed, may be a self descriptive narrative, the actual song speaks of the trials and tribulations, along the road to freedom taken by Nelson Mandela a couple of decades ago. During those dark days of apartheid, it would be easy to assume that South Africa spoke as a whole, however, it was at the hands of the bigoted minority that the great man suffered. As an aside, do rent the film ‘Search for the Sugar Man’, which showcases the writings of an almost unknown artist called Rodriguez, along with the oppression of those who used the inspiration from that man’s lyrics to rebel against the fascist state which prevailed during those awful days. A great film, complemented by Bluey’s brilliant narrative in this particular perspective. A great life lesson to be learned there for the younger folks getting to grips with the crazy world we live in. So what of this debut album from the ‘Man from Incognito’? Well, a firm favourite in this house, is the single which arrived before the full album (thank you Santosh!). ‘Got To Let My Feelings Show’ has a summery vibe, a dancer of the highest quality, and hugely song-led. This track has echoes of the likes of those early eighties dancers, songs such as ‘Step In The Light’ by Sunfire, and ‘Can You Feel My Love’ by Khemistry, both of which spring to mind. Of it’s kind, this song is pretty well flawless. The albums opener has Bluey playing a ‘rolling’ bass line on the song ‘Stronger’. By ‘rolling’, if you imagine Jakarta’s ‘Golden Girl’, you will be somewhere in the ball park. ‘If You Really Wanna’ had me hitting the five stars buttons in my iTunes ratings here. It is almost a mystery to me that the man hasn’t recorded more of the vocal tracks on his releases with Incognito. He comes across as being very capable and listenable on every track on show here. I loved the songs ‘Live Like A Millionaire’ (Bluey with his Charles Wright hat on!) and ‘Sky’, which is absolutely terrific. Bluey wrote and contributed to the other ‘best album of 2013’ (so far) in the form of Mario Biondi’s ‘Sun’. There is a lesson to be learned by any budding songwriter embedded within Bluey’s material. ‘Set a song to write a song’. By that, I mean that a songwriter should listen to the music that personally moves them. Utilise those influences, not to plagiarise, but to embellish the inspiration which emanates from within. In Blueys material, I can hear the music that influences him, as it is very near to the music that influences myself. The differences are that Bluey has far more skill and creativity than I will ever possess, and for that I am delighted to leave the articulation to this very talented man. Not meant to be patronising. Just stating a fact, that’s all. A fine album, and one of Dome’s finest releases.
Brian McKnight’s releases seem to improve as the years pass by. At the outset, Brian, if anything, played ‘too safe’ within the new ‘R&B’ market. His songs were very formulated, leading the listener to know exactly what was about to arrive within each song. Brian has now given himself carte blanche to let those creative influences flow. These days I can hear many influences going on. Echoes of another Soul era, which makes the whole listening experience that much more enjoyable. The two album openers here showcase two aspects of the modern Soul dancer. The ‘walking’ opener ‘Don’t Stop’ has a ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ (the Jacksons tune) vibe running through the song. ‘Let Somebody Love U’, isn’t the Keni Burke evergreen, but an almost Michael McDonald-esque dancer. Lovely slice of uptempo Soul. ‘More Than Words’ title track could, almost be, an Anthony David original. If you know Anthony’s music, you will know where I am coming from. Very nicely delivered melody, which is followed by the very Stevie ‘Nothing But A Thang’, a track which represents something of a trend growing in Brian’s writings. Lot of key changes going on within this song. Moving up a gear, ‘I Didn’t Really Mean To Turn U Out’ is hugely appealing. This is another song that could have been penned by the ‘Wonder man’. Cherry picking on the album is, I am very pleased to say, is not an easy job, although, when I first heard ‘Get U To Say’, I had a feeling that our Brian had had the latest Donald Fagen album on the stereo just before putting pen to paper! Best song on the album, in my humble opinion! This is my pick from this very good album from the younger brother of Claude McKnight III from Take 6. You certainly can hear the family resemblance in the grooves of this album. Brian wrote, or co-wrote, everything on show here. I’m impressed! Out on eOne Records. Recommended.
Phil Perry is very much from the same musical template as the previously reviewed Will Downing. Whenever a new album is about to be released by either one of these guys, you know that the albums are going to be, at least, of a very high standard. Will concentrates, by and largely, on his own material, whilst Phil mixes the old with the new. This ex-Montclairs singer, takes any older material he may be reworking, and does just that. The tracks are true to the originals, in maintaining the melody, however, Phil shifts the rhythms up and down gears, mellowing the songs, but leaving the ‘singalong’ aspect revered within the originals. Of the older tracks, I think this new take on ‘You Send Me’ is probably the best version since Roy Ayers sensualised the tune many moons ago. I really like this take, on a song, I must confess, I thought I had heard as much as I needed to at this point. Silk purse out of a seasoned soul song! Nice to hear the very fine Chante Moore, doing her thing on the reworking of ‘Where Is The Love’. Phil’s incisive vocals contrast with the very sweet tones Chante delivers. Perhaps not a massive ‘re-work’, but how do you improve on what was always perfection. In amongst the older tracks are some newer songs, mainly co-penned by Mr Phillip Eugene Perry. ‘Tonight Just Me And You’ is a fine example of how strong the melody writing showcased here actually is. Impressive that a song can stand alongside ‘You Send Me’ and ‘Where Is The Love?’ and still stand it's ground. This albums title track is another song co-penned with his long time associate Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis, which is a pretty decent ballad, however, a step up in standard arrives in the, oh so moody, ‘Just A Little Bit’. Cracking track. Two other originals are ‘Peel The Veil’ and ‘Can’t Hide Love’, the latter had me looking at the liners in case the song was the Earth, Wind and Fire chestnut. It isn’t, but is a fine mid tempo stepper of a track. Another winner indeed. The cover tracks I have not mentioned, are all pretty decent takes on ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ (Simon and Garfunkel), ‘The Long and Winding Road’ (Beatles) and ‘You Belong To Me’ (Michael McDonald). All of these aren’t half bad, although ‘You Send Me’ gets my vote in the ‘covers class’. Of the originals, probably ‘Tonight Just Me And You’ wins by a neck! Very welcome new album, from a singer who simply never ages vocally!
Mop Mop are, essentially, one man. Andrea Benini from Italy. I am not sure of the reasons why, however, at this point in time, the newest and most creative musical ideas are coming out of Italy. Papik, Mario Biondi, and Mop Mop are all fine examples of these guys who seem to possess all of the most innovative rhythms and musical textures generated in 2013. Mop Mop delivered the excellent ‘Perfect Day’ a couple of years ago. Became one of my favourite dancers from back then, a track showing a writer how you can take an idea (an Old Bobby Cole original from the Sixties), rework the track and bring it bang up to date. Terrific thought processes going on there, and now we are treated to a new album entitled ‘Isle Of Magic’, which sees the light of day on the Agogo imprint in 2013. This time around Andrea is utilising the vocal gymnastics of Anthony Joseph, with a resulting tribal groove running throughout this great album. If you liked last years Kojato album, then you will begin to get an idea as to whereabouts this vibe is situated. The album here suffers slightly, in as much as, one track is hugely distracting. The track in question is the dancer ‘Run Around’. This is the best dance track I have heard in many months. Infectious from start to finish, with a groove to die for. Anthony politically preaches throughout the track, and a certain Fred Wesley weighs in on horns. My goodness me, politics, rhythm, energy, and above all essential for the discerning dancefloor. Terry Callier would have really worked this track and been praised to the rafters. In the absence of Brother Terry, well he would be proud of Anthony and Andrea. Picked up the baton from wherever Terry last laid it down. A great dancer for 2013 and hugely distracting from the rest of the set, which is of a very high standard. ‘Run Around’ has set the dancefloor bar at a world breaking level!
Will Downing's new album has been a while in arriving. There are some tracks around which are not on the album version available at CD Baby right now, so a deluxe version in the pipeline perhaps? The fact that the new album is on Will's own imprint right now, highlights how artists, such as he, and Frank McComb, are taking their career affairs under their own control, and not placing them in the hands of, say a large computer institution, with a passion for a certain fruit! This new album, no matter who is in charge of the promotion, is classic Will Downing. It comes as no surprise to me that Will's vocal efforts were highly admired by the late Princess Diana. Will could charm a smile out of the least emotional person out there. There is a warmth, which belies a hidden strength in the man's singing, which can easily manouvere itself up and down the beats per minute pretty effortlessly. I am sure you are aware of Will's struggles with health issues over the last decade. Thankfully, even at it's lowest point, Will has always come up with the goods, and in 2013, 'Silver' is certainly no exception. 'Stuff That I Like' will undoubtedly make a bid to be a single at some stage. Almost a steppers delight. The album I would not describe as 'full of bang on house music dancers', but simply the man sticking at what he is very good at. Imparting a melody, with that unique slant, that he makes the whole environment a very personal exchange between the listener and the performer. Hugely song led throughout the 12 songs on show. My 'cherry picking' bears some ripe fruit in the melodies 'You Were Meant Just For Me', 'Never Find Another Love' and one of my favourite Miracles songs 'Ooh Baby, Baby'. Classic Soul from a performer who would not have been out of place within that particular era. The recently passed Bobby Rogers would approve wholeheartedly, I am sure. Typical Will Downing set, and by that I mean, if you like any of the man's previous albums, you'll love this album. In the absence of singers, such as Luther Vandross, we need these guys on the scene. Highly Recommended.
Several thousand miles away, and a very long row in a canoe!, (in Czechoslovakia to be precise), resides a certain Erika Fecova. An artist least likely? Well, not a bit of it! Europe is often a haven for many Soul singers who are ignored in the States. Ask any of the Four Tops if they want to tour in Europe, they would accept the gig without payment! These guys love coming to this corner of the World. Musical respect is something a man in a suit cannot buy. Across Europe, sometimes in the least likely of places, you find artist with some real Soul sensibilities, and this is the case with Erica Fecova. The listener only needs to listen to the track 'Party Girls' and it is apparent that Erika's CD collection is not full of old Abba albums! This album is on a Czech label called Subpub Records. Subpub have a Last FM web page, however their own page is under construction at the moment. If this album is anything to go by, this country and this label will be worth watching. The picks for this old scribe here are, the bright and breezy 'Someone Like You', 'Always For You', the very 'Expansion Records-y' 'Leave Me Alone' (great change in tempo on this track) and 'I Still Love you' (which shows a great maturity in writing and delivery). The closest comparison I can make to other releases, perhaps might point towards those nineties Janita albums, which eminated out of Finland over that period. If Gerry Devaux had involvement in this set, it would not surprise me. He doesn't, however, that will give you an idea of the overall vibe contained within this great little release. Czechoslovakia got Soul! Nice album.
Swing Out Sister I first heard via a 1986 compilation entitled ‘Beat Runs Wild’. The album featured many artists, from that era, some of whom have long since faded from the artistic horizon, however, the track ‘Another Lost Weekend’ raised a few eyebrows at the time, was cherry picked by the Soul stations, and set the ball rolling for a fine career which followed over the coming years. This latest album by Corinne Drewery and Andy Connell sees the duo returning to some of their previous recordings, re-working the songs and bringing them right up to date. The ‘Private View’ title hints at the journey the album has taken in order to arrive in it’s current CD format. Some tracks were, originally, available from the groups Facebook page as downloads, with the tunes aimed mainly at the diehard fan audiences out there. The response was far more impressive than the duo had anticipated, thus the final release in the U.K. last year, and the international release transpiring at the moment. This is a late review on my part, as the album has already been played extensively on the better U.K. soul stations, however, I am keen to include this set on these pages (albeit late on my part!), as this album is one of the better releases by the group in recent years. Personally, I have liked, pretty well, everything the group has recorded, which is due to the empathy that I have with the influences both Corinne and Andy look to when constructing their pieces of musical art. Northern soul/Jim Webb etc. So what of the music here? Well, co-incidentally, the recent passing of Donald Byrd is reflected in part of the re-worked version of ‘Am I The Same Girl?’, which segue’s beautifully into the late Professor’s ‘Places And Spaces’. Two classic pieces of Soul Music. Many of the tunes on this fine 10 track CD, are introduced into a mellower vibe, which really suits Corinne’s maturing vocal stylings. ‘Incomplete Without You’ is a fine example. ‘La La Means I love You’ is a Delfonics classic, which you will all know. I have loved this song since it’s initial release, and the subsequent takes by several artists, (even by soft rocker Todd Rundgren!) Corinne and Andy cleverly rework this classic, cleverly moving the melody in and out of Marvin Gaye territory, and back again. Great version. Probably, my favourite song on show here, is ‘Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool’. A lovely melody. For any female singer starting out on their career, (perhaps attending Uni), ought to be played a copy of any Swing Out Sister album. Well penned melodies, competently delivered, proving a song doesn’t have to be predictable, but song led and not ‘belted’. An education! Great album, which should grace every home in 2013.
Debra Marie is a new name to me. She hails from Illinois (Rockford to be precise), and has a delivery, which CD Baby describe as similar to Phyllis Hyman and Nancy Wilson. Those parallels might be questioned, in as much as I haven’t heard a vocalist like Debra before! Musically, those who remember the great Khani Cole albums from the Nineties, will probably find some musical similarities in the grooves of this very nice set of songs. Debra’s journey to recording this album, has been along a very rocky road. She has suffered from domestic violence, and fought several rounds against breast cancer. She left Rockford in ’79, relocating to Texas, worked as a cosmetics sales director, before making inroads into the music business. This album is released on her own label, and features 8 new songs, some of which touch on several aspects of her personal life experience. Sounds a little heavy? Well, I personally found the whole listening experience a very uplifting one. A’ Stanza’ is an Italian word for ‘standing place’. A certain point in someone’s life experience. My personal choice here is the reflective ‘Live’, which is a tune moulded in a very Khani Cole/Anita Baker vibe. ‘Family’ will probably be the track which the stations will pick up on, and I do hope they do so. Great to hear real instruments, played by competent musicians, being hugely melodic and charming. ‘Lovers Holiday’ is not the Earth, Wind and Fire song, but a latin tinged toe tapper. Great tune. Other winners on this set come in the form of ‘Unconditional Love’ and ‘Home’. This is a very listenable album, which will grace many of the better Soul radio stations out there. Interesting new(ish) artist, who I hope will release further material of this quality in the coming years. Recommended.
Been around 7 years since Mario Biondi surfaced via the group Wasabee, the combination of which gave us 'This Is What You Are'. The song has been so successful for Mario, that it, in many ways, may have become something of a poisoned chalice for the man. By that, I mean that his albums, although well received by deejays and purists, the interminal question always arises at any gig I work at, namely the constant requests for the debut single. Remix after remix has been created, as if the mixers have been charged with getting the man a deserved pop hit for a song which would have been number one for several weeks in any other era other than this one! This latest album is terrific. It is too good, almost, for it's own musical boots. At the end of this year, it will be lauded as 'my album of the year' by many soul fans and deejays (even if they still want to hear 'what you are' to dance to for the umpteenth time!). What I really like about this set, is Mario has steered the musical vehicular vibe in a more soulful direction, away from the 'file under jazz' format that his earlier albums were unfairly defined by. This set boast some lovely collaborations with the likes of Al Jarreau and Leon Ware.Those tracks are not the best songs on offer here....they are on a par with an enormous kite mark of quality achieved by every track on offer here. No bad tracks, just great music. If you liked the Papik album from last year, well imagine that set, but with Mario taking the helm vocally. Buy this set blind, as any reviewer could almost offer a money back guarantee with the goods on offer here. This will be many punters album of this year, come next Christmas, and who would I be to argue at that point? Terrific stuff, from a great performer (who is no one track wonder, mark my words!)....
...taking of assigning folks as one track wonders, well, straight to the top of the chart at the site at the moment goes Charlie Wilson's song 'I Still Have You', taken from this new RCA Records album entitled 'Love Charlie'. 'Love Charlie', well most soul fans will do after hearing this great tune, by an artist, I must admit, isn't the most likely suspect in this house. The Godfather of the New R&B, has a sound which can sound a little samey to these old ears. I am in a soul minority, however, as I know Charlie can do no wrong in many circles. What I love about his track, is Charlie is 'treading boldly', to quote those Trekkies out there! This is simply a great tune, which stays in the grey matter long after the track has finished doing it's stuff. I am full of admiration for the man. Worth the price of the digital format alone here, although, the overall album sees Charlie in a much more soulful mode, putting aside the templates of the past, which are audibly highlighted by the aforementioned song, 'Our Anniversary' and 'Ooh Wee'. In many ways, this album reminded me of the journey Tony Toni Tone took during the Eighties and Nineties, from R&B to Soul. Very pleasant surprise, all told, with 'I Still Have You' doing a bit of Cody Chesnutt for 2013 on my stereo. Essential song! Certainly already in my year end top ten winners.
On the 28th of January, three years ago, I set off from my home town to travel up into Central London, where I met up with Charles Waring (of Mojo magazine, and www.soulandjazzandfunk.com), prior to journeying to a hotel near St. Pauls, where we were due to meet up with Teena Marie. Teena was here, preparing to perform at the O2 in London. Meeting her was a real delight. She was very conversational, considered carefully her responses to questions, (mainly put to her by Charles), and came across as having a great sense of humour. By Boxing Day that year, she had passed away. A huge shock to many, who were surprised that someone of such a relatively young disposition, had left us so soon. The show I attended following her interview was terrific. Her voice was in superb shape and Teena was so full of energy. On stage with her, she was supported by her daughter, Rose Lebeau, amongst others. Little did Rose know that it would later become her responsibility to complete the final section of the Teena Marie album curriculum vitae. A baton which she would have hoped would never be passed on to her.
With many posthumous album releases comes the apprehension that the high standards set by previous releases may be somewhat diminished by, what may have become, something of an afterthought. Such is the legacy of this fine singer, that, one of the questions I asked Teena when we met, was 'what is currently on your iPod?' Teena told me that she completely trusted her daughter's taste in music, allowing her to fill up her iPod on her behalf, knowing that whatever was loaded into the machine, would be something of real merit.
In a nonsensical way, I have been dreading reviewing this album. Heaven knows why. It was sent here before Christmas, and I have had time to listen, and grow to love the set all the way through. I would say that, it is head and shoulders above anything that is around right now, so here goes, for the last review of the final full album of material from this great songstress.
'Luv Letter' came though here before the full album, as an early pre-release track. Classic Teena in many ways. She sounds so young on this track. You will know what I mean when you hear the song. Infectious melody, set off by a subtle dance groove. 'Sweet Tooth' has a 'Whatcha See Is What You Get' vibe running throughout proceedings. 'Rare Breed' has a nice steppin groove, followed by the mid tempo 'Love Starved', which could have been lifted from any of her Eighties albums. The 'meat in the musical sandwich', for this listener, comprise he three central tracks on the album, namely 'Maria Bonita', 'Beautful' and 'The Long Play'. This album's title track is my favourite melody from this album. Very Quincy Jones in mood, in one of his 'Secret Garden' moments. This tune, and 'The Long Play', both fit into this description very nicely. Teena doing what she did at her finest. Very moving songs. One track of note, is Teena's fine cover of Curtis Mayfield's evergreen 'Give Me Your Love'. Not a like for like cover version, but a re-interpretation of a Soul gem. All told, anyone with only a passing interest in Teena Marie, will find something of merit on this album release. Teena's real fans will buy the album blind. She will potentailly win over some of the newer fans on the block as well, as cream always rises, as they say.
My guess is that 'Beautiful' was an album that was 90 percent completed at the time of Teena's passing, however, take nothing away from Rose's efforts in completing this fine album. Feather in that daughter's cap, if ever there was one. Eerie and lovely hearing something new from Teena doing what she did best throughout her life. If longevity is achieved by the things we leave behind, Teena will live long after many of us have moved on to a another place. Terrific album release. One of her finest albums. Props to Rose Lebeau. (Rose Lebeau being her stage name, by the way)
...and the other essential 'must buy' album, from the beginning weeks of 2013, is the annual Expansion Records release 'Luxury Soul 2013', which represents the music relating to the labels events (and radio shows), running throught the relevant year. 'Luxury' certainly is the right description for the product itself, which comprises of three CD's, all packaged in a beautifully designed graphic CD sleeve. The contents of the annual CD release comprise of many of the label's evergreen list of artists and their previous album releases, each track carefully cherry picked for the listener. Sandwiched between these great melodies, are some new, upcoming sampler tracks from what is yet to come for the label. Disc one deals with the newer material released, or due, on Expansion. The opening track represents one of these fine melodies, namely the lovely 'What Am I Gonna Do For Your love' by ReGrooved featuring Kerrie Manuel. Early contender for the annual year end top twenty at this site, as is a new song from the great Valentine Brothers, entitled 'Taste Of Your Love'. This triple CD set is worth the entrance fee alone for these songs in their own right. Two rear corkers! Sheree Brown is a good friend to this website. She was in touch shortly after the site went online some 13 years ago. Expansion is her U.K. home these days, a label who have immaculate taste concerning this great genre. Sheree has a new album due, for the label, and 'Time For the Party' is a taster from that new set, which, judging by this dancer, is something to really look forward to in 2013. I really liked the Personal Life, 'Morning Light', track on the first CD. Very 1983 in sound. Midtempo from that era in style. Lovely song. CD 2 continues in a current vibe, with 'Far Away' by the group Real jumping out of the grooves into these old ears. Nice summery shuffler. I was pleased to see the track 'Less Than A Minute' by Victor Haynes included here. One of my favourite songs from his recent album release. A very Drizabone vibe running throughout that track. The other songs well worth a mention include the Soul Talk, Khari Cabral Simmons and Kindred and the Family Soul tunes. The final CD in this great batch, comprises of some older, and some songs missed in earlier Expansion releases. These include great songs by the hugely underrated Keni Burke, Bobby Thurston, D-Train, Jean Carne, Howard Hewett, Maysa, Lew Kirton and Adrianna Evans. I particularly liked the Dave Appell & Friends song 'On The Rebound' and the Holloway & John Whitehead 1999 track 'When I Think Of You', which missed me first time round. In many ways, that is the story of this side of proceedings. Songs you may have missed, but now have to add to (and enhance) your Soul archive. This set of songs, along with Teena marie's album, represent the best material around towards January's end 2013 here in the U.K. A very welcome release indeed.
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.