listen out for 2017...
robert h. fowler and tanya holt - can we? / voices of east harlem - voices of east harlem & can you feel it?
It has been 13 years since I first met the New Jersey based producer and songwriter, Dwayne Palmer, online. Dwayne, at that time, was promoting his CD entitled ‘Never Alone’ by the artists, Stars On Broadway. I was very impressed by that album, which featured a sound reminding me very much of the Patrick Moten produced Beverly Glenn material around during the late eighties. Many people weren’t aware, at that time, that the CD’s proceeds were being allocated to the Americare Hurricane Relief project. Dwayne (not only having a heart, very much in the right place) has been in touch since that time, and has become something of a musical touchstone to this old scribe. Tracks have been released over the years, comprising mostly of four (but mainly) five star songs, all of which have kept me interested in this man’s career and product. When a new album was in the offing, life sent me a few distractions, so I have been a little slow in reviewing this album, but Dwayne’s quality consistency is still very much in place here. ‘Can We?’ is an album of duets, beautifully delivered by Robert H. Fowler and Tanya Holt. The 15 track CD is, probably, best described as ‘music led and honest’, in as much as it is not full of gimmick’s, is free of voice box enhancements, and is clearly and competently written. The new single ‘Truth Is (I Really Do)’ is certainly a highlight, with a style very reminiscent of the Midnight Star evergreen ‘Curious’. High praise indeed. Cherry picking tracks was a tough task, as the quality is there, or thereabouts, throughout the album, although, when most tracks were 4 star tunes, the five star raters included ‘Can We?’, ‘Matter Of The Heart’, and the gorgeous ‘Forever More’. A real delight of a set, which is refreshing and enthusing (for want of a better description!) I hope that Dwayne continues on this artistic path, discovering new singers and groups, for many years to come. More power to your creative elbow my friend.
Introducing the Voices of East Harlem is an almost patronising thing to do with you guys. I am sure all of you are aware of this fine group, and their connections with the superb Leroy Hutson, regarding their 1973 and 1974 album releases. Of interest this time around, however, is this new reissue of these releases on one CD, which has been lovingly compiled by the guys at Soul Brother Records in East Putney. The first of these two releases (the self titled 1973 album) features the evergreen ‘Cashing In’ (I defy you to find a punter who doesn’t like that track!), along with the excellent, rare groover, ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’. Of personal interest here, are the downtempo family favourite tracks by the group, in the form of the beautiful ballads ‘Giving Love’ and ‘Loving You The Way I Do’. They don’t write them like this anymore. 1974’s ‘Can You Feel It?’ features the mid-tempo ‘March Across The Land’, which Linda Clifford also recorded. All told, this is about as fine a CD reissue that any true Soul fan would wish for. Props to Soul Brother for getting these gems out to the people.
gene moore - the future / navasha daya - i too dream of things beautiful / eric roberson - the wind
With much of the new music arriving here, comprising mainly retrospective material, I have been waiting patiently for an album like this new set to come along, from a new Motown Gospel singer, Gene Moore. The Nashville based artist has created one of the finer albums of 2017, in my humble opinion. A debut release, ‘The Future’ features production from several sources, including the award-winning producers Aaron Lindsey, Terence Vaughn and Dana Sorey. Gene, himself has been utilised as a background singer and session vocalist for several artists, including India.Arie, Israel Houghton and Kirk Franklin. Stylistically, Gene has a very clear, easy on the ear delivery, which is hugely welcome in todays voice-boxed singles biased marketplace. The new single is a ballad entitled ‘Recover’, and is, to these ears, not the track I would have chosen to set the ball rolling! Going straight for the melodic jugular ‘Coming Home’ is a track of the year in this house. Brilliantly delivered, and an irresistible song. The funkier ‘The Prize’ runs the previous track, a close second. Very Stevie in parts, which co-incidentally, brings me to a fine reworking of the Masters’ evergreen ‘Summer Soft’. This really re-works the song beautifully. An album full of real songs, played with real instruments, and, as in the past, the man upstairs has sent to us a Gospel artist to rescue us from the dirge being delivered to our record stores right now, in the form of digital musical indigestion! Gene has given to us 8 tracks I recommend absolutely this year.
A friend of mine pointed me to this track by the Baltimore based singer, Navasha Daya. Navasha recorded a couple of singles in 2006/7, before releasing her debut album ‘Rebirthed Above Ground’ in 2012 on her own Daya World imprint. Prior to these releases, Navasha was the lead vocalist with the group Fertile Ground (thus the debut album title). A great group indeed. Do check out their back catalogue. In the meantime, Navasha collaborated with the Soul and Fusion artist, Shuya Okino. Her latest album is entitled ‘Lom Nava Love’, which is the soundtrack to a film of the same name (the film being a story of Black families in inner city Baltimore). The album is a very fine set in it’s own right (https://navashadaya.bandcamp.com/album/lom-nava-love-original-motion-picture-soundtrack), however, the reworking of one particular track, is a tour de force in itself. The track ’I Too Dream Of Things Beautiful ‘ has been given a new lease of life via a Jazzy reworking, featuring the artist Allyn Johnson. Check this link: https://navashadaya.bandcamp.com/track/i-too-dream-of-things-beautiful-jazz-version-feat-allyn-johnson. One track that I listened to on repeat, whilst I was away recently. A very important and inspirational track. Year end song, make no mistake!
So what else was on the i-Pod (yes I still have one! :)) whilst on holiday was the new E.P. from the fine artist Eric Roberson. I believe the singer is going to release three E.P.’s this year, in preference to a full album release, and for that fact, I am very grateful. Much of the time, these days, I do ramble on about singers who sing every other note, apart from the salient ones within a tune, however, in Eric’s case, I don’t mind that trait one single bit! He moves around melodies, reworking the song structures, in a way which is quite unique to this singer. This E.P., entitled ‘Wind’, features 8 new songs, all of which appeal, especially ‘If Only’, ‘Claire’ and the very fine ‘Love Her’. I believe that Dome Records might run with this album/E.P.. They have been a very good base camp for this singers career thus far. They are on to a winner as well I think. Well worth seeking out.
stokley williams - introducing stokley/ lacee - mind gone
Here are some of the better releases around at the moment. They do not represent ‘year end’ best albums, however, they are noteworthy for being a little different from many of the tracks around at the moment.
Stokley Williams’ album has been around for a few weeks now. Normally, an album stays in my ‘this year’ iTunes playlist, for a few weeks ago. As they slowly reveal their ‘longevity’ listening-wise, some fall by the wayside. However, some have the endurability , which keeps them there until Christmas. Stokley was a member of the Nineties band Mint Condition. They released some good material, some CD’s of which I bought at the time. This album is his first venture into solo recording, and, although some of the songs have a generic quality, a couple are very good indeed. As with last years After 7 set, the ‘swingbeaters’ of old, mature with the years, and this album features two songs that I rate very highly. Firstly, the lead single ‘Level’ is a great song. No more, no less. Easy to find yourself singing along to this great track, ditto with the very radio friendly ‘We/Me’, which I am surprised hasn’t been picked up on by some of the better jocks out there. Not a bad album at all, quite ‘ballad-led’, and features a guest appearance by the singer Estelle.
Lacee (a.k.a. Lacy Yvonne Reed), releases her third album on Advantage Recordings this year. This new album ‘Mind Gone’ could be a ’New R&B’ release, looking at the sleeve, however, Lacee’s music is certainly set in a Southern Soul style. Born in Memphis, Lacee began singing in church with her mother, JoAnn Reed. In 2006 she released her debut album, ‘Songstress’, on Loveland Records. The album was followed in 2011 by ‘Soulful’, ‘Christmas with Lacee’ in 2012, and ‘Beautiful’ in 2014. The opener (and title track) ‘Mind Gone’ is my favourite track on show here. A pure Southern Soul beauty. Other four star choices include ‘Marry Me’, and the Betty Wright influenced ‘Don't Let The Clean Up Woman’, (which did raise a smile here). ‘Three Way Love Affair’ is about as deep as you would wish for. All told, a great landmark, in an emerging career.
One aside to these reviews involves a little ‘tilt of the head to one side’ by myself, which looks at the music coming through right now. I was in conversation with a deejay at our usual gig last Friday. We discussed the state of music around at the moment (I was very interested in her thoughts), and how ‘great it was/is’. I asked her about the tunes she might have been referring to, and the list read like many playlists I look at in 2017 online. Absolutely, nothing offensive in there, however, nothing that made my eyes and ears open with enthusiasm. Interesting tracks, based upon older songs, with a little cutting and pasting going on in there someplace. Part the reason why I am a fan of the likes of Soulutions, Dara Bryant, Frederick, Darien etc., are these guys are songsmith’s. They take an idea, and develop the kit of parts into their own interpretation. Much of the music I hear today involves reproduction, which always leaves me with the same feeling ‘I must go back and check out the original of that tune at some point’. A great illustration of why things don’t have to be this way in 2017, is to look only a year or so ago, at the track ‘Falling’ by Lyle Divinsky. Defintely influenced by the Young Rascals etc., however, the man took the vibe, and turned the song into a personal tour-de-force. Perhaps we look too much at computer hard drives, and not enough at the instruments themselves, who knows? One thing I would say, is it would be nice to have too much material to post here at some stage, rather than digging around at the bottom of the barrel to find a track or two. Just a thought.
falling - lyle divinsky
cornell cc carter - vindicated soul / soulutions - thankful / todd rundgren - white knight
It has been a while since I posted an album here. My apologies. There was a bereavement in the family, which has been hugely distracting. Nows the dust has begun to settle, here are a couple of releases, which I have enjoyed listening to in recent weeks.
Cornell C.C. Carter, might best be described as an artist with 'old school sensibilities'. ‘Vindicated Soul’ was released on the 19th of May, on this San Francisco based singers own label. I think, all told, that C.C. and many Soul Music fans have very similar tastes in music. For instance, one of my absolute favourite Marvin Gaye songs, ‘All The Way Around’, is featured here in a beautiful re-interpretation, which takes nothing away from the brilliant original, but carefully relocates the song into 2017. Leon Ware must have kicked himself, when he handed over that album to Marvin, however, the finished product marked a superb addition to both of the late men’s C.V.’s. Cornel rework’s two Willie Hutch compositions, namely ‘Brother’s Gonna Work It Out’ and ‘I Choose You’, very competently, and I was delighted to hear an old Chapter 8 tune, which I don’t think I have ever heard, covered by an artist, in the form of ‘How Can I Get Next To You’ (penned by the late Patrick Moten). That was originally featured on the group’s ‘This Love Is For Real’ album back in 1985. There are further covers of an Al Green tune (‘Look What You Done for Me’), along with some Cornel originals, including the fine ‘Where Do We Go’, which I featured in the site chart a few months ago. Musically, the line-up features Melecio Magdaluyo (from the Pete Escovedo Orchestra), along with the U.K.’s very own Ernie McKone (brother of Vivienne). A very worthy release indeed, and a very welcome choice of material as well. Highly recommended.
Soulutions are a group who you know very well. Even singles get a posting here, as they are normally well worth highlighting. Louise Mehan and Steve Lee have a knack of reworking the old school, and creating the ‘catchy’. ‘Thankful’ is exactly that. I played the song to a good friend (and deejay) of mine, who asked me to bring it along to one our monthly gigs last week. A very full sound throughout the music, which simply leaves the listener wanting more from this group. Definitely bound for some of the better compilations in the coming months.
I make no apology for including a personal favourite artist of mine, Todd Rundgren. The man is coming up to his 69th birthday this year. By this time, you would have thought he might have turned his mind to other things in life, however, he is still out there, creating the unusual, making waves, whilst recording the Soulful, along with the not so Soulful. Why on earth do I like this guy? On the evidence placed in front of myself, I should have nothing to do with this artist, and yet, like a moth to a flame, here I am. I think deep down, Todd is a Soul boy. As with the Beatles, Bowie etc, he is never far away from the music of black origin. Mary J Blige is a fan, as are the Four Tops, Keni Burke, Leroy Burgess and the Isley Brothers, and in return, Todd is a big fan of theirs. Todd’s albums are consistent throughout his career. Much of the music is terrific, whilst some of the music misses me by a country mile! Of interest to the Soul fan, on ‘White Knight’, is the Daryl Hall fronted ‘Chance For Us’, (which is brilliant), the Dam Funk collaboration ‘I Got Your Back’, Add to the mix, the John Boutte duet ‘Beginning (Of The End)’, and the very amusing ‘Tin Foil Hat, which is another collaboration, this time with Donald Fagen on board (the subject matter being a critique of Donald Trump). When Todd sets his mind to writing a ‘tune’, the song usually hits home in this house. I really have taken to the song ‘Wouldn’t You Like To Know’, which echoes the singer songwriter’s earlier career. Something of a personal comfort blanket for this lover of his music. Todd is not for those who look for ‘instant’ in their music. If you ‘hang’ with any of his albums, they do have a habit of getting under your skin. He has certainly maintained my interest in his music since the very early Seventies.
darien dean - departures
Last Sunday I tuned into Jazz FM, to listen to Jeff Young’s excellent morning Soul show. Jeff played a track, which instantly had me reaching for the dial. I thought to myself, ‘I know that voice!’ Jeff said the tune was by Darien Dean, and it was the Christian name which led me to recall a singer, whose debut album I had posted at this site back in 2009. The great aspect of Darien’s music, is this artists own personal musical influences. Stevie is certainly in the tapestry, however, there is a thought process that accompanies the writings, which all help set this artist apart from your everyday ‘Stevie soundalike’. Digressing a little, I contacted Darien’s manager, who is a very hard working guy called Miles Anthony. I have been in touch with Miles ever since Darien’s first album. His Righteous Music Media company I find very interesting. They aren’t afraid to step out of their musical depth, and test the listening waters at various times. Risky business, however, as with all risk taking, the rewards can be substantial creatively. Darien’s latest album is a case in point. Miles told me Darien is planning 3 albums this year. I think this one will be many folks favourite set of 2017 in it’s own right. Well, I have to thank Miles for sending me this terrific album, Jeff for playing it, and Roger Williams, for turning me onto Darien (and his fine ‘Composure’ tune) back in 2009. Darien, himself used to dance, and choreograph routines, before journeying into production and songwriting. Five star songs? ‘Find A Way’, ‘Pieces’, ‘Wonders’ (my favourite here) and ’Someone Is You’ for starters. All graced by some superb key changes, reminding the listener, that we don’t have to put up with sub-standard digital mainstream fodder, but there are better things out there in the digital super lay-by :)). Terrific follow up release.
Here are Miles’ musical links, along with one which will take you to the review page here from 2009.
october london - color blind: hate and happiness / billy porter - billy porter presents the soul of richard rogers
Hot on the heels of last years ‘mini album’, ‘Color Blind: Love’, Jared Samuel Erskine, a.k.a. October London, releases a second, similar format, release on the Snoop Dogg and Jazze Pha's Cadillacc Music imprint. To these ears, the second album (7 tracks on show here) is an improvement on last years fine offering. The subject matter has changed, and thus the rhythmic content, by this vocalist from South Bend, Indiana. What is hugely apparent, is how much respect this artist holds for the old school releases. He states himself ‘The idea of the mini album/EP stemmed from my love of old school music’, and that sentiment is very apparent here. To these old ears ‘One Shot to Love’ is a fine piece of Soul from back in the day (or so it seems), however, my personal favourite here, is the intensely political, ‘Where’s The Justice?’. Terrifically powerful tune, which has as much relevancy in todays society, as it would have been, had it been included on Marvin’s evergreen ‘What’s Going On’. Talking of which, another tune echoing that said album here, is the aptly titled ‘Dramatic’. More than a touch of ‘Inner City Blues’ going on here. I do hope this artist is given a long run in the recording studio, as this release has seen an evolvement in the artistry here, and that can only be a positive thing.
You can check out this album here:
...now as a complete contrast, I would like to present to you an album of Richard Rogers show tunes! Yes, you heard me correctly, THAT Richard Rogers, of Rogers and Hammerstein fame! Toby has now completely lost the plot....or have I? I must confess as to not be too confident in liking this album before I took it out for a spin. One of the biggest threats in my life, is for someone to tell me they had just bought tickets for the latest Andrew Lloyd Weber musical in the West End! In fact, I would rather have my teeth extracted! :)) This CD, thus, went to the bottom of the listening pile, and I was then dragged kicking and screaming to the headphones, learning a huge lesson. Do NOT judge a book by the cover adorning it! Richard Rogers passed away in 1979, and yet, even he would probably never have envisaged this creative interpretation of many of his well known tunes, all of which I am sure he would have warmed to a great deal.
Billy Porter, himself, is a Tony and Grammy Award-winning actor, singer, director, composer and playwright. He hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and has given much of this material a new lease of life. So how did he set about this task, of, say, making ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair’, acceptable to a new audience? Well, to begin with, he needed the finest vocalists around who can make a song their own. For instance, every decent Soul fan knows Ledisi. She is one of the finest Soul and Jazz singers out there. Billy enlisted the likes of Cynthia Erivo, RenÈe Elise Goldsberry, Leslie Odom Jr., Patina Miller, Pentatonix, India.Arie, Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry, Christopher Jackson, Todrick Hall, Deborah Cox and Ledisi, herself. Each of these fine songsmiths have been given a brief to treat every song as if it was the first time they had heard the melodies. Musically, the interpretations are aligned someplace between the stylings of Quincy Jones, Take 6 and India Arie. Ledisi’s take on ‘Bewitched’ really surprised me, for instance. ‘Brushed up’ beautifully. Reworking’s of ‘Wash that Man’ are inspired, moving the melody from the main stage spotlight and positioning it slap bang in the middle of a Gospel Church on a Sunday morning! India Arie’s interpretation of ‘Caught, Taught’ is terrific. ‘I Have Dreamed’ (vocalised by Patina Miller), reminded me very much of ‘Q’s ‘Secret Garden’. I have never really taken to this song....but now I have. This may be an album full of ’Show Tunes’, however, I would substitute that description for, simply, ‘Tunes’. Huge and very pleasant surprise. Killer tune here? ‘My Romance’ by Leslie Odom Jnr., by the way.
Dara Tucker’s last album, ‘The Sun Season’, I loved so much, I posted a review at the site back in 2014. Looking back on that set, it still resides in my iTunes folder here, with several tracks having 5 star ratings back at that time. Three years down the line, and this Tulsa based singer, is about to release her new album, ‘Oklahoma Rain’. Her people got directly in touch here, and sent me off to her YouTube channel, to listen to the new 45, ‘Radio’. Dara and I certainly sing from the same song sheet regarding our opinions of today’s radio situation, although vocally, I would certainly think she would win, vocally, hands down over this Lee Marvin-esque out of tune croak machine! :)) ‘Radio’ is a song about as radio friendly, melodic and optimistic a song as I have heard so far this year. You can hear her sing clearly, she articulates her music perfectly, and if radio wasn’t so unwell right now, she could have a pop hit on her hands here. Quite superb music, all told (and video). On the album the quality never drops. The title track reminded me, very slightly, of the Armsted Christian album from many years ago. To my ears, well, I wished every song that was sent here, was of this standard. Fine piece of songwriting
Back at the time of Dara’s last album, I mentioned she had performed alongside the likes of Dr. Lonnie Smith and Charlie Hunter. These sessions have really developed her sound, which has become mature and thoughtful. On this album, Dara is assisted by several fine musicians, including: Kevin Whalum (vocals), Greg Bryant (bass), Mason Embry (piano), Matt Endahl (piano) and DeMarco Johnson (harmonica) amongst a long list of very talented artists.
Personal track recommendations here include ‘Moving On’, ‘All I See Is Love’, ’Heartache’, ‘In The Game’, ‘Anytime Your Heart Breaks’...in fact, I would recommend this album unreservedly. My wife said to me she really likes these songs, as she can hear exactly what the artist is singing! Hadn’t really thought about that, but I know what she means. Many of todays vocalists try for a ‘sound’ and try to hit every note in a melody, except the correct one’s! If the music simply flows and is true to itself, then the artist has identity. Dara has found her's. Hope that the wait between albums, in the future, is shorter, as this set was a very welcome visitor in this house. Comes highly recommended.
the track 'radio' is here:
pre-orders are here:
soul basement - what we leave behind
Italian producer and songwriter, Fabio Puglisi, sent me this new album from his Soul Basement group, which features singer (and spoken word) artist Jay Nemor. Fabio’s group have released material since 2004, whilst Jay saw an album release entitled ‘Just Sayin’ back in 2014. The combination between both of these artists has realised this new album, ‘What We Leave Behind’, which is out on ITI Records. Sometimes, with albums such as these, music leaves the listener wanting somewhat, however, the mixture of Jay’s ‘Cunnie Williams-esque’ vocal delivery, and the sympathetic rhythmic harmonies, really works a treat on this 8 tracker. The writings are reflective of my own political leanings, which are, in turn, articulated beautifully, none more so on the song ‘In Time’. ’Noise Pollution and ‘It’s Time' are also winners on this album, with my ‘cherry pick’ being the melodic ‘The Joy Inside’, which has echoes of the U-Nam collaborations with the Last Poets vocalist, Abiodun. All told, a hugely pleasant surprise (and sounding very good on my headphones here!
brian owens and the deacons of soul - soul of ferguson
2017 has certainly started out, as the year of the single. although albums are being released, the material has been, by and largely, there to support the 45. Maybe this has always been the case, however, I would recall albums in recent years, where the quality has been consistent throughout. Albums such as this little beauty, (along with recent releases by the likes of Oleta Adams and Charlie Wilson), are pushing against the tides a little. Ferguson, Missouri resident, Brian Owens album certainly does owe a great deal to the releases of 40 or 50 years ago on the R&B scene. If you are going to put together music of this style, it is best not to plagiarise the styles of previous generations, but take those influences, and merge your own designs into the project, and it is this aspect which makes this new album, such a charmer. Big thank you to Bill Buckley at soulandjazzandfunk.com for the pointers in this albums general direction. Musically, Brian teams up with his friend Michael McDonald for the project’s debut single ‘For You’. A great starting point for obtaining entrance into some of the best music I have listened to so far this year. I loved the opener ’So High’, a bright and optimistic starter, which leads me on to my favourite trio of songs, all of which are top drawer tunes, namely, ‘Beautiful Day’, ‘Pretty Fine Thing’ and the wonderful ‘Prayer For My Children’. Visually, Brian might be doing an impression of Marvin during his ‘Let’s Get It On’ era, however, the album is very much the recording artists vehicle here. Nine tracks that I think, if you are at this website right now, you will probably want and need. I think my only complaint regarding this album, is it simply isn’t long enough. Always a very positive criticism, as the listener is left wanting more. Check iTunes for an ‘invisible’ album, for a cd version from one of the bigger stores for a copy you can talk to!
nathan east - reverence
Always nice when the years first, full quality album, arrives, and this year the honour falls on the shoulders of the Philadelphia Soul and Jazz bassist, Nathan East. Nathan Harrell East, (to give the man his full name), releases ‘Reverence’ for the Yamaha Music Communications imprint in 2017. The album features several cover versions of Soul and Jazz evergreen’s, and Nathan has enlisted the likes of Yolanda Adams, Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson, Verdine White, Kirk Whalum, Ruben Studdard and Chick Corea. Ruben’s input on ‘Why Not This Sunday’ will probably see the greatest amount of airplay on show here, although my ‘cherry pick’ is the bright and breezy ‘The Mood I’m In’, featuring Nikki Yanofsky fine vocal delivery. Really could be described as a National Health Service ‘pick me up’, with melodic hints of Norah Jones going on in the writings someplace. Nathan’s work with Earth, Wind and Fire hasn’t been unrecognised as the man weighs in with some fine versions of ‘Lovers Holiday’ and ’Serpentine Fire’. I also quite like the instrumental track ’Shadow’ (which features Chick Corea). The albums ‘grower’ of a melody. Nice chunk of fusion here. Nathan has performed with many great artists including Anita Baker, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and Elton John. His pedigree really shines through on this very agreeable album. Nice way to start a new year.
some great new tracks...
where do we go? (boogie back remix) - cornell 'cc' carter
the diamond inside/back to love - gordon chambers
la costa (reelsoul, dj spen & gary hudgins original latin soul mix) - sheila ford
i need you for your love - kim tibbs
John Saltwell - Watching An Angel PB Mix
rc and the gritz - 'lessons'