Reviews

TORTURED SOUL; Hot For Your Love Tonight (Dome)

Monday, 27 April 2015 11:12 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

TSTortured Soul are a respected US soulful house outfit who won acclaim some years ago with the classic 'Always Heaven' on the much loved Susu label. They were formed in the late 90s by keyboardist Ethan White, drummer Christian Urich and bassist Jason Kriveloff. Their aim (as their name implies) was to use a kind of soul as the basis of the dance music they loved. They wanted to make house music less mechanical, less electronic... more soulful, if you would. They clearly succeeded since through the early noughties they were a big draw in the New York dance clubs. Kriveloff was eventually replaced by Jordan Scanella and, sadly, in March this year Ethan White died aged just 39.

Urich and Scanella decided to continue working on the album the threesome had been planning and it's just won European release on Dome Records. 'Hot For Your Love Tonight' is a 12 tracker and though it will be filed under 'House Music' the sounds the band deliver are right at the soulful end of that particular spectrum and many of the tracks would sit perfectly in any discerning modern soul DJ's set. I'm thinking here of the loping opener 'I'll Be There For You', the Chic-like 'Don't Lead Me On' and the delicious 'Can't Keep Rhythm From A Dancer'. That last one is already winning huge support and no wonder... it's ultra catchy and not many miles from the retro soul sounds that outfits like Cool Million specialise in. Elsewhere stuff like 'I Don't Need Your Love Tonight' and the similarly paced title cut will appeal to the Robin Thicke/Pharrell/ Daft Punk brigade.

It's all classy, polished, well-produced stuff and ultimately labels don't mean that much... you either like the sound or you don't. And if you're into modern soul there's an awful lot to like here.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Monday, 27 April 2015 11:20

 

LAUREN DESBERG: Twenty First Century Problems (Lauren Desberg)

Friday, 24 April 2015 18:58 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

LDHarlem-based Lauren Desberg is just 23 but she's already making waves on the US jazz circuit. Born and raised in LA with a musical family, she "got into jazz" at an early age and her talents and passion for the genre won her a place at Boston's famed Berklee College of Music. While still at college she made her recording debut with an EP, 'Sideways' and now she follows that up with her first full solo album... and you can maybe guess from the title where Ms Desberg is coming from.

Yes, that's right ... her mission statement is to "bring jazz into the 21st century" and to that end here she's created a music that pays homage to jazz's roots but she delivers it in an unusual, sometimes experimental, but always contemporary way. I guess her approach is best summed up by the disembodied voice that fronts up the second track, 'He Loves And She Loves'. "Is there a possibility of creating a kind of synthesis of jazz and the more popular forms of music?" asks the anonymous narrator and what follows is a gentle, poppy swayer of a tune that's lifted by some heavy jazz piano and disengaged horn work building to a tense ending. That's followed by another juxtaposition. 'Lie To Me' has many elements of the classic torch songs from the "great American songbook" but the bass-heavy introduction adds an element of the sinister.

Most immediate cut on the album (because of its familiarity, of course) is a cover of the Bee Gee's 'How Deep Is Your Love'. Ms Desebrg's treatment builds from a quite start into a imaginative, crashing reading that retains the best of the melody. The beats are a whole lot bumpier on 'Down With Love'... almost a Carmen Miranda style Latin romp, but not quite. And that's the essence of the music on '21st Century Problems'. Each track defies easy pigeon-holing; when you think things are going one way, they go off in another... tangent music, if you would; and yes, music for the 21st century.

Find out more @ www.laurendesberg.com

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Friday, 24 April 2015 19:02

 

LIVIN' OUT LOUD ; Take It Easy (Kinproductions)

Friday, 24 April 2015 14:09 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

imageLivin' Out Loud are an American soul group who, over the last few years, have become well known to the UK and European modern soul crowd via a number of well-crafted singles. Promo pictures from those early releases show a four piece band but it seems that now Livin' Out Loud consist of siblings Reuben and Sylvia MacCalla and they're the two who'll be promoting this new album.

Discerning soul collectors will already know some of the tracks on the LP.... the shuffling 'Cuz I Gotta Know', the languid 'Lately' (no, not the Stevie tune!), a catchy 'Always There' (again , no... not THAT 'Always There') a Babyface style version of 'You Are My Sunshine' and the album's title track have all been in the public domain for some time (some date back to 2010) and if you know them you'll know what to expect from the rest of this long player – gentle, classy, polished modern soul which kind of sits between Marvin Gaye circa 'Let's Get It On' (less a lot of the passion) and the aforementioned Babyface. That Babyface connection is particularly strong on a tune called 'When Can I See You Again' ... undemanding and sweet.

The album's big up-tempo moments are 'Step Up' and 'Lookin' For A Good Man'. That former has a Northern soul vibe running through it while the latter is much more down home. Without proper credits I'm guessing the vocalist is Sylvia MacCalla and she turns in a convincing performance. Indeed her vocals are one of the album's attractions. Throughout, she trades leads with her brother (another credit-less guess) and between them they hone the sweet harmonies that family groups seem to specialise in.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Friday, 24 April 2015 14:21

 

SUN SOUL ORCHESTRA: What Matters Most (Gumbo Child)

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 19:13 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

sun_spulIt's odds on that you've never heard the names Stevo Theard and Ginger Murphy but we're sure that if you're a discerning music collector you will have heard them play. Percussionist Theard has played on recordings with people like Michael McDonald, Jeffrey Osborne, Patti Austin, Anita Baker, Brian McKnight and Branford Marsalis. For her part, cellist Murphy has worked with an equally diverse range of artists... Pat Benatar, George Benson, Michael Buble, Cee Lo Green, Faith Evans, Pharrell, Stevie Wonder and Barbra Streisand amongst them!

Both operate in and around the LA studio scene and they first worked together when drummer Stevo agreed to write an arrangement for a string quartet that Ginger was working on. They were both immediately intrigued by the possibilities of combining strings with percussion and the seeds of a collaborative album were planted. For the last year or so that's what they've been working on and now – as "The Sun Soul Orchestra" – the 11 tracker has won release.

Helping them flesh out their ideas, Stevo and Ginger have called in the cream of the current LA sessions scene – people like saxophonist Rastine Calhoun, horn player J Michael Hunter and violinist Chris Woods and when a particular song demanded a rather special vocal, the duo were quick to bring in a specialist... as on the version of the Commodore's 'Zoom' which features a wonderful vocal from soul man T J Gibson. Always a great song, this new version is remarkable for the way Murphy's cello weaves through Gibson's vocal.

The album's other big cover is a treatment of Bob Marley's 'Waiting In Vain'. The reggae anthem is quite transformed into a string quartet and Theard himself takes lead vocals... different.

The best of the original tunes are 'Can't Deny It' (which has the potential to please the modern soul crowd) and 'Find Myself With You' (a sweet ballad). You also get a cover of the Rolling Stones' 'Waiting On A Friend' and a racy version of Sylvia's 'Pillow Talk' which is echoed by a Benson-esque treatment of a tune dubbed 'Keep Talkin''.... basically an instrumental extension of 'Pillow Talk'

The album will be released on April 28th and you can learn more @ www.sunsoulorchestra.com

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 April 2015 19:21

 

JEFF BRADSHAW AND FRIENDS; Home (Shanachie)

Tuesday, 21 April 2015 19:13 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

jeff-bradshaw-home-one-special-night-at-the-kimmel-center-shanachieLast May Philadelphia's superstar trombonist, Jeff Bradshaw assembled a stellar cast of singers and musicians for a concert at the Kimmel Centre – Philly's iconic arts venue. The aim of the show was to replicate the atmosphere and excitement of the classic soul revues that criss-crossed the States in the 60s and 70s and with people like Marsha Ambrosius, Bilal, Will Downing, Trombone Shorty, Kim Burrell, Take 6, Eric Roberson and Robert Glasper on board the Philly cast list was as replete with big names as all those "back in the day" soul shows. You can judge whether Bradshaw and company captured that special magical feel via this live album which chronicles the evening.

The set's a 14 tracker – lasting and hour and twenty minutes (I'm guessing the actual show was longer) and the cut that's currently garnering all the attention is one that wasn't recorded on the night. Confused? Well one of the key songs on the night back in May was 'All Time Love' which featured vocals from Eric Roberson and Tweet and some typically off the wall Robert Glasper piano. Bradshaw and his team always knew the song had potential as a modern soul dancer and so had the same musicians re-record it in the studio. Bradshaw's hunch was right. That studio recording is already a big tune on the scene and rightly so. It's built around some lusciously tight beats and Roberson's and Tweet's voices blend beautifully. Already enjoying heavy radio rotation and featuring on most credible soul charts, 'All Time Love' will be one of THE tunes of 2015. The studio recording ends the album and you can, of course, compare it with the original live version. That live one is some two minute longer and muddied to some extent by shout outs and atmospherics which after a couple of hearings become wearying. Bradshaw was right to clean it up in the studio; he's got a hit on his hands!

OK what else is worthwhile amongst the live tracks? Well, in short, an awful lot. For starters there's an incendiary 9 minute 'Love' from Gospel diva Kim Burrell; then there's a couple of gentler tunes from Take 6 including a version of DeBarge's 'All This Love'; fans of Will Downing will love his 'My Forever'; and if you dig jazz jams there's trombone duel between Bradshaw and Trombone Shorty while smooth sax star joins Jeff for the concert closer – a version of 'The World Is A Ghetto'.

There's lots more besides but that wonderful studio version of 'All Time Love' will be this LP's big selling point.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 April 2015 19:19

 

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