JUA: Anticipation (Label: Chocolate Chi Muisc)

Wednesday, 05 December 2007 13:55 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

JUA: Anticipation

Jua's a new name to me, but on the evidence of this set, he's worth watching. Why? Well, first of all, Jua's a great singer. Dip in anywhere here and hear a true soul stylist at work - plenty of passion - but it's a passion that's controlled. Secondly, he's had the good sense to look outwards for his songs and producers. Too many new indie soul artists think they can do it all and with no one to tell them otherwise, their finished albums are often patchy to say the least. Here, though, Jua does contribute some writing and production, he allows others in on the act too - and the end result is the better for it. Thirdly, between them, Jua and his different teams have tried to move modern soul forward. They've attempted new approaches and (largely) avoided clichés (musically and lyrically) - and though it doesn't always work, some of the cuts have a real, refreshing appeal. Signature cut is the LP's title track - 'Anticipation'. To contextualise; I'd describe it as a male version of what Jill Scott does so well. It's a jazzy ramble - partly spoken, partly sung, with gentle instrumentation and layered harmonies. It's not an easy song - but repeated listens will bring rewards. Like much of this album it has its own spirituality and provokes in all kinds of ways. 'Dream' is another excellent cut. It's the album's best ballad and like some of the stuff on Maxwell's 'Urban Hang Suite' it's ethereal, and otherworldly. In truth, some of the cuts are a little too complex while others take too long to kick in - but on the two I've mentioned Jua gets it just right. At the risk of repetition, neither are easy listens and any modern soulsters who want to take the bouncy castle ride will be disappointed, but if you like your soul a little more adventurous and interesting will allow you to at least investigate.
(BB) 3/5


DONALD SHAW: Made In Motown (Label: Day Star Records)

Wednesday, 05 December 2007 13:53 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

DONALD SHAW: Made In Motown

Donald Shaw is a soul crooner who works in and around Detroit, hence the title of this 15 tracker. That geographical link, however, is the only connection with Motown Records. Shaw's sound isn't proto Motown and there are no covers of old Motown songs; so don't come to the album expecting some Tamla bonanza; rather, expect a moderate modern soul set that has all the characteristics of current self-produced, indie collections. That's to say, budgetary concerns mean that some of the tracks are under-produced, while the writing royalty issue means that some of the songs aren't that great - BUT you do get at least one goodie. So let's deal with that first. The album's best cut by a mile is 'Smile Again'. Sub-titled, 'The Wedding Song' it's a sensual ballad with a lovely melody. Featuring some slinky sax and tinkling keys, it's no coincidence that the production values are much bigger here than elsewhere and hopefully Donald might get some of the wedding planners to use the song in their projects - like I said the royalties hurt no one. There's a couple of other decent ballads on the set - notably 'While We're Still Friends' (a pleasing duet with Roseann Matthews) and 'I Just Want To Love You', while the crisp 'Don't You Wanna Dance' might inspire some modern rug cutters who like the ego boost that less accessible indie soul gives them: in honesty it's not that's special. Synthetic beats never help anyway - which takes us back to those production issues. Shame really, 'cos Donald has a decent soul voice. It's a kind of raspy amalgam of Tyrone Davis and Dennis Taylor with a hint of Luther. The Luther connection is also apparent in the plucked, popping bass on cuts like 'Just In The Nick Of Time', but Mr. V, of course, had big budgets to plump up his albums. CD Baby will help you find this one, where I'd file it under "decent if unspectacular".
(BB) 3/5


UNE: Une (Label: Native, Unet Music)

Wednesday, 05 December 2007 13:50 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

UNE: Une

Don't know much about Mr. Uné, save that his name's pronounced 'You Nay', that his record label's based in Pasadena and that he possesses a fine smooth soul voice - reminiscent of Dennis Taylor (now what's happened to him?). To hear Uné's voice in full flow go to the LP's closer, the gospel-tinged acapella song 'I Won't Complain' - you'll be left in no doubt about the man's vocal prowess. But it's a fact of the music biz that to score the hits and achieve album sales, artists need more than a decent voice. I know it's obvious, but good songs and sympathetic productions are essential, and sadly on this set there just aren't too many good songs, while too many of the productions are built around drum programmes and synthetic instrumentation. To compound matters, Uné's people seem to be confused as to whether he's a full on soul man or an R&B contender. 'Hit Da Shaw' for instance is formulaic 'get your party on' R&B complete with limp rapping, while stuff like 'Baby Stop Frontin' and 'I Really Love You' are dreary teen ballads of the type you associate with Mario or Chris Brown. That said, the opener 'I Can't Remember' is a half-decent modern soul tune - but some might find it repetitive, while 'One More Time' is OK - but lacks imagination - how many tunes, for instance, start with a breathy phone conversation and lyrically we're going over the same old clichés… pity really 'cos like I said up top Uné has a great voice. If you want to find out more go to
(BB) 3/5


THE DELLS: Always Together (Label: Shout)

Saturday, 01 December 2007 10:34 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

THE DELLS: Always Together

Any Dells' compilation is always welcome and this new 21 tracker is particularly pleasing because it focuses on what most soul commentators believe is the veteran group's forte - articulating passion through the soul ballad. Here compiler (and soul veteran himself), Clive Richardson has been let loose on the Chess archive, and using his intimate knowledge of the group, he's chosen some obvious tunes, some lesser known gems - and, to his credit, he's unearthed a couple of real rarities. Let's deal chiefly with those. First there's 'You Changed My Life Around' which dates from 1972 and till now has never been released. It's a typical Charles Stepney/Dells' collaboration, featuring searing lead vocals and those magically ethereal harmonies and vocal counterplays… why its been allowed to lie dormant all these years beggars belief. It's a soul treasure - as is the second, 'Since I Found You'. That one's a beautiful Skip Scarborough song and has only ever been available on a now-deleted 1992 compilation. Both those inclusions make the album a must for Dells' fans. Said fans will probably have all the other cuts countless times over - but when you hear old favourites in a new ordering it somehow offers them a vitality. Biggest surprise with this collection is the omission of 'Stay In My Corner' - surely the defining Dells' ballad. Clive explains its absence by saying that he wanted his collection to complement and not duplicate the Dells' Universal double album from earlier this year. Fair comment, but why then do we get 'Always Together', 'I Can Sing A Rainbow' and other cuts that were also on the Universal set? A small point, granted - and, thankfully, one that doesn't detract from the beauty of what's on offer here… an unmissable collection from one of soul music's most enduring acts.
(BB) 5/5


VARIOUS: Can't Be Satisfied (Label: Kent)

Saturday, 01 December 2007 10:33 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

VARIOUS: Can't Be Satisfied

Ace/Kent's latest slab of Southern soul archiving is this wonderful 22 track look at the work of Memphis hustler Gene Lucchesi who, like many of his business neighbours, marvelled at the success of the legendary Sam Philips. The logic was , if Sam could do it, why couldn't Gene… so he started up his own little label - XL, and, like the Sun man, he recorded mainly local acts in the hope that one of them might break out. He hit pay dirt in 1965 with the novelty pop of Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs' 'Wooly Bully' and with the profits he built the Sounds Of Memphis Studio and launched a second label, using the studio's name. Further success was elusive but the quality of the two labels' soul output is unquestionable …as evidenced by this selection. Sound-wise, most of the music is as you'd expect - steamy and "southern" - soul with a nod to the blues and country. Spencer Wiggins' 'I Can't Be Satisfied' (the album's overall title) is arguably XL/Sounds of Memphis' signature sound. Amongst the selection though there are some cuts that don't comply strictly with the southern template. The two George Jackson tunes ('Talking About The Love I Have For You' and 'Walking The City Streets'), for instance are comparatively light while Lou Roberts' 'Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Love' and the Minits' 'Still A Part Of Me' are almost uptown. They're all good cuts, but if its southern soul you want, then it's here in abundance and if you doubt the quality, then know that Lucchesi's house band were eventually poached by Jerry Wexler who eventually dubbed them the Dixie Flyers.
(BB) 4/5


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