RHONDA THOMAS: Breathe New Life (Label: Rhonovocals LLC)

Friday, 19 October 2007 03:58 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

RHONDA THOMAS: Breathe New Life

Rhonda Thomas is an Atlanta-based soulstress and an alumnus of that city's Tabernacle Gospel Choir, where she shared lead with Maysa Leak. Since then she's worked with Incognito, Jiva, Khari Simmons and the Sirius B project and been on the road with Luther and Isaac Hayes. In between all that she recorded this album in 2004 but with a big underground buzz on it, it's being re-promoted. It's easy to hear why the buzzers have been buzzing. Though almost three years old, 'Breathe New Life' is right on the contemporary money. It pairs bright and optimistic cuts with some gorgeous introspective ballads - unified by their thoughtful and mature lyrical profiles. Best of the 'up' cuts is the lithe 'Stand And Know'. It's almost soulful house, enhanced by sweet trombone infills. Biggest ballad is the duet with Alex Latimore that is 'The Matrimony'. Cynics might say the lyrics are cloying, but I say there's nothing wrong with proper commitment and the song is a soulful expression of just that. In between there's lots more to enjoy including the Jiva-esque 'Fly Away' and the jazzy title cut that will recall the best of her old mate Maysa.
(BB) 4/5


RENE JONES: Chill Factor (Label:

Friday, 19 October 2007 03:56 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

RENE JONES: Chill Factor

This sultry debut from Rene Jones demands attention from all discerning soul fans. Hailing from Georgia, Rene had her musical initiation in the church - and it shows. For one so young her voice is mature and soulful - instantly recalling Anita Baker. That Baker link will be most obvious on the album's immediate grabber - 'Everything I Need'. It's a wonderful mid-tempo item with great beats and scorching sax interludes that might remind you of Kirk Whalum. But it's the vocal that makes the cut special. Elsewhere there are plenty of smooth ballads - best typified by 'Sensuality'. Dancers might be tempted off the wall by the mid-tempo title track or the two-step shuffle that is 'You Know'. Other goodies include the light vibe that is 'Summer Day' (with a quasi-rap that may recall Jazzy Jeff's similarly named epic) and 'Stay,' which features some great interplay with the backing singers. Indeed for an indie album, there's been no stinting on the production and the songs aren't the usual self-written, self-produced plodders you often get with this kind of thing. Take my word for it, here's an album and an artist that deserves to be right up there with the big soul players. Find out more on
(BB) 4/5


ONYX 1: Right Now (Label: NL 2 Records)

Friday, 19 October 2007 03:54 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

ONYX 1: Right Now

Onyx 1 originates from Oakland and began life as a Temptations-style group but soon graduated to funk. They recorded sporadically and a couple of years back one of their old funk cuts, 'Break It Loose,' was featured on a very well-received compilation. Encouraged by the good press, the group (Wendell and Aaron Bassey and Malvin Scott) decided to reform but enlisted Detroit's Terence Forsyth as lead - and what a great choice. Forsyth possesses a silky smooth soul voice - a voice good enough to impress Richard Street who enlisted him into his touring incarnation of the Temptations… and I guess that the Tempts are the best comparison to draw. Onyx 1 has now ditched the funk and their aim is to make real grown-up soul music. Hear it to best effect on the ballad that is 'Mine All Mine' - sweet, yet with a real soul edge. It's so good in its original incarnation that the R&B-ish remix towards the end is redundant. Other goodies include the opener 'It's Time For Love', the melodic 'When You Weren't Looking', and the jazzy title cut which feature great piano from Jimmy Ali. All are gentle and mid-paced and should please sophisticated soul people and smooth jazz fans alike.
(BB) 4/5


DOWN TO THE BONE: Supercharged (Label: Narada Jazz)

Friday, 19 October 2007 03:52 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

DOWN TO THE BONE: Supercharged

Down To The Bone are a well-known to UK soul and jazz fans and rightly winning a big reputation Stateside. Featuring players of the calibre of Tony Remy, Neil Angilley and Shilts Weimar, their music's right in the lineage of Tower of Power, and Average White Band. 'Supercharged' is the gang's seventh album and its title is most bob on. From that opening title cut through to the closer 'Make It Funky' the pace never lets up with variation coming in the different shadings of jazz-funk and the inclusion of two big vocals. First there's 'Smile To Smile' featuring the mighty voice of Hillary Mwelwa of Hil St Soul. It's a busy tune riding a mighty, bumping bass line. Then, there's 'Shake It Up', with Corrina Greyson on lead - very jazzy with her vocal duelling with the trumpet of Jon Radford. Of the instrumentals, 'Funkin' Round' is just that; 'Cosmic Fuzz has a hint of electro to it; while 'Parkside Shuffle' offers the mellowest moment - piano-led, but never bland. The real big one though is 'Electric Vibes' for which the team has enlisted the legendary Roy Ayers. It's no cop out to say it's just as you'd expect - big and bouncy, with delicious vibes and Roy's trademark scatting, Recommended - for those who like their soul, jazz-flavoured and groove-laden.
(BB) 4/5


NAJEE: Rising Sun (Label: Heads Up)

Friday, 19 October 2007 03:50 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF

NAJEE: Rising Sun

Smooth jazz sax man Najee's not the kind of artist you'll be reading about too often on this review site but I'm drawing the album to you attention for one particular reason - and that is the one, big vocal track from soul stalwart Phil Perry. Perry, I know, is a particular UK soul hero and there are Perry completists out there, and to them I say seek out the cut 'Romance The Night'. It's not the greatest song, but Perry's in fine form, swooping through the gentle, Latin-tinged quiet storm ballad as only he can. Elsewhere, the best grooves can be heard on the collaborations with the Pieces Of A Dream, team ('Come What May' and 'Out Of A Dream') and 'Smooth Sailing' (not the Maysa Leak tune, by the way). For the rest, I've always had a soft spot for the James Moody standard 'Moody's Mood' - but Najee brings little new to it, while cuts like 'Rising Sun', 'Brazilian Affair' and 'Child At Heart' are just a touch too bland … think Earl Klugh meets Bob James on a bad day. But do, at least, grab a listen to the Perry vocal - it won't ignite but it will add to his classy reputation.
(BB) 2/5


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