DIMITRIS & SULENE; Sparkle (Splash)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017 20:45 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSince June we've been treated to a series of fine modern soul singles from a new duo – Dimitris & Sulene. First there was the lovely, light dancer, 'Sparkle'. Then there was the electro-flavoured 80s throwback 'Electric Love' followed by an energized 'Butterfly'. Great stuff... so needing to know more, we discovered that the duo weren't "new" at all. Dimitris (Dimopoulos) turned out to be a Greek born music multi tasker who has worked with people like Steve Gadd, Jeff Lorber, Nathan East and Don Grusin. "Sulene"? Well she is, of course, Sulene Fleming the lead singer with the Brand new Heavies! No wonder those three tunes were so impressive!

Well, now the parent album , named for the 'Sparkle' track', is officially available and it proves that the three "prefaces" were no flashes in the proverbial pan!

There's lots of excellence here but let's start with the throbbing mid-tempo groove that is 'Breathless'. This one is quite lovely and proves (once again) that we Brits can do proper soul just as well as our American cousins. It succeeds here 'cos D&S understand the genre! 'One Of Those Days' and 'After The Show' offer more of the same while if you like things a little more frantic , try 'Funky Inspiration' or 'Let's Stay' - both loaded with retro flavours that will ignite memories of good times past.

There's lots to enjoy here and if you get the chance dig out the remixes of the 'Sparkle' single . The Soulpersonna mix is particulatly strong. Sadly not on the album, but worth the effort to locate.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 October 2017 20:57


MUSIC SOULCHILD: Feel The Real (Soulstar Music)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017 20:43 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altPhilly new-age soul don Musiq Soulchild (Taalib Johnson) announced this new, epic 2 CD, 24 song album last spring when he released the single 'Start Over'. That cut was (indeed is) a gorgeous, multi-layered, complex modern soul groove. In essence, that's the soundscape of 'Feel The Real' and if 'Start Over' floated your soul boat then you'll be delighted with (most of) the other 23 cuts herein - most notably the album's title cut which opens proceedings here. It offers more of that special soul complexity delivered by a voice that, yes, owes, something to a certain Stevie Wonder, but which is uniquely Musiq's. The 'Feel The Real' track is a collaboration with Marsha Ambrosius, (who also wrote it) and she's just one of an impressive guest list...

Amongst the other invitees are Blaqgxld, Willie Hyn and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Mr Tyson fronts one of the album's real highlights, 'The Moon'. He has a gorgeous speaking voice.... he sounds like an actor (think James Earl Jones) but he's actually a high profile US astrophysicist! He adds real conviction and gravitas to 'The Moon' where both men (singer and scientist) muse about the "multiverse" rather than the "universe". This particular track is one that confirms your faith in nu/neo soul – both intriguing and satisfying. I could listen to this one all day... but there are other delights.

'Simple Things' is sweet and lovely; the beater that is 'Serendipity' is tight and danceable in that Usher kind of way; while 'Like The Weather' is a plaintive ballad.

Elsewhere? Well we've told you that this is a double album and commentators generally agree that doubles are often exercises in self indulgence and in places here you'd tend to agree with that. Cuts like 'Love Me Back' are nothing special; ditto those that feature Mr Johnson's alter ego The Husel.

There's one great album lurking here amongst these 24 tracks, but if you'll excuse me I need to go to 'The Moon' one more time.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 October 2017 20:58


LEROY HUTSON: 'Anthology 1972-84' (Acid Jazz)

Monday, 09 October 2017 19:08 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                      altGiven that  the 1970s was a very competitive era for male soul vocalists and was dominated by the likes of Barry White, Isaac Hayes, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Al Green, and Teddy Pendergrass, it's no surprise, perhaps, that Leroy Hutson - whose voice wasn't as distinctive or as charismatic, perhaps, as those aforementioned greats - never quite made it into the Premier League of R&B singers. He did, though, make some superb records - though never scored a big hit single - and was a fine songwriter and producer who has acquired a cult fame over the years, especially for the music he recorded for Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label in the '70s. Some of Hutson's work is now out-of-print so Acid Jazz's new 19-track anthology, which cherry picks the best of the New Jersey-born soul auteur's Curtom years and includes two previously unreleased tracks, is a great opportunity to assess the ex-Impressions' singer's oeuvre.

Hutson's two biggest tunes in the Rare Groove era of the late '80s were the epic groove ballad, 'All Because Of You,' and the jazzier, incantatory 'Lucky Fellow,' both taken from the singer's classic 1975 album, 'Hutson.' They're both included here, of course, though there's no room for the full album-length version of the former song, and instead (no doubt due to time constrictions), the single edit is used. That's slightly disappointing but it's compensated for by the presence of a majestic previously unheard track from 1977 (presumably an outtake from the 'Closer To the Source' sessions), 'Positive Forces,' which has all the classic Hutson hallmarks: an anthemic chorus, killer groove, and superb orchestration. Given the quality of the track, it's a mystery that's it's been gathering dust in the vaults for years. Another unreleased gem now officially issued is the much-bootlegged 'Now That I Found You,' a slice of danceable  early '80s boogie that stylistically is a close cousin of the electro-funk material Hutson recorded on his 'Paradise' album from 1982 for Elektra.   

Other highlights on this ace retrospective - which focuses on albums cuts rather than charting singles - are the Hutson classics, 'Cool Out' (the jazzy instrumental overture that opens the compilation),  'Lover's Holiday,' 'Never Know What You Can Do (Give It A Try),' the Latin-style disco cut, 'Closer To The Source,'  and the mellow, flute-laden groove, 'I Think I'm Falling In Love.'  It's a set that highlights Leroy Hutson's unique and largely underappreciated genius and is a timely reminder as the man is due to visit the UK's Jazz Cafe on December 27th.

The anthology is available on CD, download, and vinyl LP from October 20th.  

(CW) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 October 2017 20:59


CHUCK JACKSON: Big New York Soul (Kent)

Thursday, 05 October 2017 15:54 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altLittle known in the mainstream, South Carolina born Chuck Jackson is revered by soul collectors and cognoscenti. Like many of his contemporaries, Jackson recorded for a number of labels, including Motown and All Platinum, but it's his time at New York's Wand label that those collectors and connoisseurs consider the high spot of his career. Between 1961 and 1967 Wand released 30 singles and 10 LPs on Chuck Jackson and with material from writers like Bacharach/David, Luther Dixon and Curtis Mayfield his work is considered by critics as the epitome of 60s uptown soul.

Chuck Jackson collectors have been well served by the reissue labels – notably Ace/Kent. The UK specialist has released a "best of" collection and reissued all his Wand albums as "twofers" and now they offer Jackson fans another collection that brings together a number of rarities alongside 8 previously unheard of tracks.

Highlights amongst those previously unheard cuts include the lively opener 'Things Just Ain't Right', a cover of Curtis Mayfield's 'Need To Belong' and 'Anymore' – a duet with then label mate Dionne Warwick.

Of the rest, well there's so much 60s soul excellence here that it would be churlish to cherry pick – but let's just highlight a few. First there the lovely 'If I Didn't Love You... the best song Bacharach and David never wrote! Clearly writers Mark Barkan and Pam Sawyer had been listening to 'Any Day Now' before penning this one. Soul veterans will recognize the song. It has been reissued before but here it's in the original mono format. Then there's 'Big New York' – the song for which this album is titled. Written and produced by Ed Townsend, it sums up in so many ways what 60s big city, uptown soul was all about and Chuck's performance underlines why he is considered the best interpreter of that sound.

(BB) 4/5


WILL DOWNING; Soul Survivor (Shanachie)

Friday, 29 September 2017 12:25 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThis lovely, new Will Downing album was heralded by the single 'I'm Feeling The Love'. The cut, which is a duet with the seemingly omnipresent Avery Sunshine, entranced both DJs and soul commentators, many earmarking the tune as one of the year's best. If you don't know it, now's the time to rectify the situation. The two voices meld perfectly, there's a delicious hook and it's one of those special songs that impress with the first play.

The good news is that there's plenty more soul excellence throughout 'Soul Survivor's' remaining nine tracks. Let's start with the other cuts that feature "name" guests. First up there's 'Everything I Want In My Lady' which is a collaboration with the ever-lovely Maysa. The pair have worked together before, of course, and those special voices make a snug fit on a gentle mid-tempo groove. Ditto, the other vocal collaborator – Phil Perry. Mr P joins Will on new version of Blue Magic's 'Stop To Start' ... a song that sounds tailor made for their two distinctive voices. The album boasts another Philly cover – 'Hurry Up This Way Again'. On this new treatment of the Regina Belle/Stylistics tune Downing is joined by smooth sax man Najee and with that combination you can probably guess the sound...yep, very sweet, very smooth and very soulful.

Amongst other highlights are the sweet and simple 'Our Time' (proof if ever it was needed that WD is THE "Prince Of Soul") and another contender for a 2017 track of the year, the 'Secret Garden'-styled 'When We Make Love' , the bossa-flavoured cover of Michael Franks' 'Tell Me About It' and the finger-clickingly good 'Since You Been Gone'.

Will Downing's come a long way since 'Love Supreme' (this album's opener, 'Soul Survivor Theme' name checks many of his achievements) and it would be easy for him to rest on his laurels, but now some 30 years on from 'Love Supreme' he's created one of his best, most complete albums.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 29 September 2017 12:31


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