Russell Thompkins, Jr. has one of the most distinctive voices in soul. His unique falsetto was out front on countless hits for the Stylistics – songs that have become soft soul/romantic classics. In 2000 Russell quit the group, who, with a various lead voices shouldered on and still tour. Even without Thompkins, they still sell out theatres – things like ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’ and ‘You Make Me Feel Brand New’ still mean so much to so many people!
For his part Russell (who said he wished he’d left the group earlier than 2000!) learned the piano and studied music before embarking on his own career – appearing both solo and as front man for the “New Stylistics”. He’s released a number of albums and he’s currently promoting a new collection – ‘Riding Solo’ which has been executively produced by Preston Glass and David Nathan.
‘Riding Solo’ is a 13 tracker and given Mr T’s CV you won’t be surprised to learn that the set’s top heavy with soft soul ballads in the manner of the Stylistics earlier work. Again, no surprise – you may remember that Preston Glass was a protégé of the great Thom Bell who helmed the majority of those Stylistics classics! Best of the new ballads is a quite lovely ‘Window Shopping’ which evokes the sound and feel of prime time Stylistics.
Russell and his team do pop their heads over the parapet on a few of the cuts though. Thus ‘Questions Only You Can Answer’ and the LP’s title track might appeal to the Stepper Congregation while ‘Rain Will Fall’ is a crisp beater, if a little lightweight. ‘Putting More Love In The Proof’ – a duet with Chubby Tavares – delivers a Motown-riffing intro and if you’re fond of ‘Little Green Apples’, Russell offers a cover on which he tries something a little different. The album’s other familiar cut is a version of ‘Could It Be I’m Falling In Love’ – get past the cheesy spoken intro and you have an enjoyable trip down memory lane, making you think what might have been if the Stylistics had first dibs on this wonderful song!
RUSSELL THOMPKINS JR: Riding Solo – out now!