Angela Johnson’s best known as a performer. Working with Cooly’s Hot Box and as a solo singer she’s built herself a decent fan base and this new 14 tracker should please all Johnson devotees and hopefully bring her work to a wider audience, because ‘A Woman’s Touch’ is a first class snapshot of the state of real modern soul music. Here there are none of the retro pastiches that are often labelled “modern” soul; instead, though the music pays respect to the past, it’s all fresh and vital and several of the cuts could well go on to become soul staples of the future. First of all a word about the album’s titling – which may confuse. Though Angela’s name is out there up front, this isn’t an Angela Johnson solo set. Technically this should be filed away under ‘various artists’. Nor, despite what the LP’s title might suggest, is the collection a set of feisty female anthems or a look at the world through feminine eyes. Rather, you get an eclectic mix of songs that look at issues (of the heart and of a wider nature) through BOTH male and female voices. The ‘woman’s touch’ simply refers to Angela’s tenure of the producer’s chair and the ownership of the music throughout. And the big bonus is that the artists Angela’s assembled to work with read like a who’s who of the indie/modern soul world… I mean how about Rahsaan Patterson, Maysa Leak, Eric Roberson and Frank McComb for starters? Add to those, people like Take 6’s Claude McKnight, Monet, Lisala, Tricia Angus, Julie Dexter, and Gordon Chambers, Marlon Saunders and Lenora Jaye and you realize that there’s a soul feast in store. Everyone will find their own mouth-watering delights herein, but the tastiest bite is ‘Play’ from Frank McComb. The cut finds our man in an uncharacteristic up mood with his aching vocal floating over tight, precise beats and a bubbling Fender Rhodes. It’s topped with a delightful Freddie Hendrix trumpet solo and you’ll find it all truly irresistible. As catchy is Gordon Chambers’ ‘Get Away’. This one has a hint of reggae to it and will recall Anthony Hamilton’s ‘Everybody’. Look no further for a feel-good, summer anthem. If, however, you want some down-time try Maysa Leak’s ‘More Than You Know’. With its Bacharach waltz-time piano and heartfelt melody, it’s right up there with the lady’s best. But there are lots of other great cuts too … too many to detail. Disappointment? Well, in truth Rahsaan Patterson’s ‘Dream Flight’ doesn’t quite make it. The song starts brightly – typically Patterson – but it seems to get lost amidst some unfocused rock guitar in the middle. Still, the rest of the album truly satisfies and like I said up top, it’s all real, modern soul.