The magnificent ANTHONY HAMILTON has been a soul presence for most of the century – but he’s been a little quiet of late. So big hurrah – after a five year hiatus our man’s back with this wonderful, well-constructed and satisfying album. Good things come to those who wait!
‘Love Is The New Black’ is a 14 tracker and generally it’s a late night sort of affair – proper grown up soul music typified by tunes like the moody opener ‘Coming Home’, the lovely title tune, the romantic ‘White Hennessy’ and the superb ‘I Thought We Were In Love’. That last one reminded me right away of the Dells – the atmosphere, the pace, that attack and the harmonies all referenced the mighty Chicago group; then again towards the end Hamilton riffs into the Blue Notes ‘I Miss You’. Harold Melvin’s group of course owed much to the Dells and I don’t know if Hamilton’s’ references are intentional but, like I just said, it’s proper grown up soul music.
Another of the focus cuts is a cover of the Leon Russell chestnut ‘Superstar’. The tune’s been recorded countless times (Luther anybody?) and here Hamilton does it his own way – building another thing of beauty and, to help him deliver, he drafts in Jennifer Hudson. They create a classic soul duet.
Up to now you’d think this an album for romantics – but there’s much more going on. ‘Mama Don’t Cry’ is Hamilton’s reaction to the George Floyd affair and its aftermath and it really does hit home. Then right at the end there are a couple of cuts that seem a little out of kilter with the album’s overall atmosphere. They are the crunk-fuelled ‘I’m Ready’ with aggressive input from L’il Jon and the R&B workout that is ‘Real Love’ with rapping from Rick Ross. The soul crowd are notoriously conservative and my guess is that they’ll reach for skip here. Their loss – ‘cos you can hear where Mr H is coming from and that magnificent old school soul voice is always worth a listen.
So welcome back Anthony! Don’t keep us waiting another 5 years!