BILLY VALENTINE: The Universal Truth (Flying Dutchman/Acid Jazz)

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By now there can’t be too many serious soul folk who don’t know about this album , ‘Billy Valentine and the Universal Truth’. Over the last several months it’s been flagged up by a series of singles – Billy’s emotive cover of dear Curtis Mayfield’s ‘We The People Who Are Darker Than Blue’, a disturbing  take on Gil-Scott Heron’s harrowing ‘Home Is Where The Hatred Is’ and  a powerful  treatment  of Eddie Kendricks’ song ‘My People…Hold On’. All were greeted with huge praise  by critics and fans  – fans of both soul and jazz. Billy has a true soul voice while the players include some stellar jazz and neo-soul names – people like  Larry Goldings, Jeff Parker, Pino Paladino, James Gadson, Linda May Oh, Alex Acuña, Amber Navram, Joel Ross and Immanuel Wilkins.

The eight track album wins official release this week and delivers more of what those earlier singles offered. You may well know, but to recap, the idea behind the collection was for Billy  to offer songs of significance and provocation… songs  that reflect the social, racial, political  and economic turmoil that we all currently  struggle with. In that mission he had the full support of Bob Thiele Jr who resurrected his father’s iconic ‘Flying Dutchman imprint especially for the album.

The three album heralding singles still have the power to disturb, notably the version of ‘My People…Hold On’ which delivers a powerful vocal supported by biting guitar work and an  eerie vibraphone break while Mayfield’s ‘Darker Than Blue’ is just a beautiful song.

The LP’s five other tracks are also powerful statements that disturb and provoke in equal measure. They are Pharaoh Sanders/Leon Thomas’ ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’, the gospel standard ‘Wade In The Water’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘You Haven’t Done Nothin’ Yet’, Prince’s ‘Sign Of The Times’ and War’s ‘The World Is a Ghetto’. Individually each song delivers real impact, an impact that is more forceful given that the album is a  concise eight tracks long.

Perhaps we should leave the last word to Bob Thiele Jr. He says: “At the heart of every great spiritual teaching is the invitation for each of us to do something meaningful whether small in size or large. And as my late friend Bob Neuwirth used to ask of an artist, ‘But do you have something to say…?’ It is with those two principles in mind that we make this humble offering.”

Find out more about Billy Valentine and this album via out recent interview…

(BB) 5/5