‘Soul Stories’ is US jazz guitarist Blake Aaron’s fifth solo album and it’s an accomplished collection of smooth jazz rather than the soul set that’s implied in the album title. In fairness it all begins with a great soul instrumental. ‘Groove-O-Matic’ features some tight beats and rides a great groove but I can’t help thinking that it could have been so much better with a vocal or some real horn input from, say, the Tower of Power people…. but ,hey, I know all about recording budgets.
There are two vocal tracks on the set. ‘You’re My Miracle’ – with vocals from Derek Bordeaux – is adult pop with just a nod to the Jeffery Osborne soul school; ‘You’re The One For Me’ features Spencer Day but it won’t trouble jazz or soul heads… file under AOR-lite.
The LP’s standout track is Aaron’s tribute to Wes Montgomery… ‘Wes Side Story’. With a Latin-lilt, this is smooth jazz as it should be. Elsewhere, ‘Sol Amor’ is an Earl Klugh style acoustic affair; ‘Europa’ is as spaced out as any ode to a planetary moon should be; ‘Story Of My Life’ is a lite bossa; and ‘Encantadara’ is an intricate jazz tune with Najee on flute. You also get a decent if uninspired version of Hall and Oates’ ‘Sara Smile’. Always a great tune, (“emotional and passionate” says Blake), this reading is fairly straight forward.
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