Real soul fans already know all about Eli “Paperboy” Reed. His first two indie albums – ‘Sings Walkin’ And Talkin’ and Other Smash Hits’ and ‘Roll With You’ – were massively popular on the underground soul circuit and rightly praised on specialised sites (like this one!!!). That special acclaim was achieved without hype or big marketing budgets and speaks volumes for the soulful quality of the music and Reed’s remarkable, authentic soul voice – honed into shape, it seems, in the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta, the gospel churches of Chicago’s South Side and the cool, cellar clubs of Brooklyn. As is often the way with indie and underground hit makers, the big labels soon come a-calling and Reed signed with Capitol in the States. We don’t know the details of the deal of course but you can bet The Paperboy didn’t come cheap. Naturally, the label therefore needs to recap its investment ASAP, so here they’ve teamed Reed with hot shot producer Mike Elizondo (he’s scored countless hits with the likes of Eminem, Pink and Gwen Stefani) and the pair have gone into the studio to capitalize on what they both know Reed does best – recreate the fabulous soul sounds of the 60s and they’ve done just that – absolutely perfectly… maybe too perfectly. It sounds as if the pair drew up a list of some of the great 60’s soul stylists and labels and tried to cut an almost sound-alike track on each one. First obvious reference point is the whole Stax/Memphis soul sound. ‘Name Calling’, ‘Help Me’ and the album’s title cut are big, bold, brash and brassy and are wonderful homages to the men from Mclemore Avenue. ‘I Found You Out’ is another big sound – built around the riffs from ‘In The Midnight Hour’, while on ‘Tell Me What I Wanna Hear’ you’ll think immediately of Joe Tex; the gospel feel of ‘You Can Run On’ is redolent of Sam Cooke, while the guitar on the country-soul song ‘Time Will Tell’ might make you think Steve Cropper was guesting. Other obvious influences? Well, ‘Explosion’ is an attempt to recreate the energy of a James Brown track (it doesn’t quite work… not focused enough, methinks) while the pleasing opener, ‘Young Girl’ has melodic sequences that remind of ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me’. There’s absolute nothing wrong with these pastiches – chiefly ‘cos Reed’s passion and commitment carries the day and ‘Young Girl’ is a truly great cut – bettered only by the LP’s trio of ballads. ‘Just Like Me’ is as real pleader; ‘Pick your Battles’ is sweet with strings that hark back to Ray Charles’ ‘Modern Sounds In C&W’; while ‘Pick A Number’ is shaping up to be one of 2010’s best tunes. It’s hard to describe – but it’s a harmony slowie with elements of Philly sweetness, Chicago urbanity and Memphis grit (think an amalgam of the Intruders, the Radiants and the Mad Lads!). What makes it stand out, I think, is the fact that it’s underplayed. Where most of this album is bang in your face this one is a delicate delight and a 2010 must have.