DAVE HOLLISTER; The MANUscript (Shanachie/Top Notch/Conjunction Ent)

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Chicago-born Dave Hollister served his music internship under the tutelage of Teddy Riley and with Blackstreet they cut some of the most enduring soul and R&B of the 90s. Hollister went solo in 1998 and a slew of albums (both secular and religious) have kept him firmly in the spotlight.

This new ten tracker sees Hollister team up with hot writing team Candice Nelson and Belewa Muhammad who’ve previously created hits for Beyonce, Mary J Blige, Angie Stone and, yes, Britney Spears and Justin Bieber. Don’t worry though…. what they bring to this particular recording has more to do with Mary and Angie that Britney and Justin! Indeed, one of the writing duo’s previous clients guests on ‘The MANUscript’. The lovely Angie Stone brings her warm and soulful tones to one of the album highlights, ‘Receipts’. The song is a sort of soul soap opera with Dave and Angie playing the roles of partners who’ve been in unsatisfactory relationships. Needless to say they’ve now found each other and should live happily ever after (hopefully!). The cut is one of many that carry the albums key message… yes, “love, really, is the message”. Hollister (an ordained pastor in the World Assembly Church) wants to celebrate love and show praise and respect for women, so often objectified in soul and R&B.

Hear that message most clearly on the album opener, the quite lovely, ‘Definition Of A Woman’. Musically it’s a mix of modern R&B and classic soul. Hollister’s gritty tenor is superbly emotive… maybe, because he dedicates the song to his wife of 8 years, Ayana. Whatever, it’s mesmerising. Little wonder it impacted the charts as the LP’s first single.

Amongst other highlights are the finger-clickin’ ‘Ooh Ya Ya’, the sweet ballad ‘One Great Love’ (Dave says this is a homage to Alexander O’Neal) and the more complex ‘Barbershop’. Then there’s the blues-tinged ‘Blind’, the heavy ‘Geometry’ and gospel-inflected ‘Let Him’. Yep, there’s lots that’s good here… and so pleasing to have a soul/R&B album that is consistently optimistic and positive.

(B) 4/5