An album isn’t the accepted medium to present soulful house. Aside from compilations there aren’t that many out there (compared to other genres) and those that are out there aren’t that good. One artist who bucks that trend, however, is DJ Spen. Young (!) Mr Spencer’s last full album was released 6 years ago, I think. That album was ‘Transitions’ and it spawned a plethora of anthems – none bigger that the Natasha Watts vocalised ‘Know You’. It’s been a while but Spen’s back in fine style with a new 12 tracker, ‘Soulful Storm,’ – a title that is absolutely bob on. The music is soulful throughout and between them, Spen his co-mixers, musicians and cherry-picked vocalists brew up a proper storm!
Some of the included tunes will be familiar already to soulful house heads. Spen has been drip feeding tracks form the album over the last few months. Most recent of those was the gospel-fuelled ‘I Got the Love’ featuring the powerhouse vocals of Carla Prather. Before that there was the lovely cover of EWF’s ‘Keep Your Head to the Sky’ featuring contemporary soul man Cornell CC Carter. You also get the opportunity to revisit ‘Party People’ (Crystal Waters at the mic here on the MicFreak mix) and ‘I Wish I Didn’t Miss You’ complete with the classic ‘Backstabbers’ sample and with Tasha LaRae taking the Angie Stone part.
If you didn’t already know, the above surely proves that Spen is an old soul man at heart and ‘Soulful Strom’ is brimming with more classic soul covers – like ‘Mr Melody’. Here Sheila Ford takes on the Natalie Cole role in real classy jazzy style and Spen does a fab job re-creating the wonderfully uplifting Salsoul/Philly sound – dig those Montana-style vibes! The other big cover is a take on Maxwell’s ‘Sumthin’ Sumthin’’. Vocalist Brandon Yancey and Spen with a little help from Gary Hudgins quite transform a familiar tune while showing it all the respect it deserves. It’s a lovely surprise. However, the biggest surprise is saved for the end with ‘Goin’ Home (To See My Saviour)’. With the help of Soulfuledge, the Basement Boy crafts a sublime album closer – a curious cocktail of percussive house, country blues, crazy harmonica and gospel tones… sounds bonkers but it absolutely works! It’s a proper labour of love – indeed, a great way to describe the whole album. Spen and his cohorts don’t do too many albums… a case of quality over quantity. Spen says: ” I think on ‘Soulful Storm’ many people will relate to the messages of love, frustration, resilience, and even fun. I truly hope that this collection of songs will move your soul. Enjoy.” Amen brother!