DJ Spen’s been at the top of the dance pile now for more years than even he would care to remember and this new 15 tracker shows why. The man simply loves his music and crafts everything with a real passion and commitment – no doubt fired by his Gospel-reared beliefs. Spen’s also one of the few dance jocks to have supporters right across the spectrum and much of his work is as revered by the knowing soul crowd as it is by the house heads.
The man’s roots are in Gospel and soul and here he shows those credentials in a number of ways. First up he chooses to cover a soul connoisseurs’ classic – Eddie Kendricks’ ‘He’s A Friend’. Spen cranks it up a few notches and Kenny Bobien’s frail falsetto captures much of the essence of the Kendricks classic. Proper soul fans will love it, as they will the great mid-tempo groove that is ‘It’s About That Time’. LeRoyal’s vocal is superbly smooth and the beats are tight and irresistible; modern soul folk must investigate. They’ll also (I’m sure) be intrigued by the tune ‘Stranger’. This one’s a loping, house bouncer but it owes just a little something to Barbara Lewis’ ‘Hello Stranger’!
Gospel flavours? Well, many of the tunes have a wonderful testifying righteousness that will recall the work of the Jasper St. Company and the chosen vocalists have the same Church-reared credentials… none more so than the mighty Ann Nesby. The sometime Sounds Of Blackness lead kicks things off with the relentless opener, ‘I Feel’. The set’s other divas include Tracy Hamlin (who nails ‘Thanks To You’), Cinnamon Brown (on the energized ‘Searchin”) and recent Apollo Talent Show winner Typheni (who gives it all on ‘Because I Love You’).
The instrumental ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is another album highlight. This features some sparkling keys from Gary Hudgins. It’s ultra catchy and Spen’s beats keep it on just the soulful side of smooth jazz. I think it works better than another instrumental cut, ‘Transition’. It’s the album’s title track, of course, and features some light rock guitar from Spen’s son, Kyle and between them the team try to cook up a Santana flavour. Another quirky cut is Spen’s version of ‘Stone Fox Chase’… the tune that was used as the theme to ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’. Here the famous harmonica part is taken by New Orleans’ Anthony “Swamp Dog” Clark (no relation, of course, to the much more famous Swamp Dogg!). The Dog with one “G” adds a real bluesy flavour to proceedings – adding even more variety to an album that’s plenty varied already.