Frank McComb is the soul mans’ soul man. Over the years he’s built himself a loyal coterie of fans who revere his sincere, smooth, sophisticated take on modern soul. Sadly, he’s little known in the mainstream and, again, sadly, I don’t think this new generous 17 tracker will change that situation. The sound of ‘Soulmate: Another Love Story’ is the signature McComb soul sound. It’s music that’s to be savoured for its intimacy, craft and emotion, a music that’s created to last and linger, rather than the quick-fix, wham-bam-thank-you-mam sounds that the mainstream seem to crave. Well that’s their loss! McComb connoisseurs, you see, will find lots to cherish here as their favourite troubadour peddles sounds that will still remind you of Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder but are uniquely Frank McComb.
Here the Hathaway connection is most apparent on the ultra gentle ‘We’re Gonna Be On Our Own’ (gorgeous muted horn solo here, by the way) while the Wonder comparison is most obvious on two particular cuts… ‘Soulmate’ itself and ‘She Needs True Love Too’. I’ve never really learned what Frank himself makes of the endless comparisons; I’m guessing he’s not that bothered, ‘cos here he goes the whole hog and offers a cover of a Stevie Wonder song… ‘Superstition’. Hard to believe but, honestly, Frank’s eight and a half minute workout outfunks the original; like all the best covers, the familiar is reconstructed as Mr Mc showcases both his keyboard dexterity (deep into Herbie Hancock territory) and those soulful baritone vocals.
Cherry picking on such a consistent long player is difficult, but one tune that does stand out is ‘Labelled As Love’ which features the ever-reliable Maysa. Clearly Ms Leak and Mr McComb are absolutely on the same wavelength and revel in this luscious, laid-back groove. This is one of the year’s best soul tunes… quite lovely. ‘This Love Of Ours’ is another immediate grabber. It’s a chunky, little beater with superb brass input and (like the version of ‘Superstition’) might surprise those who think of Frank McComb as a balladeer.
Aside from Maysa, other album guests include Najee and Avery Sunshine who joins Frank on what was the album’s first single, ‘Feelin’ Some KInda Way’ (one of, I think, four tracks that may be familiar via Frank’s 2015 Valentines day EP).
By my calculations, Frank McComb’s been making quality modern soul for something like 16 years and I think ‘Soulmate: Another Love Story’ is his ninth album. His legion of fans, me included, hope he can give us at least another 16 years and more albums like this one!