RICHARD EARNSHAW: In Time (Label: Groovefinder)

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Richard Earnshaw is a key figure in the crazy world of UK soulful house music. After graduating from London University with a music degree he was won over by the freedom of expression he found in jazz, soul , funk and house and he soon immersed himself in making his own music which seamlessly and skilfully fused those four elements together. He’s produced, arranged, engineered , mixed and played on countless tracks but, surprisingly, ‘In Time’ is his first “proper” full album… but what a little corker it is! The almost nine minute title cut is clearly the key track – a summation of what Earnshaw is chiefly about. It’s a loping dancer that is already finding huge favour amongst both the modern soul crew and the soulful house brigade. It rides a big groove but when it’s all going nicely, Earnshaw changes the mood with a slow, harmonic passage before allowing James Vargas’ sax to bring it all back together. Roy Ayers adds his distinctive vibes to the mix and the sweeping vocals is down to Nuwavonic’s Erik Dillard. Dillard also takes lead on the album’s opener – ‘Good Love’ – which offers more of the same soulful house moves. The legendary Jocelyn Brown is on top gospel-esque form on ‘Worthy’ – again a blistering dancer , but Earnshaw is savvy enough to know that for an album to gain real respect and decent longevity it needs real variety – and he offers plenty. Outstanding is the straight soul of ‘My Door Is Open’, featuring the wonderful Carleen Anderson on lead vocal. You’ll hear echoes of all the bands the lady’s worked with and it’s a topped with a delightful piano break from Earnshaw himself. It’s a great tune. A little lighter are ‘Circles’ (featuring Nina Jayne) and ‘Waiting’ which sees Kenny Thomas back to his very best. Different again are the Ursula Rucker spoken-word piece, ‘Rise’ (more great input from Roy Ayers), the sweet ballad – ‘Young And Foolish’ (Natasha¬†Young sings here) and the innovative treatment of ‘Cry Me A River’ with Imogen Ryall on vocal. The LP’s completed by the spacey instrumental ‘Green Room’ on which Earnshaw allows the band (his brother, Matthews (drums); Matt Gray (bass); Tom Mills (guitar) and James Vargas (sax)) to stretch a little. Hard to put a tag on this album – not such a bad thing- but plenty of quality music for soul and house fans to enjoy.
(BB) 4/5