NOEL GOURDIN: City Heart, Southern Soul (Shanachie/Top Notch)

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‘City Heart, Southern Soul’ is Noel Gourdin’s third full, solo album. The Boston soul man debuted back in 2008 when his single ‘The River’ hit #1 on the US R&B chart. Released on Sony, that major label was disappointed when the source album stalled and as is the way (sadly) these days with major labels, Noel was ignominiously dropped. We’re told that a serious bout of depression followed before Gourdin resurfaced on the indie label Mass Appeal with a decent set called ‘Fresh – The Definition’. If you reference our reviews archive you’ll see that we likened his sound on the LP to the music peddled by Rafael Saadiq with maybe shades of Joe, Avant and Anthony Hamilton. We also said that though the album was workmanlike it just lacked one big tune. Well, our man returns on a new label and though his sound is still pitched in that “new for old” kind of soul, ‘City Heart, Southern Soul’ does boast some “big tunes”!

First up the steppers and soul dancers will love ‘Spotlight Lovin’, ‘Foxxxy’ and the ultra sweet ‘Photography’… sophisticated foot tappers, all. Old school soul fans will delight in ‘Patience’ and ‘Come Over’. That latter is a heartfelt homage to the sound of Hi… urgent yet tempered brass and a soulful vocal that would’ve made old Willie Mitchell smile. ‘Patience’ has a heritage that goes further back. The template for this finger clickin’ goodie is dear Sam Cooke. Though he was taken from us in 1964, his presence still looms large over serious soul contenders… yes, you can include Noel Gourdin in that. The faster ‘No Worries’ has its roots in classic soul too… no wonder stations like Jazz FM have playlisted it. ‘Can’t Wait’ is another album highlight. This one – a duet with Avery Sunshine – is much more contemporary as is the edgy ‘Don’t You Wanna’. Much sweeter is the string-filled closer, ‘I Want You (Regardless)’

After his false start with Sony, ‘City Heart, Southern Soul’ proclaims that Noel Gourdin has finally arrived… and arrived in some style, crafting a music that is contemporary soul yet with respectful roots in our favourite music’s classic era.

(BB) 4/5