NOEL GOURDIN: (Fresh) The Defintion (Mass Appeal)

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Boston’s Noel Gourdin enjoyed the limelight back in 2008 when his country soul song ‘The River’ sailed all the way to the no 1 spot on the US R&B charts. His then label, Sony/Epic put him with people like Raphael Saadiq, Kay Gee and Salaam Remi for his first album – ‘After My Time’. The LP briefly entered the top 40, but stalled after moving 78,000 units and a disappointed Sony/Epic dropped him! Subsequent musings from Noel suggest that the relationship had never been good and he was glad of the parting – allowing him to sign with his home town label Mass Appeal Entertainment. ‘(Fresh) The Defintion’ is the result of the new deal and it’s an honest, contemporary soul set which though self-produced ( with help from Alvin Garrett) owes something to the people he worked with on that debut LP – notably Saadiq who seems to specializse in that “new for old” kind of soul sound. Indeed the ex Toni man is a good reference point though in Gourdin’s style and delivery you can also detect shades of Joe, K-Ci and Jo Jo, Avant and even Anthony Hamilton – though he’s not quite as gruff.

The album’s signature sound is best defined by ‘Brand New (Fresh)’. It has a warmth that sort of draws you in and the light keyboard fills are a perfect counter point to Gourdin’s soul filled vocals. It’s a beautifully blended song… all the elements gel. Ditto the catchy opening pair – ‘In Love’ and ‘Puppet’. The set features a number of strong ballads – notably ‘Been a Long Time’ and ‘Only You’. The former wears a magical lilt while the latter rides in on a churchy organ that could’ve been recorded at Hi. There’s little here that will appeal to the dance fraternity though ‘Change For You’ might encourage the shufflers while ‘Save Our Love’ is neat and clipped but doesn’t quite take off.

The jury I’m sitting on is still undecided about the pseudo steamy ‘Sex In The City’ (some might say it’s all been done before) while ‘No Regrets’ is a bit too dramatic a ballad to fit with the LP’s central sonic feel but Mr. G brings plenty of that “new/old” soul feeling to it. It’s, I think, the artist’s attempt at one big song but it doesn’t quite make it. And on reflection that’s what this album lacks – one big song. That would turn a perfectly decent modern soul set into an excellent album.

(BB) 3/5