We first became aware of multinational band OUTPUT/INPUT at the back end of 2021 when they released the lovely, aptly titled ‘Soul Deep’. We learned that Output/Input were a band of seasoned music biz veterans who between them had worked with people like Chaka Khan, George Duke, Christina Aguilera, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and Dave Koz. Little wonder that their ‘Soul Deep’ ticked all the right boxes. We further discovered that this “new” outfit were marshalled by Chaka Khan’s MD, Melvin Lee Davis and that he decided to put the band together during the various lockdowns, recording remotely with like-minded musicians in their own studios. Two of those “like minded” guys were AWB alumni, drummer Steve Ferrone and Hamish Stuart who delivered the ‘Soul Deep’ vocals.
The band’s next single maintained the soul quality. It was a gorgeous cover of the Isley Brothers’ ‘Here We Go Again’ which featured a twin lead vocal from Audrey Wheeler and Brent Carter and when Expansion Records released the track on 7” vinyl it was paired with a quality modern soul groove, ‘Eye To Eye’. With a great vocal from Sharon Pearson, the 45 flew off Expansion’s shelves.
More singles followed and ‘I’m In Love’, ‘Smiling Faces’(No, not the Motown warhorse!), ‘Someone I Used To Love’ and ‘Really No Chance’ proved that those two earlier singles were no soul-flashes-in-the pan! If you don’t know ‘em, ‘I’m In Love’ is a stately mid-tempo groove, ‘Smiling Faces’ is a crisp dancer, ‘Someone I Used To Love’ is an endearing but never-sentimental ballad and ‘Really No Chance’ offers more soulful fuel for the soles! Those first three featured Vandross-flavoured vocals from Antonio McLendon (we can offer no greater praise than that) while Katie Holmes-Smith fronts ‘Really No Chance’.
So a plethora of fine singles but what about an album I hear you ask? Well – good news, Output/Input have just delivered their debut long player, ‘Forward Motion’ and if you missed the singles, then five of them are included on the set (the “missing” ones are ‘Soul Deep’ and ‘Eye To Eye’.) That, we think, leaves six “new” songs – all of which once again deliver the soul goods. The track winning plenty of plays at the moment is a new version of O’Bryan’s 1981 song ‘Doin’ Alright’ fronted here by O’Bryan himself. Discerning jocks, however, could hit any track and come up trumps – there are no duds here! Right now we’re really liking another McLendon vocalised track, ‘Time Of Our Lives’.
On that one and throughout, the core band (a group of experienced players from all over the place – even South Korea!) and the fabulous Triple H Horns (Nick Mead, Jacob Shaw, Patrick Hayes) provide sympathetic and groove heavy accompaniment helping to make ‘Forward Motion’ one of 2023’s best soul albums. Don’t just take our word for it though! Check out all the credible soul charts and you’ll see the LP sitting at the top… and righty so!
Output/Input’s ‘Forward Motion’ is out now digitally. The CD will be good to go from August 18th with vinyl in the pipeline!