Church-reared Chicago soulstress Raja-Nee has enjoyed a career of two distinct halves. Her first big secular opening came when Marshall Thompson asked her to join him on tour with the Chi-LItes and it’s her sweet voice you can hear helping out on the group’s ‘Just Say You Love Me’ album. Raja then joined the Jam and Lewis stable scoring US hits with ‘Turn It Up ‘and ‘Walking Away With It’ but her career trajectory stuttered when Jam and Lewis’ Perspective Records ran into trouble.
Fast forward to the 2020s and Raja re-entered the soul fray with the 2021 single ‘Come Get This Love’. More classy singles followed and tunes like ‘Love In A Groove’, Rolling At Midnight’ and latterly ‘Take My Breath’ were all well received by knowing members of the soul community – those who can differentiate between real soul music and feigned commitment.
With the release of each single we were told a full album was on its way and at long last, said LP is with us. It’ a seemingly oddly titled, ‘The Sovereign Of 14742’. We’re told that that title refers to the address where she grew up in Harvey, Illinois and indeed the album is dedicated to her family. The art work resembles, in places, her family album and the obvious warmth and sincerity she feels towards her family is evident in the music.
The LP offers 12 tracks and two interludes – one is a tribute from her brother Max, the other a rather spooky monologue. But it’s the music that counts and for those “knowing members of the soul community” we mentioned up top there’s plenty to treasure. The four singles are included and they’ve lost none of their charm. The big, optimistic ‘Love In A Groove’ will still get you moving!
Of the fresh material a version of Bacharach and David’s ‘One Less Bell To Answer’ stands out probably because of its familiarity. The take is a gentle builder with graceful Earl Klugh acoustic guitar adding depth. I’m guessing the guitarist is Raja’s long-time collaborator Wilfred Frelix. Elsewhere ‘I Adore You’ is both catchy and insistent while ‘My Window’ betrays both the singer’s gospel background and her world experience.
Despite all sorts of difficulties, artists like Raja-Ne keep the flag flying high for proper indie soul. They totally deserve our support. ‘The Sovereign Of 14742’ is out now via Raja’s web site https://vreel.page/rajanee and it’s also on Bandcamp – https://raja-nee.bandcamp.com/releases. However, to avoid exorbitant shipping costs, Raja has also made a limited number of special signed copies of the CD available to soul scribe Mark Turner of the excellent Soul Strutter web site/blog. You can learn more about those CDs here https://soulstrutter.blogspot.com/2022/08/raja-nee-2022-sovereign-of-14742-jarf_26.html where you can also sample the music.