RAY GREENE; Stay (Ubuntu Music)

Ray  Greene is a singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist based in Columbia, South Carolina. His name might not be that familiar to most but I’m guessing that serious soul collectors will have heard his work. You see Ray was lead vocalist (and sometime trombonist) with Tower Of Power between 2013 and 2016 and he was back with them for a stint in 2021. Since then he’s fronted Santana. Add to those two gigs, work with people like Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole, the Isley Brothers Rick James and a very special performance with the inspirational Maya Angelou at the Boston Opera House and you have quite a CV!

Ray pursues his own solo career too. He has three albums under his belt with this one, ‘Stay’ due for release on 14th April and even a cursory listen reveals a wonderful contemporary soul collection – with  the emphasis on “contemporary”. The 12 tracker that is ‘Stay’ doesn’t follow the current fashionable trend of “retro” soul – reinterpreting the sounds of soul’s golden era; rather, it proffers a fresh, 21st take on classic soul.

It’s obvious from the start with the set’s opener, a delicious ‘Shoulda Known Better’. There’s a Bobby Womack feel to this one – it’s the sort of thing that dear Bobby would’ve been crafting had he still been with us. It’s one of the best soul cuts I’ve heard this year. It’s followed by another quality cut – ‘Tell Her’, a sombre , Southern soul ballad which is then followed by a lighter ‘Real Woman’. This one is built around the riff from the 4 Tops ‘Ain’t No Woman’ – but it doesn’t set out to recreate it. No, it brings  the sentiment and feel of that classic right up to date. Those three opening tracks deliver quite a punch. I’ve not heard such a strong opening to an album for a long time.

‘Stay’ though yields plenty of other goodies. ‘I Wanna Know’  is another where you feel the presence of Bobby Womack while ‘Wish I Could Get Back’ is the crispest little beater you could ever hear – perfect for the more sedate dancers. If you like it a little more frantic then try the closing ‘Move Your Body’. The title says it all really but listen up to that deep, funky bass line.

For something a little different there are two tracks offering a Caribbean/reggae vibe – ‘My Lady’ and the breezy ‘Hole In Our Hearts’. Both add real variety  to the album which is held together by Ray’s magnificent true soul voice – reared in the traditions of classic soul, blues and, above all, gospel.

Ray Greene’s ‘Stay’ is released on Ubuntu Records on 14th April  and it come with a big SJF recommendation. But don’t take our word for it. Tower of Power’s Emilio Castillo says: “Ray’s a talent to be reckoned with. He’ll always be a member of the T o P family and I strongly urge you to check out this recording”.  

(BB) 4/5