OSUNLADE: Rebirth (Label: Yoruba)


Yoruba recording artist, Osunlade’s long been known by both the esoteric soul crew and the discerning dance fraternity. Now with this new album there’s every chance that he’ll break through into the mainstream because with ‘Rebirth’ he’s crafted a long player that’s instantly accessible without sacrificing any of the quirky qualities that lent his previous work so much intrigue. ‘Rebirth’, you see, is a proper modern soul album. It’s not one of those currently popular efforts on which artists recycle classic 80s sounds and embellish them with clichéd riffs and lyrics. Rather, though the music on ‘Rebirth’ has it roots firmly in the past, every track attempts to offer something new… something a little different, and though it doesn’t always come off, when it does the results are truly soul satisfying… and straight away we can point at three cuts to make the point. First up, there’s ‘Paint Me A Picture’ which recalls the best of Stevie Wonder. It’s a gentle song garnished with delightful piano fills from Kalvin Dobbs and a lyric that offers optimism for 2010. Then there’s ‘The Dating Game’. Here again the flavour’s almost all Stevie but listen up to the killer hook in the chorus. Two great songs then, but both outshone by the quite beautiful ‘Butterfly’. We’re told that Osunlade’s been kicking the song round since the 90s but he’s only now come to record it. The wait’s been well worth it… great melody, another killer hook, sweet though not predictable brass and a double tracked vocal that might just make you dig out your old Donny Hathaway records… the track really is that good; modern soul at its very best. Elsewhere on the album you’ll hear echoes of Osunlade’s hero, Prince (‘Compatible’, ‘Willin’ and ‘Umakemesmile’) … though, be assured, it’s his own take on the Prince sound. There’s a hint of African hi-life on the insistent ‘Break It Down’ while ‘Glide’ is a neat, little clipped beater. Want something really different? Well the opener places itself at the indie end of the pop spectrum while the acoustic ‘Complacent’ offers harmonies that Crosby, Stills and Nash would be proud of. See what I mean about quirky? And though it might not fit everyone’s definition of soul… it will intrigue, and that’s the secret of the album. There’s plenty here to make demands on the listener… but those demands are tempered with the accessible beauty of stuff like the remarkable ‘Butterfly’.
(BB) 4/5