THE CHESTNUT BROTHERS: Retro Soul (Label: Abent)

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This album’s had lots of positive reactions since its release in the States in the Autumn and it’s easy to hear why. Despite its titling, ‘Retro Soul’ has lots of lovely modern soul on it – with one cut in particular vying to be on of 2008’s best individual cuts. The song in question is the gentle, optimistic ‘Choose Your Destiny’. It’s one of those recordings where everything seems to come together ; the melody is a delight, the vocals sweet though not cloying, the arrangement’s well-crafted and, along with the rhythm, complement the song’s lyrical sentiment. Yes, that sentiment is a big one but it’s delivered personally and as such works, unlike the other “big issue” songs on the set – ‘What’s Going On’ (not the Marvin classic) and ‘The People’. On those, the concerned platitudes are almost thrown away, while the reggae vibe of the latter is out of kilter with the rest of the album – as are the rocky ‘My Lovey Dovey’, the obvious blues of ‘Dem Down Home Bluze’ and the heavy R&B of ‘Stop The Violence’. Much, much better is ‘Not Ready 4 Love’ – the cut which has the most retro (as defined in the LP’s title) feeling about it. It’s a bit like some of the stuff on Raphael Saadiq’s latest album, though not as “produced”. Elsewhere the album boasts some lovely ballads. ‘Mountain Of Love’ is a beautiful group-style harmony thing that betrays the Brother’s Philly upbringing. ‘Come To Me’ is a little more dramatic but possesses a deal of old school magic (think the Persuaders) while ‘We’ve Got Love’ is another beguiling charmer. The album’s completed by two new takes on Al and Tyrone’s 1990 hit ‘Whole Lot Of You In Me’ and a rambling, erratic ‘Girls’. None of that trio, though, matches the insinuating charm of ‘Choose Your Destiny’ or the highlighted ballads, which make this collection a must for investigation.
(BB) 4/5