HESTON: Story Teller (Label: Dome)

HESTON: Story Teller

First there was epic movie star, Charlton; then celeb chef, Blumenthal‚Ķ now, well, there’s just Heston – a sweet voiced, soul singer who made some ripples in 2005 with a well-received EP. Now, working out of Atlanta, he delivers his first full LP – ‘Story Teller’ – and it’s a corker! In fact the www.soulandjazzandfunk.com jury consider this album’s opening sequence one of the strongest we’ve come across in a long, long time. The opener, ‘My Baby’ is a brisk and pacey dancer with zipping strings and punchy brass. It’s a very, very tasty hors d’ouevre for ‘Distant Lover’ and ‘Easy’. The first of those two isn’t the Marvin song but it has the same irresistible groove and a wonderful melody to match; the second (no, not the Commodores’ song – another original) is a touch slower, but it proves the perfect vehicle for Heston’s smooth and sweet vocal. Next up there’s a ballad that will remind you of Maxwell at his peak. ‘No Way, No How’ is sweet but not cloying and has a strange oxymoronic vague focus. ‘Your Perfume’ is another gentle confection with a lovely atmosphere. It’s quite lovely, but what follows is even better. ‘Radio’ is a piece of proper, modern soul music. It has everything – great melody, easy pace, believable vocal, real horns and a haunting organ. Together, those opening six songs have real quality and in fairness it would be difficult to maintain such a high standard and though what follows is (by and large) decent modern soul music nothing amongst the remaining nine cuts matches the majesty of that opening half dozen. For the record the best of that rest are – ‘Brand New You’ which features some pleasing Latin, acoustic guitar; ‘Feel Like Dancing’, which is laced with a reggae flavour – betraying Heston’s Caribbean roots; and the positively jaunty ‘Hello Sunday’. There are also two big “statement” songs. The first is ‘Good Morning America’. Its anti-war theme is admirable but it’s just a little too heavy and the second – a personal musical reminiscence -‘Songbirds’ is just too much of a set piece and I was disarmed by the melodic similarities to ‘Walking In Memphis’. However, neither detract from the soulfulness of the album and on lesser sets they’d stand out. Here, though, they’re sequenced after some serious, top-notch modern soul which points to a promising future for young Mr. H.
(BB) 4/5