Despite the trials and tribulations going down right now, proper soul fans can console themselves with the knowledge that 2022 has been a vintage year for classy soul releases. We’re just over half way through the year and we’ve enjoyed great long players from people like Laura Rain. Mica Millar, Mamas Gun and more recently Thee Sacred Souls and now, helping continue the quality trajectory, the Harlem Gospel Travellers are releasing their seconds album – ‘Look Up’ and even a casual listen will force you to elevate it into any kind of “years best” listings!
First a few details. Despite their name, the Travelers aren’t precisely from Harlem! But they all are Native New Yorkers and, here’s the link, they came together in Harlem to work under the auspices of blue-eyed soul star Eli “Paperboy” Reed. Originally a quartet, they debuted on Colemine Records in 2019 with the LP ‘He’s On Time’ and now, trimmed to a trio (Thomas Gatling, George Marage and Dennis Bailey), they issue their sophomore set this Friday 26th August.
The album was prefaced by a couple of singles… ‘Look Up’ (the album’s title track) and ‘Hold Your Head Up’, The former was/is an energetic outing with the guys trading vocals in best harmony group fashion while the latter was/is riff-heavy and insistent. Both songs draw on the classic gospel tradition but are also totally contemporary.
Someone , somewhere coined the adjective “retrophile” to describe the delivery of new music with a respectful nod to the past and there’s plenty more of that amongst this album’s 11 tracks. If you enjoy fire and brimstone, call and response, handclapping, testifying gospel, then you’ll enjoy the frantic ‘God’s In Control’ and the much more restrained ‘God Will Take Care Of You’ with comes complete with a spoken sermon.
Highlights for this old soul collector though are ‘Help Me To Understand’ (shades of the Impressions’ ‘Lord I Gotta Keep On Moving’), ‘Nothing But His Love’ and the joyous ‘That’s The Reason’ – two of the best retro sounds I’ve heard this year – classic soul group harmony cuts!
Elsewhere, the Northern crowd might be swept away by the pace of ‘I’m Grateful ‘while there’s a hint of psycho soul/blaxploitation on ‘Fight On’ – both adding variety to this excellent collection.
Now, for sure, this is a gospel album and if you’re a believer I’m confident the album will become a mainstay on your turntable or in whatever way you hear your music. If you’re not a believer, but profess to love soul, then I’ll guarantee that you can’t fail to be moved by the energy, commitment, passion and sonic assault of this album!