TRACY HAMLIN: No Limits (Expansion)


‘No Limits’ is Baltimore soulstress, Tracy Hamlin’s fourth long player as a soloist. She previously worked, of course, with the Jasper Street Co. and Pieces of a Dream. ‘No Limits’ was heralded by the soul chart topping single ‘Standby’. Avid soul followers will know (and love) the tune by now. With a big production, it rides a great finger, clicking old school soul groove and though it’s good, it not the only goodie on the 14 tracker.

For starters try the LP’s title track. It possesses an insistent, contemporary groove but when you get to the hook you know that (like most of the album) Ms Hamlin’s roots are firmly in old school. I’m guessing though that inveterate sleeve/credit readers will go straight to the two tunes on the album which feature connoisseurs’ hero Frank McComb. Mr. Mc first crops up on the sensual ‘Plans For Two’. Here he adds his signature Fender Rhodes to his own lazy, laid back song on which there’s a definite Anita Baker/jazz undertow. On ‘My Good Day’ Frank goes one further and adds his distinctive vocal to what is a real album standout. The LP’s other biggie is the driven ‘I Love Soul Music’. It’s a sentiment that we all agree with of course but Tracy’s delivery shows why we do. The song obliquely references ‘Dancing In The Street’ while one of the lines sums up Tracy’s mission statement as presented on the album: “just a little bit of old and a little bit of new“!

Elsewhere there’s a great cover of Webster Lewis’s ‘Emotion’, a tender ballad, ‘One Day In Your Life’ (not the Jacko song) and a loose n’ funky ‘Same Song’. Die hard soul fans might feel that ‘Forever With You’ veers just a little too much to the middle of the road (one of those big Whitney style ballads) while the less adventurous may baulk at ‘Cover Me’ in both offered versions. They may prove minor irritations and they’re more than made up for by the rest of the set. Like the lady said: “just a little bit of old and a little bit of new”!

(BB) 4/5