VARIOUS; Soul Life (Expansion)


Album wise, modern soul folk look forward eagerly to two annual releases…. both, by the way, on brand leader, Expansion Records. First, at the beginning of the year there’s the regular ‘Luxury Soul’ collection, then, later in the year, the annual ‘Soul Togetherness’ package. (That one, by the way, is in its 16th year!) Expansion now have added a third modern soul compilation to their catalogue… this one, ‘Soul Life’. Expansion head boy, Ralph Tee explains in the liner notes that ‘Soul Life’ is a little different to his stable’s two mainstays. He says, quite rightly, that all the music on the long player is “new” (collectors will remember that ‘Luxury Soul’ and ‘Togetherness’ always include a couple of venerated oldies) but maybe not “brand new”. Many of the tunes on the 16 tracker have been around for a few months but,,sure, none could be called “oldies”.

Modern soul collectors will already be familiar with lots of the material here – stuff like Paul Johnson’s wonderful ‘Better Than This’ (here in its Frankie Knuckles Classic mix), Cool Million’s zippy ‘Don’tcha Wanna Dance’ (Marc Evans on vocals), Kenya’s ‘I Can’t Help It’ (in a new “Sugaboom” mix) and Robin McKelle’s still remarkable ‘Control Yourself’… in the rightly vaunted Opolopo mix. That one is such a great cut and Ms McKelle sings the socks off some of the other aspiring divas featured on the album… bags of soul in this particular slice of modern soul.

Elsewhere, ‘Brighter Tomorrow’ from the Diplomats of Soul with assistance from Incognito and Imaani kicks the album off brilliantly… but with a line up like that you’d expect nothing else would you? More surprising, maybe, is the quality of ‘So Good’ from French duo Sparkles. This one’s a Chic-inspired bass-heavy dancer that was a floor filler at January’s Blackpool Luxury Soul Weekender… and we’re proud to say that SOULANDJAZZANDFUNK was the first UK media to feature Sparkles (check our archive).

There are loads more great dancers too – from people like Tom Glide, Tasha Page-Lockhart, Sheree Brown and Russia’s finest, Olga Makovetskaya. UK soul man Chris Ballin provides the album’s main down-tempo moment – a broody ‘Endlessly’ while the ever-dependable Marc Staggers keeps the spirit of Luther Vandross alive with ‘Bring Me Back’ – one of many highlights in a collection that modern soul collectors are hoping will be just the first volume in a long running Expansion series.

(BB) 4/5