WARD BROWN: Where I Should Be (Early Park)

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Chicago’s Ward Brown came to prominence with Brown’s Bag and tracks like ‘Fall In Love’ and ‘Rain’ won him fans from right across the knowing soul community. For the past few years Ward’s been working on this – his latest solo effort and it’s professionalism, polish and adherence to old school soul values is bound to keep those previous fans happy and win him countless more.

The sweet little nine tracker, which has been co-produced with Raymond Earl of Instant Funk, has plenty of sweet ballads of the type that dominated the Brown’s Bag album. ‘Privacy’, ‘Close To You’, ‘The Key’ and ‘You’re All I Need’ are all slinky slowies that would grace any late night radio station’s Quiet Storm spot. ‘Happy Anniversary’ is another ballad – but it comes across as more heartfelt. Riding a great little hook, it may well remind you in places of Teddy Pendergrass or Bobby Womack – though Ward’s vocal avoids the ferocity of both those great singers.

‘Love Is On My Mind’ and ‘The Beg ‘are different again. The former is a beautiful mid-tempo soul groove that owes more than something to ‘Inner City Blues’. I think it’s the melody… but then again Raymond Earl’s loping bass lines recall that classic too. Earl is also to the fore on ‘The Beg’. Here the whole Instant Funk team are on hand to deliver a modern funk cruncher that really rumbles along.

That leaves the album’s outstanding cut – ‘Last Call’. This is a sophisticated dancer that is already making considerable waves on the underground soul dance scene. It’s easy to hear why. It has a lovely melody, a great hook, the right, underplayed vocal approach from Ward and the best modern soul beats you’ll hear in a long while. It’s the perfect modern soul room confection… as if all the elements that make that particular genre so attractive and infectious have been fed into a computer and re-assembled to create a classic. They haven’t, of course. The track is testimony to Ward Brown’s soul knowledge and experience. He (along with Raymond Earl) know what’s required … and they deliver!

To find out more, go to our interview archive for an exclusive head to head with Ward.

(BB) 4/5