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Soul Express CD Review



FRAYNE
Frayne

US Omtown, 2005
Intro - Weekend - There Is Nothing Left - Aphrodisiac - Lay Back - Frayne's Soul lounge - Ooo Wee - Bump That - Interlude - Free - A Night To Remember - Trying Times - Frayne - For The Love Of You - There Is Nothing Left (hip hop version)
This is a very understated album and one that I feel could easily fall by the wayside. If you tend to judge an album like I can do sometimes on an initial skip through, then this album will not likely to leave your local record shop with you. After soaking up and assimilating this CD over the past few months I now know that this would be a shame as much as it would be a mistake. There is, on the surface, nothing that leaps out and grabs you, but after a few plays the tunes all start soaking into the old grey matter and now I regularly spin a few songs on here very happily.

Firstly, a bit about Frayne as this outfit - or at least part of it - are not new names to us seasoned musical campaigners! Frayne comprises a gorgeous singer called Christina Sanchez and two chaps who are none other than the sons of... Ramsey Lewis. Frayne Lewis should be known to you from his excellent musicianship and writing / production skills with his father on his own "Between The Keys" album, and various Urban Knights albums. Who can forget such classics as "Just A Little Lovin'", fronted by the great Michael Logan? Exactly.

Bobby Lewis makes up this talented troika by providing vocals, guitar and percussion. This is not like the work with their dear old pops, but is definitely their own unique imprint. "Weekend" is a fine example of this. This has caught the ear of a few quality DJ ears here in the UK, and its goodtimes vibe and easy, clappable melody makes this a song that would not be out of place on any of the excellent Soul Togetherness compilations. If you like Rick James' "Taste" then you should equally appreciate this.

"There Is Nothing Left" is a modern, spartan tapper that has some gentle female leads courtesy of Christina, and some great squeaky acoustic guitar. This would not be out of place on the Unified Tribe album from back in 2003. Similarly, "Aphrodisiac" delivers the goods, and also has that great good times vibe giving this more of an adult uptempo feel rather than the half baked, uniformed flavours dished up by today's new R&B generation. My top pick has to be the excellent bedroom aimed beat ballad, "Lay Back". Summery and warm best sums up this superb track which should win the trio a lot of fans. Please do not overlook this track; if nothing else it makes this release utterly worthwhile. It was the only song that really did come to my attention on second playing.

Lovers of instrumental numbers will find "Frayne's Soul Lounge" really warming. It is definitely in the 'funky joint' school of smooth jazz, but offers a lot more because it has more depth. Tony Toni Toné / Vertical Hold spring to mind with the cheerful "Ooo Wee"; the upfront vocals, dreamy keys and clapped beat work well. Some songs such as "Bump That" and "Free" are not too bad but would probably appeal to a younger, though more astute, set of years. There is a dreadful instrumental version of Shalamar's hit "A Night To Remember", and this left me wondering why this was included. Possibly to attract the likes of Jazz FM I suppose. It's the sort of thing they would hit upon.

I would personally skip this aberration and head off to the Bobby Lewis sung "Trying Times" which is a lot better, and even the boogiefied "Frayne" which is quite fresh and rather fun. A vocal duet version of The Isleys' classic, "For The Love Of You" is pleasant but not essential. It seems to lack their own stamp of authority; the usual downfall of many a cover version. The kiddiewinks are treated to a hip hop version of "There Is Nothing Left", so we can all join in! Pull your oversized trousers down, give the Y-Fronts an airing and wear a puffy jacket whilst posing aggressively, and stabbing your fingers all over the place. If you want to, that is. No, I thought not.

Anyway, if you ignore this sort of trashy inclusion you have more wheat than chaff contained within this album and I would definitely buy this for "Weekend" and "Layback" in particular. Do not let this one slip away.
- Barry Towler


Albums of the Month in 2005
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Albums of the Month in 2003
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