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The Soul Express Album of the Month

August 2002

BRENDA HILLMAN
PAPER BOAT
UK Expansion CD, 2002
1) It's Just You 2) Forever Will Never Be Mine 3) Finding Mr. Valentine 4) I Challenge You 5) Paper Boat 6) Can You Rescue Just One 7) Loving Me 8) Don't Give Up on Me 9) Love without Intermission 10) Best of Friends 11) Rush to Nowhere 12) There's No Limitation to You 13) Silky Smooth 14) Can We Do It All Over Again
Produced by Brenda L. Hillman
Now here's a fine album that I seem to like more and more with each play. At first, Brenda's style sounds like a nice jazz-inclined variation of Anita Baker's music - including Brenda's vocal tone - but then you'll soon realise that Brenda's own songwriting style is not highly melodic and it also takes a while to grow accustomed to her personal, jazzy phrasing and intricate compositions. However, after a few spins I started to enjoy Brenda's mellow, jazz-inclined interpretations and gradually the CD has become my favourite album of this summer.
Brenda herself describes her music as an assortment of fusioned jazz, R&B and Latin flavoured tracks, but probably Steve Hobbs' description in Blues & Soul was more precise when he enthused that Brenda delivers and astonishingly original album which neatly fuses jazz with contemporary soul, and that she sounds vocally somewhere between Jean Carne and Anita Baker. And indeed, despite the very familiar Baker-ish overtones, Brenda certainly has her own, unique style, and as a singer she seems to be at her best when she gets a chance to start some jazz-style improvisation.
This is best displayed on the fabulous Finding Mr. Valentine, on which Brenda delivers her full-blown vocals over a bass-y mid-tempo groove with some Latin-tinged acoustic piano soloing. At the end of the song Brenda really is in her element while scatting over the lively backing in an inspiring way.
Another great personal favourite on the album is the track titled Love without Intermission, which is a classic, timeless jazz-soul ballad with Darryl Dixon colouring the piano-based backing with some tasty saxophone. This kind of tune would have been great for Phyllis Hyman as well, as well as any first-class female jazz vocalist.
More robust saxophone playing can be heard on the conventional yet worthwhile soul-jazz ballad Best of Friends, while the peacefully floating title tune Paper Boat is spiced by Tony Lyles' muted trumpet performance. The beautifully floating I Challenge You is one of the more memorable tunes on the album and features some delicate acoustic guitar soloing. The much used cliche "there's no bad track on the whole album" also certainly applies to this 14-tracker, too.
Another welcome newcomer and an essential purchase for lovers of quality soul-jazz by female vocalists.
(8) - IT

The album of the Month in June-July 2002: Will Downing
The album of the Month in May 2002: Kloud9
The album of the Month in April 2002: Ledisi
The album of the Month in March 2002: The O'Jays
The album of the Month in February 2002: Jill Scott
The album of the Month in January 2002: N'Dambi

Albums of the Month in 2001
Albums of the Month in 2000
Albums of the Month in 1999
Albums of the Month in 1998
Albums of the Month in 1997

Other CD reviews
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