Front Page

CD Shop

New Releases

Forthcoming Releases

Back Issues

Serious Soul Chart

Quality Time Cream Cuts

Vintage Soul Top 20

Boogie Tunes Top 20

Album of the Month

CD Reviews

Editorial Columns


Readers' Favourites


Soul Express CD of the Month - May 2009

Buy this album from our CD Shop

Natural Things
UK Expansion CD, 2009
1) Speak Love f. Mikelyn Roderick 2) Happy On Hold f. Jeff Ramsey & U-Nam 3) Sponsored By Love f. Ian Martin & Deanna 4) Natural Thing f. Audrey Wheeler & Walter Beasley 5) Love Makes f. Tim Owens & Audrey Wheeler 6) If You Didn't f. Jeff Ramsey 7) Skin You're In f. Karen Bernod 8) Any Kind Of Love f. Mikelyn Roderick with Tim Owens 9) Outta The Funk f. Gavin Christopher 10) Stormy f. Mikelyn Roderick 11) If You Didn't f. Jeff Ramsey 12) Speak Love f. Mikelyn Roderick

Producer James Day's debut album Better Days on Expansion in 2006 was one of the best soul CDs of the decade, and this, his sophomore set, is equally essential. The focus is slightly more on the uptempo tunes this time, but the ballads contain some real killer tracks, and the list of guest vocalist is even more impressive than on the debut. Audrey Wheeler and Jeff Ramsey are again the prime lead singers, but now we also have Mikelyn Roderick, Tim Owens, Karen Bernod and Deanna contributing on vocals.

Mikelyn Roderick (former By All Means member) was already featured on James' 4-track EP Remember When in 2005, and I was disappointed to notice that she was replaced by other female vocalists on the Expansion debut. Luckily, we now have three excellent songs delivered by Mikelyn here. The opening tune Speak Love is a catchy, sax-drenched mid-tempo mover, a perfect summery tune to open the album, but the other two tracks sung by Mikelyn are even better. The duet with Tim Owens (a former MCA recording artist who has recently been touring with Al McKay All Stars), titled Any Kind of Love is my favourite track on the whole set, and a strong contender for the soul track of the year. It is based on a classy soul melody (written by James) backed by a jazzy piano backdrop, and the atmosphere reminds me of late 70s ballads by Earth, Wind & Fire. Mikelyn is really in her element while singing the beautiful melody.

The same can be said about Stormy, which is the jazziest track on display, and reminds me of the best songs on Mikelyn's debut solo CD on Dome. It has the feel of a classic jazz song, but the melody is brand new, again written by James himself.

Audrey Wheeler was the female star on James' first album, and here she shines on a sax-laced (Walter Beasley) ballad titled Natural Thing. Audrey's spirited duet with Tim Owens, Love Takes has also been included on this CD; the song was released earlier on the U.S. version of Better Days.

Jeff Ramsey sounds again very impressive on the two tracks he sings lead on. Happy on Hold is a relaxed mid-pacer featuring French jazz-funk guitarist U-Nam, and If You Didn't is a track that grows on you over time.

Of the more dance-oriented cuts, our old Soul Express hero Ian Martin guests on the 70s flavoured uptempo tune Sponsored by Love, whereas Gavin Christopher is the gritty male vocalist on the old-school funk attack Outta the Funk.

I really wish James Day gets a chance to produce a whole album for some of the great vocalists featured here, but while we're waiting, please make sure that you won't miss out on this CD.
- Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

Soul Express Video Pick from YouTube

James Day: Song Collage from his new album

The Latest CD Reviews
Albums of the Month in 2009
Albums of the Month in 2008

Other CD reviews
Back to our home page