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Soul Express CD Review

MO PLEASURE: – Elements Of Pleasure
(US Watersign, 2004)
Only At Night - Together Again - Beyond The Stars - Peace - Lover's Groove - Bahia - In The Stone - Summer Fling - Dancin' With You - Morocco - Patricia Elena - Tokyo Blue - Now That I've Found You - Mars Mellows - We Are One - Nadia's Lullaby

Mo Pleasure is none other than Morris Pleasure of Earth, Wind & Fire fame along with some very, very talented musicians and vocalists. Pleasure is definitely what is conjured up on this superb jazz CD. It is a real, proper jazz outing with a smattering of soul to help broaden the appeal even wider. The instrumentation is wonderfully live, vivacious and vibrant and at 16 tracks are spoiled for choice. I do not think that any track on here really disappointed these ears. Diversity is the order of the day, and we move from jazz, funk to soul with complete ease.

The level of musicianship is first rate with an army of talented musicians joining the fray. Amongst the vast contingent we have included the likes of Michael White and Sonny Emory on drums, Rohn Lawrence and Keith Robinson on guitar, Lenny Castro on percussion, Larry Dunn on keys, Ronnie Garrett on bass, hotfoot from his work with Maysa; on sax we have Jason Weber, Reggie Young on trombone and various vocal giants such as Wil Wheaton and Jim Gilstrap on backing vocals.

There are some SUPERB vocal tracks that feature some serious heavyweight talents such as Maxayn, B. David Whitworth, Philip Bailey, Peabo Bryson, Sheena Easton, Oleta Adams and Michael McDonald. If this heady brew does nothing for you then you should be ashamed of yourself! I cannot recommend enough the opening jazzy salvo, which is the instrumental funker “Only At Night”, which perfectly kicking off a varied and energetic album in no uncertain terms. The refined and saxy midtempo cut "Together Again" features the textured vocals of Maxayn. This Lady is a new name to me - I think! - and all I can say is that she reminds me of a classier and jazzier Mica Paris. Her vocal style perfectly fits in with the abundant musical rhythm created by all musicians. This is quality time material without a doubt.

B. David Whitworth is a very passionate Latin vocalist in the vein of a huskier Carmen Cuesta and her vocals ride the Afro Cuban rhythm expertly. This is a splendid effort and oozes the essence of a balmy night in Cuba.

"Peace" is a warm, criminally short instrumental with some spine-tingling sounds courtesy of Dave Torkanowsky. Give this man more that 45 seconds next time, please, Morris!!! What a beautiful, spine-chilling interlude! Wow! I really want to hear more work like this. The song, though, that originally attracted me to this CD on CD Baby was the KILLER ballad, "Lover's Groove" which places Philip Bailey's unique vocals. This is of the highest quality I assure you, and rates as one of the best vocal performances that Philip has given us for years and years. What a wonderful song and what a wonderful singer!

More Latin a theme follows this with the crashing waves and percussion that is "Bahia". Again this is all too short at just over a minute, but introduces us to a fantastic remake of "In The Stone" which features Larry Dunn. What an Earth, Wind and Fire collaboration this album is! It must be great having friends of this caliber!

Boney James is obviously another pal, and he adds his magic to the smooth semi-instrumental "Summer Fling" which isn't a cover of the O'Jays classic but a new song. Maxayn and Myra Walker add some delicious backing vocals to underpin Boney's sax and Reggie Young's trombone. Our old friend, Wil Wheaton, adds his vocal skills along with Sheldon Reynolds and Julie Delgado on the funky slow grinder, "Dancin' With You". One of these ladies sounds very much like Shirley Jones it's unbelievable! The CTI-ish "Patricia Elena" features Maxayn and Jim Gilstrap on vocals along with Michito Sanchez's percussion and is another very nice effort.

Guitarist Rohn Lawrence features on the atmospheric "Tokyo Blue" and makes it a very memorable track, along with the whispery vocals and eerie synths. Our good friend, Maxayn, returns with the sultry Maysa-ish "Now That I've Found You" and works well within the echoed arrangement and tight harmonies. This is an atmospheric song and the sax is very chilled and is very supportive. The style of "Mars Mellows" is straight back to the work of Lenny White a la 1978's "Streamline" album - think "Spazmo Strikes Again" or even "Bars From Mars" and this is what we have for just over a minute! I like it - its different and quirly. Hey - I rather likes "Toys" by Virtu so there you have it!

The socially conscious "We Are One" is possibly my least favourite, but I definitely uphold the sentiments completely. With the very short but sweet solo piano piece of "Nadia's Lullaby" we round up what is possibly the most essential jazzy set of 2004. This proves that jazz can still be made which is smooth yet textured, is varied and interesting and can appeal to wide range of ears. This album should be very successful and I for one cannot rate it high enough. Superb and essential.
- Barry Towler

Albums of the Month in 2003
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Albums of the Month in 2001
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