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The Soul Express Album of the Month

December 2002

Love's Silhouette
Heads Up, 2002
1) Tuning It Up 2) Love's Silhouette 3) Mission Possible 4) I Feel Like Singing 5) Tonight's the Night 6) Nice & Easy 7) Mystical Perception 8) Pieceful Dreams 9) Savoir Faire 10) Enmascarada 11) Let's Roll 12) Remembrance (9/11/01) 13) Slither 14) My Funny Valentine
Produced by James Lloyd, Martin Walters & Steve Brown

Admittedly, the last few albums by Pieces of a Dream - the best jazz-soul group of the last 2 decades - were not exactly mouth-watering, but this CD definitely brought the group back on the right track, being one of their best - if not THE best - ever albums. The album really has not a weak moment, containing a few absolutely gorgeous tracks both in the vocal soul/jazz and instrumental department.

The most mediocre performances on this set include some typically smooth-jazz type of easy-listening instrumentals like the title track Love's Silhouette, which opens with James Lloyd's playing the melody note for note in a way that it would perfectly suit Aaron's Piano school for absolute beginners Vol 1., but at the end of the song James' playing gets much more vivid and elaborate. Also, Pieceful Dreams opens in a thoroughly relaxed mood sticking to a simple theme, but then gradually creates a stylish setting with James' refined soloing over a smooth sax-drenched backdrop. Mission Possible and Let's Roll are Everette Harp type of sax-led funkers which are anything but original but avoid getting too repetitive when Joseph Vincelli and Eddie Baccus finally get rid of the simple basic theme with their saxes.

Much more enjoyable instrumental cuts are the modern, swaying mid-tempo groover Savoir Faire, reminding me of The Jazzmasters' better efforts, as well as the track that follows, the quiet storm type of instrumental Enmascarada, which manages to create a quite refreshing, vibrant piano and guitar soloing around the simple basic theme.

However, the definite highlights of the instrumental tracks are the uptempo tunes titled Tuning It Up and Tonight's the Night. Tuning It Up sets the mood for this excellent album by opening it with an inviting melody and groove, over which Tracy Hamlin displays her heavenly wordless vocalising.

Tonight's the Night reminds me of the brightest piano based jazz-funk gems by Rodney Franklin, having a meaty bass-plucked backing groove over which James performs his melodic yet very vivid and highly improvising piano soloing - wish that smooth jazz were always as appealing and innovative as this!

I also greatly enjoyed the slowly moving, bass-y (Gerald Veasley) creeper Nice & Easy - which is definitely much more inspiring than its trite title!

Despite the clearly above-par instrumentals, once again the two vocal cuts get my main attention. Ms. Tracy Hamlin is undoubtedly the most outstanding female vocalist Pieces of a Dream has ever featured - including Maysa Leak and Barbara Walker - and she really steals the show here. Her first lead vocal performance I Feel Like Singing is an atmospheric beat ballad with a delicious modern backdrop, over which Tracy delivers her genuinely inspiring soprano vocals - Angel Rogers and Janice Dempsey being Tracy's closest points of comparison. James Lloyd's sparkling piano solo and Eddie Baccus' luscious saxophone colour the tasty backdrop and make this one of the highlights of the year 2002.

Still, I Feel Like Singing is only an appetizer when compared with the ultimate jewel of the CD, Tracy Hamlin's unbelievable interpretation of the much-covered jazz standard My Funny Valentine. I've heard dozens of versions of this Rodgers & Hart song, including readings by Anita Baker, Rachelle Ferrell and Marvin Gaye , none of which has really moved me much. However, Tracy's interpretation is so phenomenal, unique and divine that it will not only end up as being the number one favourite of the year 2002, but it will surely be included in those rare items that will be played regularly in this household in the forthcoming years as well.

Also the background of this version is utterly splendid with Gerald Veasley's compelling bass line and Benjie Porecki together with James Lloyd playing the delicious piano and keyboard parts. When it comes to Tracy's vocalising, I don't even try describing it further - it's beyond expression!

The smashing quality of this CD has really been one of the greatest events of the year 2002, and Tracy Hamlin is definitely a vocalist whose career I will follow very carefully from now on. Let's hope that she will not have the same fate as Barbara Walker, who had very little opportunities to show off her vocals after the ultimate summer soul tune Warm Weather.

This CD is a delightful "happy end" to our Pieces of a Dream album by album article - read the full 5-page version from our issue 4/02 - but hopefully the story of Pieces of a Dream continues in an equally inspiring way.

- Ismo Tenkanen

The album of the Month in November 2002: Peggi Blu
The album of the Month in October 2002: Various Artists: Organic Soul 2
The album of the Month in September 2002: Maysa
The album of the Month in August 2002: Brenda Hillman

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

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