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Love 360
(UK Soul Brother, 2007)
1) The Search 2) Feelin' You 3) You Got Me 4) I Wanna Be Free 5) I Want You 6) Hope He'll Be Happier 7) Manipulation 8) I Can't Stop Loving You 9) Today 10) No More Tears

If you are not already familiar with April Hill, then it is with the greatest of pleasure that I acquaint you with her here and now. It has to be pointed out that there has been a lot of positive noise made on this side of the pond for this Lady and I can understand why. It is refreshing to see any new artist that carries the real soul torch, let alone one who has such talents and is, let's be honest, who is extremely beautiful to boot.

I would not try and liken April to any artist, past or present. That's not, I imagine, what April wants. April has a voice that I have tuned into, listened to and chewed over for some time. There is a sassiness, and worldly-wiseness that belies her youth and proves beyond doubt that this voice is in truth a vehicle for a soul much older than her years. As if there has been an assimilation of all that is necessary and good in all the greatest soul singers, and poured into one person. OK, you could say that Jill Scott is a comparison, but there is a rootsy no-nonsense approach to April which takes her to a completely different level. The wistful, almost vulnerable and yearning qualities are extremely sexy indeed, and she possesses the 'come to bed with me' appeal of Tamia, and the shaky, emotional vulnerability of Nelly Fertardo. Juxtaposed to this is the gritty no-nonsense approach of Millie Jackson. There is attitude and strength as well as conviction in there.

Now, it also takes a special talent to reach deep within a soul, see all of these shades and to pull them together. Enter Marlon Saunders who is an absolute genius. He has taken April and has drawn forth all that is sexy, raw, powerful and good and has laid out a series of arrangements that honour and obey her talents perfectly. There are, in particular, 6 songs, which I feel in particular display the very best of this superb Lady. To begin with, the UK market today likes a good stepper with a definite bassline to get its teeth into, and there are two such numbers on here, namely “The Search” and “No More Tears” that fill this requirement wonderfully. Soul Tracks rightly highlighted “The Search” as their track of the month and if this is not massive on the dancefloors in the best of clubs then something is mighty wrong! I cannot recommend this song enough. Check out THAT voice then re-read what I have already written. We are in the presence of greatness no less. “No More Tears” owes a lot to the sound of Incognito meets Motorcity perhaps but the galloping party groove soon descends into something a lot more sturdier and genuine. I particularly like the grumbling bass guitar. This is a happy, upbeat song that should be an anthem for all women who will no longer put up with the shenanigans of their man!

Regular readers will know by now that I am a lover of the sexy, quiet storm number, and April turns me into a piece of clay with her melting performance on “Feelin' You”. You keep on moulding me, girl, with songs like this and I'll die a happy man!

Lovers of real instrumentation will approve highly of the rampaging “You Got Me” with it's definite jazzy undertones. The success of Jazzhole can be felt on this song, so that should give you some measure of what this is like. Check that voice again! Wow! The beat ballad “I Wanna Be Free” is firmly rooted in a more soulful past but the beats and spartan arrangement fits in perfectly with the more acceptable of today's major label output. Think of the best tracks from Brian McKnight's latest set and you're on the right track.

My final choice is “Today” which adopts a Barry White type of story-telling. The vocal highs of this song almost reach a Billie Holiday standard, the attitude within the rap akin to Patti LaBelle, but delivered with such sexiness in the vein of Poetess Bronze Paragon or even Kim Fields. By this point in the proceedings I am completely surrendered to this Lady and await further orders! LOL. Soul Brother firmly believe in this beautiful Lady, and I for one do too. Album of the year? That is up to you, but you can do no wrong in my book by ordering this CD asap so that you too can revel in, soak up and appreciate all that this stunning new talent has to offer.
- Barry Towler

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