Soul Express Album Review
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(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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