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Blu Mitchell: Blu Eyed Soul

Reviewed by Ismo Tenkanen

Rating: 8/ 10

Soul Express CD of the Season - Q1/2019

US CD, 2018
Buy this album from our CD Shop

1) Standing Ovation
2) Fool for Love
3) Another Sad Love Song
4) Paint Your Body Blu
5) Have You Ever
6) Let Me Go Then
7) No More Friends
8) Water Under the Bridge (feat. Vivian Love)
9) Anna Mae (feat. Puff Johnson)
10) I'll Give It up (feat. Andre Delano)
Bonus Tracks:
11) Standing Ovation (DC GoGo Mix)
12) No More Friends (Club Mix)
13) Anna Mae Remix (feat. Puff Johnson & Begetz)
14) Standing Ovation (House Mix)

Some of our old printed magazine readers may remember a Motown album back from 1995, Out of the Blue by Blu (Mitchell). It received some favourable reviews, but not much commercial success. On of the gems of this strong album, a track titled Young Doctor Feelgood, was also included in our yearly Top 50 countdown "Quality Time Top 50" of the year 1995.

23 years later, Blu Mitchell is back with a superb new album, Blueyedsoul, although there is nothing "blue eyed" here, the artists and musicians are black Americans, even if the slogan "blue eyed soul" normally refers to white people performing soul music. One interesting thing is that on Blu Mitchell's debut set on Motown, Dwayne Wiggins (of the Tony Toni Toné fame) was heavily involved being the executive producer and a composer of several tracks plus a musician playing guitar, bass and programming drums. The music was easily classified with a "neo-soul" tag, something that heroes like Tony Toni Tone, Maxwell, D'Angelo represented in the mid-90s. However, when I first heard a track from this album - Standing Ovation, which was included on the latest Luxury Soul (2019) compilation by Expansion Records, I really had not a feeling the artist would had anything to do with "neo-soul"; instead he reminded me of classiest 90s soul singers like Keith Washington, Luther Vandross etc. Well, surely when 23 has passed since Blu's previous set, he can hardly be described as a "promising young talent", but nowadays he sounds like any classic, 1st class soul crooner!

Listening to his 1995 debut set, probably indeed the prime track Young Doctor Feelgood was closest to Blu Mitchell's current style. This track was a classic bedroom soul ballad that would have been ideal to Johnny Gill, and Benjamin Wright had created an elegant string and horn arrangement to this passionate soul ballad. On the fresh new album, the musical setting is even more gorgeous, highlighted by jazzy solos by saxophone or trumpet. Certainly not a "neo-soul" set, but a classic soul album in 2018, even if there does not seem to be any market for such a quality soul album these days. The album is not even sold at, but luckily you can order your copy from our own Soul Express CD shop.

The Luxury Soul pick Standing Ovation is indeed a prime example of Blu's current, extremely mature and elegant soul sound: timeless quality soul. On the following track Fool for Love you can hear jazzy soloing by Fender Rhodes, saxophone and trumpet over a percussive beat. Another Love Song is a tender piano based soul ballad that would have been ideal to Donny Hathaway in the 70s or Frank McComb in the later decades.

Probably my favourite tune on the album is a track entitled Paint Your Body Blu, which follows the tradition of Young Doctor Feelgood, being an impassionate trumpet-laced modern soul ballad on which Blu is really in his element delivering the soulful vocals. Have You Ever is probably closest the the current R&B ballad format, but as such, similar to the Ronald Isley sound, although you probably cannot avoid comparisons to R. Kelly, either. Anna Mae has no connection to Natalie Cole' 1978 top ten soul hit Annie Mae or Tony Toni Toné's 1996 upbeat swinger Annie May, maybe this is Blu's tribute to Tina Turner, originally known as Anna Mae Bullock? Puff Johnson is featured on the remix version.

I'll Give It up closes the album with another sax-drenched winner with Luther Vandross influenced vocal delivery by Blu. His "duetting" with the sax player (Andre Delano) is well worth hearing!

There are no weak tracks on the whole 10-tracker, and as bonus tracks, we are offered four remix versions, of which my pick is surely the "GoGo Mix" of the quality time favourite Standing Ovation.

An album you cannot afford to miss!

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