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Soul Express Album of the Month

September 2005

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CAFE SOUL ALL STARS: Love Pages (US You Entertainment, 2005)

GLENN JONES - What You Gonna Do / PEABO BRYSON – Don’t Make Me Cry / CHRISTOPHER WILLIAMS – Used To Be / VESTA – One More Bridge To Cross / MAYSA – I’m Changing / BOBBY LYLE – Brazilian Heat (Inst) / JON LUCIEN – To Be With You / ROY AYERS & KENNY GARRETT – Urban Jungle / DENISE STEWART & DUKE JONES – U & I / GEORGE BENSON – Pages / MAYSA – Stay In My Heart / LOUIS TAYLOR & NICHELLE HOLIDAY – Sheba / ROY AYERS & PUCHO & THE LATIN SOUL BROTHERS – Pier 69 (Inst) / RENE MCCLEAN & CHRIS ALBERT – Get Up On It (Inst) / JAZMYN – You Don’t Have To Say You’re Sorry

This CD is essential, there’s no two ways about it. There are more quality artists involved in this project than I can shake a wireless mouse at, and all bring with them their own unique talents to collaborate in this superb album. Helping oversee this exciting project is no less than Norman Connors and Jacques Burvick, so the connoisseurs among you will have some basic idea of what to expect from this feast of talent. There is a flavour to match every taste here, and no stone has been left unturned in finding the best artists to support the talented vocalists.

We have strong soul compositions, one R&B track for the kids and some very strong jazz-fusion flavours too. The first artist that really got my juices flowing was Glenn Jones with what has to be his best stepper for years and years. His inclusion is a wonderful soulful dancer called "What You Gonna Do" which is elevated from simply being very good to excellent by the use of some smashing Rhodes keyboard that jolt us straight back to Impromp2’s "You’re Gonna Love It" and beyond. Bobby Lyle and Chuck Cymone add their skills to this, and Duke Jones and Mr. C himself produce the cut. Superb!

Talking of Impromp2 leads me onto the brilliant and astronomical vocalist, Peabo Bryson. Johnny Britt wrote this classic, classy Peabo Bryson ballad and it is so typical of this man’s output. This could be straight out of his "All My Love" album, it’s really that good. Another artist that I really love is Christopher Williams. I fear that this strong, strong singer is given a very lame "bling bling" track that should make fans of John Legend happy, but does little for these seasoned ears. This is one awesome vocalist and I don’t think he is being used to best effect here. I think I’ll dig out his debut 1989 album instead.

Vesta Williams has been quiet since her essential 1998 album for I.e Records, and her Nick Martinelli penned "One More Bridge To Cross" carries on from this album very nicely, thank you very much.

We all know and love this next Lady, and that is Maysa. Her vocal skills are out of this world, and I have always believed that her skills are best employed on the right side of the pond. Bob Baldwin and Porter Carroll, Jr have written "I’m Changing" and is as good as any of the classier songs on her last, must-have, set for N-Coded music. There is an excellent sax break through this and thanks go to Kim Waters for that, too. In fact, Maysa returns later for an even more essential cut called "Stay In My Heart" that has Omar Hakim on drums. Please do not overlook that track.

I have already mentioned Bobby Lyle. He acts as musical support throughout this set, but shines in his own right on the essential Brazilian instrumental, "Brazilian Heat". It does start out a bit computerised, and almost housey which was a bit of a shock, but it soon warms up and progresses into a joyful, warm belter of a summertime jazz track. At this point, I think you will already have an inkling on how essential this album is.

Well, all I have to say is had this album been a load of old rubbish up to this point the following track alone would certainly make it worth a purchase alone. You know how much I love Jon Lucien, but please do not think there is any bias towards this track because of this. Toby Walker at Soulwalking had told me how great this song was, and boy was he right. Today I think I have played "To Be With You" at least SIX TIMES. This has to be one of the best and most essential records that this great, great talent has ever set to record. The swirling strings, and the Latin instrumentation by Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers is sheer, sheer class and is pure heaven. This new, timeless classic – as that is what it is - has Jacques Burvick’s fingerprints all over it. If this album is the only one you buy this month, then to hell in a handbasket – just buy it on the strength of this alone if nothing else.

Roy Ayers and Kenny Garrett are also legends in their field, and the superb instrumental, "Urban Jungle" proves that there is more to the jazz scene today that the lame idiom of smooth jazz. EW&F drummer, Sonny Emory joins the band, as does Paulinho Da Costa and none other than Alyson Williams on backing vocals! Roy also appears with Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers on the excellent "Pier 69" instrumental and is another very strong slice of real jazz for 2005.

From jazzy numbers, then to a soulful number featuring an old Norman Connors acolyte, Denise Stewart who joins Duke Jones. This is a quality outing for all concerned and one cal tell that dear old Norman has his tight reins on the direction of this song. An odd inclusion albeit a welcome one, is "Pages" by George Benson. This phenomenal song was first released on Gerald McCauley’s own set back in the fall of 1999 and was one of the landmark songs on it. Not sure how it managed to get on here but who cares?! I would like to see George come up trumps like this again in the near future as his last album, frankly, stank. This proves that if you stick to what you do best – great adult music – you cannot go far wrong.

Our final track is also well worth noting for a number of reasons. It is a breathtaking reading of the old Patti Austin song "You Don’t Have To Say You’re Sorry", and the music is so haunting that it defies description. Vocalist Debi Gilchrest does great service to this song, and certainly has my ear even though I am not exactly a fan of that particular song. I actually dreaded hearing this, but as usual my fears were unfounded.

So, what else can I say about this album? Well, for me it is essential, a must have and definitely classy. Worthy of a purchase by anyone reading this review for any one of the tracks hitherto mentioned, let alone the KILLER "To Be With You".
- Barry Towler

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