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The Soul Express Album of the Month

February 2003


Expansion, 2002

With Roy Ayers, Norman Connors, Nathan Heathman, Michael Henderson, Al Johnson, Bobby M, Billy Paul, Lonnie Liston Smith, The Temptations, Stanley Turrentine, Dexter Wansel, Grover Washington Jr.
1) I'm Back For More 2) Let's Stay Together 3) Keep In Touch 4) Star Flower 5) Love Is Beautiful (When It's Right) 6) You Might Be Surprised 7) Holdin' On 8) Night Breeze 9) Valentine Love 10) Dindi 11) If You Don't Know Me By Now 12) Dreams Of Tomorrow 13) Mother Of The Future 14) The Look Of Love 15) Good Thing Goin' On 16) Lean On Me 17) Trust Me

What a clever compilation! While most of the one artist collections are unimaginative "greatest hits" compilations of material that has been easily available all the time, this album contains mainly performances that have not been featured on Jean's own albums at all. Instead, all but three tracks on this 17-track CD have been picked from other artists' albums, on which Jean has been a guest vocalist. These artists feature many top class jazz funk artists like Norman Connors, Grover Washington Jr, Stanley Turrentine, Lonnie Liston Smith and Roy Ayers, and to describe the overall level the best, it could be stated that the tracks included here are of even higher quality than Jean's own releases!

Thus, when you think about whether to invest in this CD or not, it's not about the quality of the material, but simply counting how many tracks you already have in your collection, and how many "new tracks" you will get for the price. Undoubtedly enthusiast jazz-funk collectors already have all or most of these tracks in their collections, but I guess we also have many readers who are lacking at least half of these cuts, and for them this is a great value-for-money set. Not to mention those who don't have any of these tracks earlier: they will have an absolutely glorious treasure here: 17 tracks on which the quality ranges from excellent to brilliant.

As a vocalist, Jean is one of the all-time greatest, being both highly unique and extremely dexterous songstress. It's hard to imagine anyone as her own influence, instead she has been a great source of inspiration for many other soul singers. Jean herself dedicates this CD to late Phyllis Hyman, who is musically close to Jean's style, although these fabulous singers do not much resemble each other. Also, Jean's style is more suitable to jazz-oriented material, like this CD perfectly demonstrates, while Phyllis flirted more with adult oriented ballad material.

Of the 17 tracks, I will only briefly mention my personal favourites. The album opens with a two stepper classic, the Al Johnson duet I'm Back for More, which is one of my all-time male-female duet favourites - a great, soulful melody with breathtakingly soulful vocalising. The producer on the track was Norman Connors, who also chose Jean to guest on a couple of his own albums (Valentine Love with Michael Henderson, Dindi and Mother of the Future, all featured on this CD), plus produced the Lonnie Liston Smith album Love Goddess, from which we have another real gem of a song titled Star Flower.

Of the several jazz soul jewels featured here, my greatest favourite is, however, the luscious, pulsating mid-pacer Night Breeze (from Stanley Turrentine's LA Place album), which is simply jazzy soul at its finest. But just about everything on the first half of the CD is almost as shining. The latter half of the CD is slightly less brilliant, but contains several excellent tracks nevertheless. Ralph Tee of Expansion Records states in the CD leaflet that "hopefully this is just the first of many collaborations that we will do together" - can't wait for Jean to continue her career on the Expansion label! (9)
- Ismo Tenkanen, Soul Express, editor

Other Albums of the Month in 2003
The album of the Month in December 2002: Pieces of a Dream
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

Other CD reviews
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