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Soul Express Album Review

Diagram Of A Relationship
US Exile Records, 2007
1) Diagram Intro 2) I Desire You 3) Diagram #1 4) I'd Better 5) There's A Woman 1 Inside Of You 6) Love 7) Diagram #2 8) Beautiful Thing 9) Precious Moments 10) Love, Love, Love 11) Diagram #3 12) Could We Not Argue Today? 13) I Believe We Can Work It Out 14) I'm Finda 15) Bless You 16) Running From Love 17) I Still Believe In The Future

This gentleman came to our attention here at Soul Express back in 2007 with his excellent double sider 7” single on Soulchoonz Records. I did bemoan that even though the quality of said single was very high, I would still prefer these tracks on CD. Look no further! The man has delivered us a set that will, if you have seen him live, will certainly appeal to you. Carlton J. Smith, as I said before, is very much in the Wade O. Brown bag and has cleverly added a gritty, preaching Southern soul sound with Stax sensibilities to a heavier, modern soul type beats. In fact, it's almost genius. The horns – I'm sure they aren't sampled but one can never always tell – are straight out of Hi Records and the beat is a stepper's dream. Carlton is a true gentleman of Soul and has more than a passing passion when it comes to his music – on his arms are tattooed all his heroes from soul music. Now that's dedication!

I have to say that this CD's best songs are still, for my ears, the single release. “Love” simply trips along with a skipping, clapping beat and was an assured radio hit, doing the business on the UK scene last year. The horns add some real grit to the tight drum and hand clap beat. This man is a serious talent. “I'd Better”really is the business and dominates the CD marvellously. If you want to hear new, classic soul then this is surely it. The album is almost like a journey; a storybook where Carlton and some fine Ladies introduce each track with a funky backbeat. The chunky head-nodder “I Desire You” will be a radio hit, his vocals raw, raspy and suppored by a sexy female backing singer. Vocally, Carlton has you in his clutches, and once there he does not intend to let you go.

“There's A Woman Inside You” is smack bang in the Wilson Pickett / Otis Redding bag but overlaid with heavy hip-hop styled beats. This meeting of the late 60s and the hip hop generation works very well – especially with a REAL singer like Carlton in control of the mic. On “Love Love Love” we are joined by female vocalist Tracy Braithwaite; another singer who could easily project herself and TESTIFY in a way that Shirley Brown would. The modern groove augmented by harpsichord type keys manages to straddle both old and new sensibilities. The driving hi-hat beat is rather sexy and something you could – if the night works out right – grind to! “Bless You” with its opening monologue is supported by some superb music a la Norman Whitfield in his early 70s Temptations period. Again, Tracy Braithwaite, joins us for some serious vocal interplay. This is a very strong track.

“Take heed” of what a woman wants, so the Man says and who's not to agree with that? No good certainly comes of it, and if you've ever had your ear bent because of it then you will know what I mean! LOL. This album is a solid platform for the man to be noticed, and I cannot wait to see where the journey will take Carlton J. Smith – but I get a feeling only good things can come from this.
- Barry Towler

Other CD Reviews
Albums of the Month in 2007
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Albums of the Month in 2002
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Albums of the Month in 2000
Albums of the Month in 1999
Albums of the Month in 1998
Albums of the Month in 1997

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