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Soul Express CD of the Month - May 2010

Dira: Something about the Girl

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Something about the Girl

UK Expansion CD, 2010
1) Inside Love 5:35 2) Time Out Of Time 4:21 3) Let's Go Back (feat. Omar) 4:51 4) Get Through To You 5:23 5) Loving A Stranger 4:57 6) Daydream 5:59 7) Essentially Yours 6:15 8) Bring It On 5:40 9) Hand On Your Heart 3:14 10) Won't You Come With Me 4:11 11) No More Tears 6:00

There is no doubt about the soul track of the year 2010 in my books: Inside Love by Dira is the most arresting piece of jazzy soul I've heard in years. When I first fell in love with the track, I had no idea it was written and produced by Jean Paul Maunick (together with another Incognito member Matt Cooper) and I'm still astonished by this fact. Not that I have anything against Jean Paul's music, I have enjoyed much of his work with Incognito, but this track sounds like an ultimate soul masterpiece, not the kind of groovy dance-oriented soul jazz fusion Jean Paul is best known for.

Actually Inside Love is a very classic - and utterly stylish - soul composition that would be ideal for any first class soul songstress (especially someone like Anita Baker or Rachelle Ferrell), but what makes it totally irresistible is the rich instrumentation that is full of tasty nuances. The strings, the jazzy piano lines, the drums all make this an unforgettable performance that will be a future classic.

How about the actual songstress, then? Indonesian jazz diva Dira J. Sugandi was a totally unknown to me before this album, but certainly a name I will follow carefully in the years to come. She does a wonderful job on Inside Love and finally you cannot even think anyone else to sing the track any better - she feels so at home while delivering this heavenly tune.

I read a short interview with Dira on the Internet. In that interview it was mentioned that Dira was found by Peter Basuki, the promoter that brought Incognito to Indonesia back in 2001, After that, Dira has been featured in Incognito concerts as one of the vocalist in Indonesia, Singapore or Japan.

I was especially impressed by all the ballads on this set. Daydream opens in a quite serene mode, but turns into a very soulful ballad at the end of the song. The gently flowing Hand on Your Heart is a smooth ballad backed by piano alone, while Won't You Come With Me has an atmospheric bossa nova rhythm behind it. Time Out of Time is again more soul-oriented, with a bouncy bass-flavoured backdrop.

The uptempo tunes have a more typical Incognito feel, with Get Through to You getting the thumbs up from yours truly as well, whereas I was not that enthusiastic about the house-inclined dance tune No More Tears or the bit jazzier dancer Bring It On. Anyway, I was happy that Jean Paul did NOT make this just another typical Incognito production but kept it more sensual and laid back.

Hopefully Dira's collaboration with Jean Paul Maunick and Matt Cooper continues - this was a more than encouraging start!
- Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

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