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Soul Express Album of the Month - May 2007

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Never Look Back

UK Expansion, 2007
1) You Caught Me Off Guard 2) Second Look 3) Walk Away And Never Look Back 4) My Man 5) Know Your Way 6) Hello Stranger 7) Looking Over My Shoulder 8) No More Time 9) Every Lonely Street 10) In Love With A Stranger 11) Merry-Go-Round 12) All For Nothing 13) Love Is Not A Game 14) Tell Me The Secret

You may remember that back in 2003 this Lady had three excellent 7” singles released here in the UK on Sony's short-regenerated Okeh imprint. These were designed to come from an album, but all did not go well and it was mutually agreed that she could leave the label and take her recordings with her. We have had to wait 4 years for this album , and well worth the wait it is too. Northern Soul connoisseur and fellow Doctor Who enthusiast Ian Levine the producer and co-writer of this album, and has helped steer Ebony Alleyne in the direction that she and not Sony wants. This does not have the Motorcity / Nightmare recordings sound. In fact Ian and Ebony have harked back to a soulful 60s feel a la Dionne Warwick / Burt Bacharach kind of sound. The result is very pleasing and the CD should have universal appeal. If the likes of the embarrassing Amy Whine House and goodness knows who else that the UK companies try and churn out as alleged soul artists can reach such critical acclaim (God knows why) then this more than deserves similar treatment.

Expansion deserve a lot of credit for releasing this album, and with the recent Adriana Evans set makes Expansion well placed in the new release market at the moment. For me, the album really starts cooking from track two, “Second Look”. This is a superb slice of beautiful summery soul a la Bacharach complete with strings and even a catchy pop hook. Yes, soul can be popular and good – Ian and Ebony know this and Ian is a master at getting this across. I guarantee that after an initial spin you will have this tune on your brain, and the horn riff will certainly stick in the old grey matter. “Walk Away And Never Look Back” gently evokes some of the bigger Girl Soul numbers that we would have expected in the late 60s. This doesn't sound old or old hat, though. The track is refreshingly bang up to date, but with a 60s sensibility. This is neither mimicry or pastiche. There is much more depth to it than that.

“My Man” delves slightly into the so-called Northern style and is a great song, especially with its fantastic female harmony and 60s pop vibe. The swirling strings and horns again evoke better days within the fabric of “Know Your Way”. Songs like this make you feel good, and when the strings and flute kick in it is lifted to an even greater level. Ebony really suits this relaxed, soulful groove. Songs like this make a mockery of other artists I have already mentioned and deserve massive exposure. Again, the jauntiness of the strings and Hammond organ do great service to her cover of Barbara Lewis' “Hello Stranger”. This is new classic soul at its very best! “No More Time” with its vibes and galloping tambourine led beat again evokes the 60s and although not my favourite song, provides a perfect vehicle for Ebony's subtle yet delicious vocals to act with perfect synchronicity with the backing vocals which happen to be...Ebony herself!

“Every Lonely Street” has a 'classic' sound to it. This should have been released on 7” - with a sound like this it simply had to be on 7”!!! The song and the format are a perfect match, let's face it! We also all know and love “In Love With A Stranger” as this was another single release and thankfully this track is included here. This is a modern soul masterpiece. Plaudits all around for this absolute gem. This song will sound as great in 30 years as it does 4 years after release. A beautifully crafted record, enough said. “Love Is Not A Game” and “Tell Me The Secret” close the CD with grace, class and style. There are very few tracks that have not hit me, and I am sure these will grow on me. The final track is simply massive and I cannot play it enough. This is a dead-cert solid must have album – and credit to Ian, Ebony and Ralph Tee at Expansion for bringing this set to us. 100% essential.

-Barry Towler

Soul Express Video Pick from YouTube

Ebony Alleyne: Walk Away and Never Look Back

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