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Soul Express Album Review

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The Show Must Go on
US Bluewater CD
1) The Last Time I'm Saying Goodbye 2) You Mean The World To Me Sweetheart 3) Loving On Borrowed Time 4) This Heart 5) Never Give Up 6) You're The Reason 7) The Show Must Go On 8) Not So Long Ago 9) I've Done Things With You 10) Makin' Love To You 11) Wastin' My Lovin' On You 12) Get Your Loving While I Can

This album is MAGNIFICENT. Think about this - have you recently pulled out an old, cherished, LP from the 70s / 80s and said ruefully “they don't them like this any more”? Well, I know I have said that on many occasion, here they are – the legendary Embers – to remind us that, in fact, there is still REAL soul being made. This is, my friends, the real deal. Real singing, live instruments, lush strings and full brass, and all produced in masterly fashion by Charles Wallert who has worked for many tears on the popular Beach scene, and with George Benson, the late O.C. Smith, The Main Ingredient and Dionne Warwick.

The group have been around for decades, and have released a mighty 17 albums. No mean feat! The Embers of today consist of Bobby Tomlinson (leader / drummer ), Jerry Tellier (lead vocals), Wayne Free (lead vocals / trombone) and Steven Pachuta (trumpet). Also, multi-Grammy nominee Jimmy George (co-writer with Lou Pardini on Smokey Robinson's 1987 US hit "Just To See Her") works on the lyrical side as does Charles Wallert himself. Charles, of course, wrote the smash hit "Brenda" for the late O.C. Smith back in the early '90s for the acclaimed "Love X Three" album for Triune Records.

Take a look at the line up as far as backing singers go... Angela Clemons (of "Bring Your Own Body" fame), Dennis Collins (who sang on Onaje Allan Gumbs' super 1992 effort "Dare To Dream", James "D-Train" Williams, Lisa Fischer and none other than the brilliant Tawatha Agee! Bashiri Johnson also appears on percussion.

I have been aware of this album since the Autumn, and have been itching to write about it. I have not been so excited about an album in this way for some time, and it is in constant rotation at home and in the car. The album is a vibrant mix of scintillating ballads and tasty midtempo numbers. The more uptempo songs are a wonderful fusion of recent outings from both the Main Ingredient and the Chestnut Brothers. Indeed, the vocals seriously echo Cuba Gooding in places. As you know, one of my favourite periods of music was 1979 – 1984. Then, labels like Columbia spent a lot of time and money on their artists, and if songs such as Rodney Franklin's “Love Is The Answer”, Philip Bailey's “It's Our Time” and Ramsey Lewis' “Midnight Rendezvous” are as much of your very essence as they are mine, then this CD is a must-have. The Embers have not scrimped or cut corners on this set; not one bit. A lot of time, money and love has been invested, and boy it has been worth it.

“Lovin' On Borrowed Time” hits the spot from the very opening and does nothing but get better and better as it progresses. The strings are pitched just right, and the old goose-pimples begin to rise on my arms almost instantly. “This Heart” is a Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter penned song, and is just exquisite. Those God, this is what Soul Music is all about! LOL. The following song, “Never Give Up” gives the illusion, at first, of being a little MOR. Do not be fooled! If that can't tempt you – and I am certain it will – then the Tower Of Power-ish brassy number “You're The Reason” will definitely get you going. If you want a comparison to Brotherly Love / Chestnut Brothers “Travelin' On” then here it is. The title song is another corker and if this is not a track that would fit Cuba Gooding like a velvet glove then nothing is.

The track that absolutely reduced me to a gibbering wreck was “Not So Long Ago”. As I write this the song is playing and I am going cold. The piano, the strings and the haunting lyrics. Such a beautiful, beautiful song. “Makin' Love To You” is another killer. In fact, I have to say that EVERY track is a KILLER. “The Show Must Go On” is surely one of the best albums released thusfar in 2008, if I would not be surprised if this is THE album of 2008 in my mind, and as such I really believe it needs to be pride of place in your collection.
- Barry Towler

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