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Soul Express Album of the Month

July 2004


A New Classic (US Breeze, 2004)

Vibe Queen - Delerious - My Man - Tippin' - You Bring You To My Life - Shine - I Found Love - Afternoon At Ricardo's - Joy To My Life (Dialogue)

If you LOVE Neo-Soul, as they call it, and the likes of N'Dambi, Ledisi, Antoinique, India Arie and Erykah Badu are to your taste them please make yourself familiar with the sultry, sassy Emerald Jade. Emerald is no less married to Co-Producer and Co-label owner, Craig Monroe and their love and commitment shine through on this excellent CD. This is a personal CD for the couple and much of the material is based on their love and life and is a rare and precious insight into a special musical and familial relationship. Think Kindred, Womack & Womack. You get the picture.

Emerald is no new kid on the block either. She has worked with such luminaries as the UK's finest musical export, Rod Temperton, Philly Supremo Dexter Wansel, the late great saxman Grover Washington, Michael Stokes and her son who is Jesse Powell! This is a CD that embraces the Neo-Soul genre with much warmth and affection and is a set that contains no fillers or wasters. Every song is a winner, and the slinky funk, cool jazz or sassy soul combinations are so clean, fresh and clear that the result is one heck of a refreshing listen.

Track one really does sum up Emerald Jade: "Vibe Queen". Like this song, like the whole CD. It's as simple as that.

My personal favourites, though are the bassy, bluesy "Delerious" featuring a duet with Craig Monroe and the excellent Fender Rhodes filled swayer, "Afternoon At Ricardo's". The latter is a very simple song, and I adore the keyboards used on this CD. This beautiful, beautiful song and the whole CD in fact, remind me of happier bygone days for real soul music and it is a pleasure to hear such melodies and lyrics.
"My Man" is a fantastic jazz tinged smoky club affair with some tasteful muted trumpet and incidental scat vocals that are reminiscent of Manhattan Transfer at their best. More muted trumpet can be found on the sassy "Tippin'" which has our heroine displaying some softer qualities of the great Chaka Khan (one of her influences). "Tippin'" is a fine exponent of what we would deem funky jazz. Those peddling the tired smooth jazz format really do need to stop and take a listen to this CD. They could learn much from Emerald's style and delivery.

Another thing I would say about this album is that although it is 100% independent (yes, CD Baby again as the distributor, folks!) it does not display a low-budget production but easily competes with the big boys. That is, if the big boys bothered with fine jazz as this any more, which they largely don't. "You Bring Joy To My Life" and "I Found Love" display equally impressive qualities and continues solidifying this into a most satisfying and essential CD.

There is so much that could be said about this CD that I could go on. All I shall say is that you will love it and should pick up a copy as soon as possible. One of the albums of 2004, I think. This will definitely have a place in Soul Express' "Quality Time" at the end of the year. Two thumbs up to Emerald, Craig and Breeze Records. I cannot recommend it enough.
-Barry Towler

Albums of the Month in 2003
Albums of the Month in 2002
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

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