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The Soul Express Album of the Month

June 2003


US Kalimba, 2003

All In The Way – Betcha’ – Wiggle – Why? – Wonderland – Where Do We Go From Here? – Freedom – Hold Me – Never – Prelude – All About Love – Suppose You Like Me – The Promise – She Waits – The Promise (Continued) – Let Me Love You - Dirty

I remember the release of the "Millennium" CD back in October 1993, and the group being interviewed by an idiot VJ on MTV who seriously asked the gents why they thought that they were still relevant, musically, "in today’s R&B world". Well, guess what? The idiot VJ can be found nowhere, the new jack clones and the other ephemeral ragtag and bobtails are no longer around either. Strange, that! Well, all I can say is here we are 10 years later with another 2 albums under their belt and now "The Promise" which rates as their best and most consistent album certainly since "I Am". Not surprising, really, as some material was conceived in 1978 during the "I Am" sessions. See.
If you want to argue the toss over relevance and longevity don’t pick on Maurice, Philip and the gang, as they will prove you wrong every time! This is a delicacy of an album in every sense of the word. Maurice White and Philip Bailey sound no different now than they did back in the 1970s and their writing and performing skills are first rate as ever. I cannot say that the style of the album is totally in the classic EWF genre, but their familiar sound definitely sweeps in more often than not. Jerry Hey on horn arrangements; Ray Brown, Gary Bais, Reggie Young and Bill Reichenbach slam the grooves with their tight, sharp horns, Ralph McDonald on percussion, Bill Meyers on piano and Verdine White strums his guitar in all the right places and makes exactly the right noises.
As for guest artists the talented Angie Stone shares the mic on the superb Tommy Sims composition "Wonderland" and The Emotions add their unique harmonies to a variety of tunes which really does hark back to the halcyon 70s recordings. I love every track but I do have my favourites – the KILLER composition for these ears is "Where Do We Go From Here" which was conceived in 1978 and originally recorded during the aforementioned "I Am" sessions. This is, I hasten to add, a 2003 interpretation. What totally gripped me is the ability to recreate the CLASSIC sound of the early 1980s. This is thanks to the band throwing themselves into the essence of the track; the fender rhodes keyboard is so prominent that this record sounds so like any of the classic sounds from 1981 … think Leon Ware, Cliff Dawson, Chuck Cissel, Donald Byrd, Chemelion amongst others.
AWESOME and definitely a crowning glory - one of my future summertime classics. That enough is good for my soul, let alone the spine-tingling modern beat ballad, "Hold Me" with its Gary Taylor / Monte Moir stylised introduction. I can’t get enough of this song – the production harks back to the devastatingly subtle and eerie groove that Mario Winans unleashed on his much underrated and overlooked 1997 Motown set. Check out "You Never Know" from that set and you will see what I am getting at.
"All In The Way" opens the album and is a bouncy, brassy jogger featuring the Emotions on backing vocals. Superior vocal performances all around, especially from Maurice. I cannot recommend this album enough. I am constantly reminded, most joyfully, about the resurgence of our music out of these dark days and 2003 has been helped no end by this album amongst many others in saying "music is back". Miss this album at your peril.

Other 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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