Front Page

New Releases

Forthcoming Releases

The latest printed issue

Back Issues

Serious Soul Chart

Quality Time Cream Cuts

Album of the Month

CD Reviews

Editorial Columns


Readers' Favourites



The Soul Express Album of the Month

November 2000

Capitol, 2000
1) Individuality (Can I Be Me?) 2) Sista 3) Will You Remember Me? 4) I Forgive You 5) I Gotta Go 6) Why You Wanna Mess It All Up? 7) Gaia 8) Run to Me 9) Reflections of My Heart 10) Satisfied 11) I Can Explain
Produced by George Duke
Rachelle Ferrell's comeback album - her first since the excellent untitled 1992 set - has definitely been the most awaited new CD release this autumn, especially after Chris Wells on the site had enthused about the forthcoming album since last July and said it's the first serious contender for Ledisi in the album of the year nominations. Well, in my book Rachelle's new CD can't rival Ledisi - which I rate a heavenly 10 points set - but this CD surely is another top 10 CD in my personal best picks for year 2000.
However, I have to admit that the first track frightened me, and for a few seconds I though that Rachelle and her producer George Duke had chosen the Macy Gray route for chart success: the title track represents the Macy Gray-type of rocky folk-tinged music, and while the real drums are very funky and Rachelle is definitely a more impressive singer than Macy is, the overall sound veers into the kind of rock territory that leaves me completely cold. Luckily, the sounds get immediately more soulful on the following cuts. The second track of the CD, Sista, follows the Erykah Badu-N'Dambi-influenced trend, but Rachelle's personal, somewhat Angela Winbush-ish vocal style certainly sets Rachelle apart from the other "jazz in a new way" sisters.
The main course begins, however, on the following tracks, and God it's great to hear real, meaty drums laying the beat, coloured by funky, jazz-inclined playing, while on the slower tracks there's a misty, atmospheric late-night jazz-soul feel, sometimes with cool programmed beats and sometimes with real drums. Naturally, this setting is ideal for Rachelle's unique jazz-soul vocalising, and who would deserve to have success with this style better than Rachelle, who's no newcomer on the scene but a singer who has always had her roots in jazz music but is no stranger to soulful vocalising, either. Listen to tracks like I Forgive You, Gaia (with Jonathan Butler guesting on duet vocals and guitar) and the divine I Can Explain to hear Rachelle at her best, showing her unique jazz-soul vocalising over an atmospheric ballad backdrop, or the deliciously meaty mid-tempo setting with real instruments on the pulsating I Gotta Do or the utterly funky groover Satisfied. The 8-minute-long I Can Explain especially offers such down-to-the-bone, terrific vocalising that you won't hear more powerful singing this year, I can guarantee it! Verse 3 of the song is sheer ecstasy, and the murderous final moments are mind-blowing.
Reflections of My Heart brings another new Will Downing soundalike (Vinx was the first one on the Club 1600 set, reviewed in our previous issue) into the spotlight: Russ Barnes' warm and tasteful reading perfectly replaces Will, who duetted with Rachelle on her 1992 set.
And yet I have to praise individually my favourite cut of the CD, titled Run to Me. This track really has much of the same feel as the Ledisi ballads. Thus, the atmosphere is very cool and fresh, fusing real instruments to the slick, rhythmic programmed beat with percussion and coloured by jazzy licks by keyboards and guitar. The sound is ethereal, relaxed, yet very stimulating - should we start calling this "the new sound of the 2000"? Rachelle's vocals are really unique, ranging from soft, whispery flare into a furious 15-second-long scream!
By no means an instantly accessible album and I constantly skip the first track while playing the CD, but I'm genuinely delighted to see how this new jazz-soul trend brings even the old masters of the scene back. Now where's the new Anita Baker album! (8) -IT

Other Albums of the Month in 2000
Albums of the Month in 1999
Albums of the Month in 1998
Albums of the Month in 1997

Other CD reviews
Back to our home page