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Soul Express CD Review

George Duke – Duke
(US BPM / UK Dome, 2005)
Trust – I Wanna Know – Superwoman – No One – T-Jam – Somebody’s Body – Sausalito – Saturday Night – In Between The Heartaches – Hybrids – Homeland

I really appreciate George Duke even though I have not always dug what he has recorded. I can always depend on him to deliver the goods somewhere along the line and the late 80s – late 90s we hit a rich vein of creativity that we will appreciate for years to come, not only with his own work, but his collaborations with 101 North, Smokey Robinson, Chanté Moore and Rachelle Ferrell to name but a few. Some commentators have argued that this is his best work in 20 years. I am afraid that I don’t agree with that as I feel “Is Love Enough” was far more solid. Horses for courses and all that, I suppose. What I do feel, though, is that “Duke” is the best set since 2000 and definitely eclipses his last album.

I think George possesses a lovely, distinct near falsetto vocal style and I find it perfect for the music he composes. His jazz outings here are very good, and “Trust” jump-starts us brilliantly into the excellently soulful “I Wanna Know” which is one of the highlights of this CD. “No-One” is another classy act. Rachelle Ferrell adds her slinky sass to this relaxed, smoky jazz number.

My only nit-pick is that yet again the melody smacks of “No Rhyme, No Reason”. George proves his dedicated acquaintance with the keys on this song and for me shares the limelight with Rachelle, no question. I really do like the modern sounding melody of “Somebody’s Body” which George adds some blazingly cool keyboards and synth. The song talks of a rather liberal Lady from what I can gather! In my mind, though, the best of the jazzy cuts is the SUPERB vocal cut, “Sausalito” which is Bossa Nova and then some. If you love the warm Latin flavours then this is the song for you. Come on, George, I am still waiting for the “Brasillian Love Affair 2” that you promised us. That would definitely be one hell of an album with material this strong! I start thinking of sitting (lolloping?!) on the beach at Sao Paulo and am thrown back to that great movie, “Blame It On Rio”. I definitely could not cope either! Anyway, I digress.

“Saturday Night” brings me back down to reality with its warm and easy groove – the type George says his mother used to like. Mom had great taste, George. “Hybrids” is a mammoth track lasting 18:26 – not exactly my cup of tea but it shows how versatile George is. I think in time this will grow on me. I am pleased that George is still out there laying down his tunes, and that he’s doing it all off his own back. More power to him, I say. Round of applause to Dome here in the UK for picking this set up, too. Dome Records really are going out for the quality US material – Angela Johnson, Brenda Russell and Dennis Taylor spring to mind too. Do not overlook this little gem.
- Barry Towler

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