Front Page

CD Shop

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



Soul Express Album of the Month

December 2004

Note: Read the fresh interview with Gwendolyn from our printed issue 4/04
Buy this album from our CD Shop


Love Is... (UK Expansion, 2004)

1) Vanilla Tree 2) I Surrender 3) Let's Get Real 4) Just a Little Lovin' 5) In the Looking Glass 6) Help Me 7) Father's Eyes 8) What I See in You 9) Simple Message 10) Up & Down 11) Where Do We Go from Here 12) Love Is...

I have already raved about the track What I See in You in our previous printed issue in the review of the Expansion compilation New Soul Heaven, and it will undoubtedly end up in our Quality Time Top 50 of 2004 as well, so suffice it to say that it is one of the strongest contenders for the soul track of the year. Gwendolyn Joy is best known as the lead singer of the Detroit group Modern Tribe, which released a brilliant soul-jazz album Groove On in 1999, and several of our Soul Express scribes - including yours truly - listed this CD as the number one CD of the year 1999.

A couple of years later, Gwen released an album entitled So Good together with his husband Charles Scales, by the name Charles & Gwen Scales, and now it was time to release her first solo album. Actually the duet album was recorded prior to the Modern Tribe set.

No other track on this album matches the sheer brilliance of What I See in You, but there are still plenty of classy tunes on offer. The album is a mixture of classic mellow soul with real musicians and more modern tracks with mainly programmed backings. As always, I prefer the timeless real instrumentation. The musicians include the familiar Modern Tribe members Charles Scales (keyboards), Al Turner (bass), Melvin Maxwell (percussion) and Ray Manzerolle (saxophone, trombone), plus jazz-funk drummer Gene Dunlap.

These guys really know how to create a stylish soul atmosphere, and you can enjoy this kind of setting on classy soul ballads like Where Do We Go from Here - my favourite track of the CD after What I See in You - and Just a Little Lovin'. The latter is a cover song of an old Barry Mann / Cynthia Weil song which was originally recorded by Dusty Springfield but also interpreted by several jazz songstresses (Carmen McRae, Janis Siegel of Manhattan Transfer, Dianne Reeves). A mellow, jazz-tinged atmosphere also continues on the new song penned by the Scales couple, In the Looking Glass. The title track is a meaty sax-coloured mid-stepper. Of the upbeat cuts, check out the swinging Up & Town with its funky bass licks by Al Turner.

Of the more modern tracks, my favourite is the neo-soulish creeper Vanilla Tree, which is not far from the sound Emerald Jade represented on her wonderful debut set A New Classic. Certainly nothing wrong with melodic mid-pacers I Surrender and the sax-drenched Let's Get Real, either, but the catchy jogger Simple Message is getting a bit too poppy for me, although it's partly saved by the lively horn arrangement including an energetic saxophone solo by Lenny Price. Read the interview with Gwendolyn from our latest printed issue (4/04). (8/10)
- Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

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

Other CD reviews
Back to our home page