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Soul Express CD Review


Mama Knew Love – Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens – Since I Seen’t You – Charlene – I’m A Mess – Comin’ From Where I’m From – Better Days – Lucille – Float – My First Love (feat LaToiya Williams) – Chyna Black – I Tried

I heard a few crackin’ songs from this online, and when I received the CD through the post I was horrified to see that the producer was no more than Jermaine Dupri – he of rap music fame. I have to take my hat off to the chap, and admit that he has done a very good job on this CD and better than the usual juvenile-aimed tripe he is more accustomed to putting out. So, on the face of it I should hate this CD. But I don’t. I LOVE IT!
This may take some readers a while to get into, as it did me, but what a talent this man is, and Jermaine really needs his hand shaking for bringing us this artist and allowing him to do his thing. I hear all the raw, gritty soul of historic predecessors such as Bobby Womack and Teddy Pendergrass and I hear more modern talents such as Calvin Richardson and K-Ci Hailey in the man’s vocal talents.
Musically, although it can be a bit bass heavy it is firmly in the Neo-Soul bag and is rootsy, gruff and unapologisingly anti-new R&B as you will find from today’s major label offerings. The CD gets more impressive with every play, and as such is how Aretha’s new CD hit me. There’s actually only 1 track on this album that I don’t like and that’s "Chyna Black" which left me wondering what the hell it was doing on the CD! Skip that and what we have here is a great CD by a real talent and I implore you to check it out.
I will describe my real favourites, as space will not allow me to go on ad infinitum! "Since I Seen’t You" is a hammond-based foot-tapper and Anthony’s rough, gritty voice is ably backed up by some great backing vocalists and a tasty melody behind the beats. This straight from the book of Calvin Richardson a la his Country Boy album. "I’m A Mess" is a gospel-tinged ballad which has our man flexing his gravelly voice over a lazy, thick laden beat accompanied by real instrumentation so fans of the neo-soul genre will love this.
There is a flavour of the Curtom sound in the make-up of the socially conscious and personal "Comin’ From Where I’m From". This deals with the reality of a hard upbringing without the nasty trappings of the current rap tradition. The gorgeous Fender Rhodes are very strong on "Better Days", and Anthony shows how flexible his vocals are as he smoothes us down with a more gentler performance and as such it is absolutely an essential track.
The big surprise on this CD is the cover version of the old Country song, "Lucille" – but if you did not know this was once a Country & Western song you would NEVER know. This is in the vein of Tommy Sims and I cannot believe what a fantastic job Anthony has done on this acoustic number. Phenomenal soul for 2003.
"Float" is another pleasing track, and so is the lovely "My First Love" which features a young lady called LaToiya Williams who sounds like a younger Genobia Jeter!!! Now, that is something to get excited about. This young Lady is far more talented than Brandy, Mary J, Ashanti, Beyonce and the rest of the pretty-girl clones you can think of that are currently flavour of the month. Will her solo material be as good as this though? Let’s wait and see.
So, what I expected to be a fair 1 or 2 tracker served to be a big, big surprise and the folks at Arista / So So Def need congratulating for this set of contemporary, gutsy, rough-edged rootsy neo-soul. AND on a major label too! Can they keep this up?!

- Barry Towler

Albums of the Month in 2003
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