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Soul Express CD Review

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US Heston Francis CD, 2008

1) My Baby 2) Distant Lover 3) Easy 4) No Way, No How 5) Your Perfume 6) Radio 7) Sumthing in the Water 8) Brand New You 9) Dreamy Eyes (feat. Angela Johnson) 10) Feel Like Dancing (feat. Yahzarah Aka Purple St. James) 11) Like Sunshine 12) Good Morning America 13) Hello Sunday 14) Sunny Days 15) Songbirds

Now, I know that "Storyteller" is one album that you will seriously want. It is a definite winner and one that lover's of the type of quality tunes covered here at Soul Express will immediately want in their collections. Heston was recently credited by the excellent Chris Rizik at Soultracks as releasing one of the truly great soul albums of 2008, and having accolades of being a 'musician's musician' and 'a poised modern day soul vocalist', Heston, releases his début full CD. Born in the Dominican Republic, raised in Philadelphia and now based in Atlanta, Georgia, you may recall that this phenomenal talent released a self-titled EP back in 2004 which featured the superb “If” which appeared on Soul Brother's “This Is Soul 2005”.

2008 sees this début album and for what it's worth I think it surpasses all that has gone before, for the most part, at least. The set tails off for me right at the end, but like I always say that's only my humble opinion! I challenge you to NOT love this album, that's how strongly I feel about it. So massive is his talent and appeal, Heston is able to draw many admirerers from all sorts of places, and appeal to many different musical ears. The UK scene will particularly pick up on tracks such as “My Baby” with its slight Jamiroquai / Remy Shand feeling, the feel-good '70s flavour of “Distant Lover” and the cosmic and spaced out “Easy” - all wonderful songs, I think you'll agree.

So, by track 3 you should be more than aware of how much a strong showcase it really is and on the strength of these I'd recommend the set to you. For those who are a bit more open minded than I, there is even a reggae vibe on here for those who are so inclined! Not for me per se (I actually love HEAVY dub, but there you go!) BUT it should please a number of fans! I loved these three aforementioned tunes, as I say, but I have to say that I was totally floored by the beautiful “No Way No How” which is a top-draw ballad of the highest order. The sexy bassline is firmly the governor rhythm and the squeaky guitar, warm 70s keys, percussion and vibes provide the perfect basis for Heston's vocals to drip some seriously soulful honey.

Furthermore, “Your Perfume” is another killer of equal standing. An artist like this really showcases their talents on songs like this. Most of the manufactured and cloned major label pin-ups cannot even come close to being able to perform to this standard. Heston towers above most and his confident, relaxed and effortless performance does him, and modern soul music proud. The blinding “Radio” will have you singing along very quickly with a powerful and catchy chorus. By this point in the album I am already more than a devotee, but the quality continues unabated. “Sumthing In The Water” is a lively, percussive finger-tapper as is the excellent spacey 70s-ish “Sunny Days”. Fans of Angela Johnson will rejoice as she appears on “Dreamy Eyes”, laced with organ and 70s influences, this song will do the business on radio. Soulstress YahZarah also pops up on the Reggae-inpired "Feel Like Dancing" so adds flavour and diversity. All told, I would class "Storyteller" as an essential release.
- Barry Towler

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