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The Soul Express Album of the Month

March 2003

Heads Up, 2002
1) Nobody Like Jesus - (featuring Shirley Murdock) 2) Unexplainable 3) The Light 4) Against The World 5) Beautiful To Me (Traci's Song) 6) The Thank You Song 7) Praz Him 8) You Are God 9) Break Me / Draw Me 10) We Worship You Today
Tommy Sims, Darwin Hobbs, John Wlliams, Bernie Herms, Danny Weatherspoon, Kevin Bond, Mike City

When did you last listen to an album that contained both excellent uptempo soul tunes and inspiring soul ballads? This latest set by Darwin Hobbs is such an album, and again Tommy Sims is responsible for the brilliance of the uptempo cuts. Sims has been the number one producer of uptempo soul material for the last couple of years, and this CD will further strengthen his good reputation. The CD includes three upbeat cuts written and produced by Sims, and all three are great, anthem-like uptempo soul tunes. The first one, Unexplainable reminds be of the most alluring cuts by Sounds of Blackness, with its enchanting choir chorus and soulful verses, while the backing is rather simple and synthetic. The strong backing choir vocals (on all Sims cuts) are provided by The Positive Group, including Tommy Sims himself together with Jerard & Jovaun Woods and LeAnne Palmore.
The Light opens like a Clinton-esque funk exercise but then gradually turns into an enchanting gospel-soul song with a strong positive message. However, my personal favourite of the Sims cuts is The Thank You Song, which has an instantly memorable, catchy chorus sung by the Positive Group, while Darwin preaches his inspirational message over the strong keyboard groove. Also, the fourth upbeat cut, produced by hip-hop / R&B artist and producer Mike City, titled Against the World, is also surprisingly melodic and captivating.
On the last mentioned cut Darwin Hobbs again sounds astonishingly close to Luther Vandross, and while there are myriad Luther-influenced vocalists, Darwin is definitely the one I personally rate the highest - to the extent that I currently prefer Darwin to Luther himself!
The Luther tones become even more evident on a ballad tune like Beautiful to Me, which sounds like it was taken straight from a Vandross album. But it should be underscored that Darwin is much more than a Luther copy: Darwin's vocals still sound very fresh and genuinely inspiring, and when he gets a chance to ad-lib at the end of the song, his singing sounds extremely stirring . Beautiful to Me and Nobody Like Jesus are co-written and -produced by Darwin himself, and while they are very traditional, even conservative inspirational soul ballads, the excellent vocalising makes them very enjoyable. On the latter, Darwin is joined by Shirley Murdock, who has also turned into inspirational music recently.
There's definitely nothing wrong with the gospel-funk mover Praz Him, either, while the last three tracks remind me of the more peaceful ballad side of the Winans. Admittedly, the Danny Weatherspoon produced Break Me / Draw Me is getting a bit too hymn-like to my taste. Thus, my only reservation to my recommendations is that listeners who don't like strong gospel / inspirational soul elements should avoid this release, but if you like the gospel-soul style of artists like The Winans, The Commissioned and Sounds of Blackness, this CD is essential. (8)
-Ismo Tenkanen, Soul Express, editor

The Album of the Month in February 2003
JEAN CARNE: Collaborations

The Album of the Month in January 2003

Other 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

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