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Soul Express Album of the Month

November 2005

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(UK Expansion, 2005)
Welcome - Release - Brother - It's Your Nite - You Are (eDrew Remix) - No Regrets - Movin' On - Knockdown Side - Interlude 2 - So In Love (eDrew Remix) - Family - Tell Me If You Still Care - Le Chemin - Let Me Give You More - Outro

Ian Martinís debut album in 2000 was one of THE albums of that year. Of course we all wanted more from the man, and it has taken 5 years and the encouragement of hard working and irrepressible Soulster Andreas Hellingh to get this second release. Thank God it all paid off!

I have to say, though that I was quite taken aback by this release and in fact was quite in 2 minds about it for quite a few days. Why? Well, whereas the first album was firmly entrenched in a mellow quality soul side, this set is more uptempo, neo-soul and verges on a slight British sound in places. This just shows yet again what expectation can do to cause some initial consternation. Having got used to the set I can do nought but thoroughly recommend it. However, I still think "One" has a slight edge on this album BUT what we do have now is a more rounded, in the groove Ian Martin who means business and does not take prisoners when it comes to showcasing fantastic vocal talents.

We have not only great vocalist but also live strings and instrumentation that are right in the pocket and add more weight to this excellent Expansion release. "Release" with its echoey, rumbly bass and funky keys set the scene perfectly; drenched with airy synth and vocals from Sy Smith with support from Jill Zedah. Just lovely, and one for the dying days of summer. Gavin Christopher is one of my favourite voices from the 70s and 80s and this funky summer outing acts as a great vehicle for this gentleman. Check out the swirling strings and funky guitar!

Talking of the 80s, I really love the Midnight Star type groove of "Itís Your Nite", a song like this can do little more than make you feel cheerful Ė anything that has that affect on me must be something quite remarkable, I have just been told! Anyway, the intertwining vocals of Kampaign and Donovan Henry really work a treat on the ears. This song is highly recommended.

"You Are" is a remix Ė it is uptempo and quite good but not as essential as the much slower and soulful original version which can be obtained on the original US release available through On both versions Jill Zadeh excels, as we would expect.

The KILLER cut on the UK set for me is the sensational stepper, "Moviní On". This has a fantastic loping beat, is well paced, smattered with scratchy guitar and swirling strings. Vocalist Robin McKelle is a great singer and she does real justice to the happy, fun groove. This would be perfect alongside any track from my recently reviewed "Official Steppers Album" by Da Producers. I would recommend this album for this song alone, it really is that good!

Jeff Robinson is a blast from the recent past. I reviewed his superb "Any Shade Of Blue" set from the summer of 1998 and he is still vocally brilliant; he shines on "Knockdown Side". The groove is again in the stepping mode, and he adds some super-soulful touches, as we would expect. The Le Drew remix of "So In Love" is a nice Latin number Ė in a British sort of way - as opposed to the SUPERB jazzy number on the US release. Again, this is good but I think the US version is far better. Kes Stanton is the vocalist here and very sexy to boot! A better Brazilian outing for these grumpy old ears is the excellent "Family" complete with flute. I love the flute and this makes it even better for me. Ianís vocal styling is very much in the George Duke bag and a la the "Brazilian Love Affair" album. If this isnít worth checking out I donít know what is!

Another soul hero from the 90s pops up Ė this being Tim Owens; this is a very subtle duet with Jill Zedah and may fail to reach you if you are not careful. Please pay attention to this track. Jill simply soars here, and itís great to hear this great vocalist back doing his thing.

This release is solid Ė not what I expected, mind but I am sold on the album and I thank Ian Martin, Andreas Hellingh and Ralph and the gang at Expansion for committing to this album. Highly recommended. Please also do not overlook the US release for the 2 original versions of "You Are" and "So In Love".
- Barry Towler

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