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Soul Express Album of the Month - October 2004

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Beautifully Human: Words & Sounds Vol. 2

US/UK Hidden Beach, 2004
Warm Up - I'm Not Afraid - Golden - The Fact Is (I Need You) - Spring Summer Feeling - Cross My Mind - Bedda At Home - Talk To Me - Family Reunion - Can't Explain (42nd Street Happenstance) - Whatever - Not Like Crazy - Nothing (Interlude) - Rasool - My Petition - I Keep / Still Here - Bedda At Home (Acoustic Version)

Unlike most writers and commentators, I was not at all enamoured with this young lady's debut set, "Who Is Jill Scott?". However many times I listened to it I was left stone cold. I could not see what all the fuss was about - especially when there are greater and more impressive talents out there who are ignored and unsung. This is Jill's third album; her second studio session and even I have to succumb to this album, which I think is far superiour, mature and adult in conception. Vocally, I am far more impressed with Jill's delivery than I had been. It would not be unfair to say that she is NOT in the class of 'classic' artists such as Aretha Franklin or Gladys Knight, and that her delivery is very suited to the type of music that is contained here, and that is nothing negative at all. Aretha or Gladys would not suit this style, I feel.

Does this make Jill unique, then? Possibly. Well, whatever the case I can wholeheartedly recommend the CD for a multitude of tracks. Two songs in particular are in my own 'hip-list' so to speak, both for musical content and the lyrics which I find alluringly honest and open. On hearing this album, I have to think that maybe I have been missing the point about this young Lady all along. I feel her compositions are very personal, and the fact that her CD booklets are dotted with family photographs may allude to this also.

As for the songs: If we skip the ridiculous "Warm Up" we confront a tasty, seductive jazzy vocal delivery with "I'm Not Afraid" overlaid on a rather tight hip-hop groove and haunting synth. Her dialogue is intensely personal and in many senses quite intimate - I felt as if I am listening into a personal conversation or train of thought. This is a young Lady who knows who she is and what she wants.

This theme is extended into the SUPERB stepper, "Golden" which is very, very catchy with the warm Fender Rhodes and 80s feel. I was instantly gripped by this song and for once really felt myself grow towards this artist for the first time. In my humble opinion I would buy this CD simply on the strength of this song!

Impressive still is the sparse, ethereal empowerment groove of "The Fact Is (I Need You)" which is a grower. I particularly like the harp that punctuates each statement and the jazzy backing vocals.

However my favourite of favourites is the modern Philly groove of "Spring Summer Feeling". This is just an essential song, complete with guitar, strings and smooth vocals. I am left with a very warm feeling with this song; satisfying and touching. The strings return along with a very tasty flute on the neo-soul groove of "Talk To Me". I think Jill's vocals on this material are really rather good. The neo-soul continues with the fun "Family Reunion" which openly uses the string sample from The Escorts' "Look Over Your Shoulder". Shame that sampling has to come into play when so many talented musicians have been used on many other songs, such as Jeff Bradshaw, but there we go. It is still a nice track. If Erykah Badu's "The Other Side Of The Game" was to your taste, then this melody is not at all dissimilar. I love this equally and obviously Jill's vocals are far better. The groove is retro, embodies summer and just a great, great song.

"Whatever" is again on par with Ms. Badu's work, and I could easily imagine this being a Roy Ayers production - yes, this is that good. We can also find greatness in the warm, acoustic soul of "My Petition". I believe that it is through songs like this that we can truly see how superior Jill is from many of her peers. We live in an age, as the late great Kenneth Williams said, of pit ponies being masqueraded as thoroughbreds. How this applies to the music world in general today - especially R&B!

In my mind I am now certain that Jill Scott is a thoroughbred and no pit pony. This is proved again with the mature epic "I Keep / Still Here". There is a bonus track too which is nice, but not essential to Soul Express readers. I have seriously re-evaluated my stance on this Lady and can do nought but recommend this album to all readers of these pages.
-Barry Towler

Albums of the Month in 2003
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Albums of the Month in 2001
Albums of the Month in 2000
Albums of the Month in 1999
Albums of the Month in 1998
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