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Soul Express Album of the Month - March 2007

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Share My Love
(US Thump Records, 2006)

1) All I Want to Do (Is Be with You) 2) There'll Never Be 3) You Are My Heaven  4) Reunited  5) I Want You 6) Miss You 7) Where Is the Love 8) Wonderful  9) All in Love Is Fair 10) Love Ship 11) Share My Love

This CD has probably been the most acclaimed album in the quality soul circles during the first months of 2007, and with a reason. Share My Love is basically a smooth jazz album by saxophonist and keyboardist Jimmy Levine, but with nine classy soul singers contributing on the CD, it’s not a typical smooth jazz set with one or two vocal cuts among the instrumentals, but rather vice versa. There is only one instrumental track, and 10 vocal tracks, featuring Howard Hewett, Phil Perry, Phillip Ingram, Maysa Leak, Lori Perry, Niki Harris, Kenda Hathaway, Michael Parto and Joe T. Thompson on lead vocals.

  First the project reminded me of the Café Soul All Stars album from 2005, on which we had soul singers like Glenn Jones, Christopher Williams, Vesta, Maysa Leak and Peabo Bryson delivering the lead vocals, and jazz-funk heroes like Roy Ayers, George Benson and Kenny Garrett providing the backgrounds. However, while on that album much of the background instrumentation was actually programmed and the arrangements favoured the current R&B trends, this project by Jimmy Levine is a real fiesta of soul and jazz-funk playing. Co-producer Michael White is the drummer, Alex Al and Larry Kimpel play bass, and on guitar we have Melvin Wah Wah Watson, Ray Fuller, Greg Moore, Ray Parker Jr. and John Jubu Smith. William Bryan plays some acoustic piano and other keyboards, together with Carl Wheeler and Jimmy Levine himself, whereas Donald Haynes, Everette Harp and Jimmy play various saxophones (alto, soprano, tenor).

  The playing of these celebrated musicians is really a joy on these days of dull, programmed R&B backgrounds. You cannot compare this set with any modern day smooth jazz albums, either, since they are also full of programmed backdrops these days, and this is definitely not a smooth jazz but a soul / funk set.

  The album opens with the funky, catchy All I Want to Do (Is Be with You), on which the vocal parts are limited to the melodic chorus, and Curtis Washington is rapping the verses, but the backdrop is really meaty and groovy. It’s nice to hear Wah Wah Watson playing his guitar over the funky bass-driven rhythm. Howard Hewett shines on the next track, There’ll Never Be, originally a song performed by Switch in 1978. I have to admit I didn’t remember the original song – but I’m sure many of our readers do. This version starts like an instrumental, but after 3 minutes Howard joins and does a splendid job with his vocalising. Donald Haynes blows the robust saxophone solo.

  You Are My Heaven is a Stevie Wonder song originally performed by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway (from their 1980 album that was released after Donny’s death). Phillip Ingram and Kenda Hathaway (Donny’s youngest daughter) sing the spirited lead vocals on Jimmy’s version (Lori Perry is featured on the closing moments, too!) and I’d claim that the backdrop is better than on the original. An excellent track.

  The next two tracks are probably the weakest on offer here. Reunited was a number one pop and soul hit for Peaches & Herb in 1979, but the unisono type of chorus vocals (by Michelle Parto and Joey T. Thompson) really do not represent my idea of a soulful duet, and also the backdrop on this track is programmed, unlike on any other track on this CD. On the rap-filled reading of I Want You, I was surprised to see that Prince and Rosie Gaines are credited for songwriting, so it reveals that Rosie’s 1995 version is the main source of influence here and not Marvin’s original!

  Luckily, the next tracks take us back to quality soul, when Lori Perry gets more room to show off her wonderful vocal talents. I Miss You is a classy new ballad tune written by Jimmy Levine and Joseph Yates. Lori is also featured on the next track together with Phil Perry and Maysa, singing another famous Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway song Where Is the Love. This version is very similar in its style to the Mica Paris & Will Downing duet of the song from 1989.

  In my book, a track called Wonderful is also one of the highlights of the CD. The song was originally recorded by Aretha Franklin on her So Damn Happy album from 2003, and the new reading here with (jazz vocalist) Niki Harris and Phillip Ingram on vocals and Everette Harp on saxophone is quite splendid as well.

  Maysa sings the Stevie Wonder ballad All in Love Is Fair, which is not one of my favourites from Stevie’s repertoire, but the peaceful backdrop is very stylish on Jimmy’s version. The new song titled Love Ship is a semi-instrumental on which Phillip Ingram delivers some tasty hollering over the bouncy backdrop. The only real instrumental, the title track Share My Love closes the album with some tasty saxophone and piano soloing.

  An album that should not be missed – even by those who generally dislike albums full of cover versions. (8)
- Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

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