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Soul Express Album Review

(US Chocolate City, 2007)

1) Higher 2) Invisible 3) Everytime 4) Anticipation 5) Dream 6) Remnants 7) Temptation 8) Free Fall 9) I Need You 10) Push It Further 11) Push Aside The Hurt 12) Ever After 13) Lost Paradise 14) Just Breath 15) That's All

Jua, a brand new name on the scene, offers us an eclectic offering which straddles the ethereal, soulful, mystical and contemporary. As such, Jua should appeal to a wider audience than most. Jua's vocal range contains the tidbits of many classic artists, giving him a great deal of texture, depth and bredth. There is, for example, a smoothness that we would attribute to the likes of Luther, and a roughness that we could lay at the door of the likes of Theo Peoples. In my book, that's an excellent mix and one that cannot fail.

Musically we are talking mostly programmed beats but with an organic undertone, drizzled with the slightest whimsy of urban chic. This does not lower itself to mainstream R&B trends, I hasten to add. As with most albums I find myself drawn all that bit closer to the downtempo material. This is a dangerous area for the unwary artist. These really do show the limitations of their talents if, indeed, these are few. Luckily Jua can pull this off with a smooth, yet jaggedy approach.

The backings may hint at a more urban R&B lilt, yet the warmness and, the dreamy keys and the vocal intonations offer us a glimpse of greater depth and feeling. It is on tracks such as “Dream” where the strength of this gentleman can be found. The plucking harp styled keyboard – a familiar path of today's R&B – attached to a flanging 80s styled synth, spaced out beats and dreamy, swaying and soaring vocal may look, on paper at least, to be discordant but this is definitely not the case. I love this song, and I know that you will too. A similar pattern can be found on the early 90s sounding “Temptation”; the insistent yet underplayed drum beat acting as a rather sexy backdrop, beefed up with a horny and all-encompassing bassline. Very tasty indeed!

The lyrical skills of Jua are, as can be discerned from songs like this, very strong and insightful. Another star pick is the dreamy “I Need You” - a work that reminds me of the sort of strong material we could expect from P J Morton, Lee Hawkins and the like. I also consider “Lost Paradise” to be an essential track, too. This is more traditional a groove and should please those who like their soul on a more organic side. Finally, “Just Breath” should also win a few nods of approval from those of you with more discerning ears. Jua deserves to be heard and given the props he deserves for this set. He has his head, his heart – and importantly – his soul in the right place. Recommended.
- Barry Towler

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