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Soul Express Album of the Month

July 2005

KEM Album II (US Motown, 2005)

1) Find Your Way (Back in My Life) 2) Heaven 3) Into You 4) I Can't Stop Loving You 5) Without You 6) Set You Free 7) I'm in Love 8) True Love 9) Each Other 10) You Might Win 11) I Get Lifted
Produced by KEM

There's still hope for soul music. The fact that an album this good tops the R&B chart is a cause for celebration.

Detroit-based KEM Owens' debut album Kemistry made it to my top ten in 2003, but this laconically titled second set is a serious contender for album of the year. The production is top-notch, with true "in-the-pocket" players like Ron Otis (drums), Al Turner (bass) and David McMurray (saxophone) providing a relaxed but solid, smooth yet funky backdrop for KEM's sophisticated songs. Boy is it good to hear real drums for a change!

This really is one of those rare albums where you never feel tempted to skip a track. Highlights will undoubtedly vary from listener to listener, but I find myself gravitating towards the sublimely beautiful ballad Heaven, the Al Jarreau-influenced midpacer Into You, the mellow stepper Set You Free with its nagging guitar riff, the melodic midtempo I'm in Love and the closing number, a compelling, sax-driven version of the Casey-Finch tune I Get Lifted (recorded in the 70s by George McCrae and Latimore, among others).

KEM's whispery vocals may not suit everybody, but personally I find his jazzy styling just perfect for this music, no matter if he at times sounds like a trumpet or woman.

Situation: The weather is warm. You have a cold drink in hand. A friend has borrowed your favourite Impromp2 album. Reaction: You slip into the CD player this disc full of mellow magic. All is well again. (9)
- Kimmo Heikkinen

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