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Soul Express Album of the Month

February 2008

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Fruition (US Nouveau Bleu Entertainment, 2007)
1) California Dreamin' 2) Stay Strong 3) Matter Of Time 4) Danger Zone 5) Unexpected Storm 6) Interlude (missing you) 7) Pictures 8) Pieces 9) Better Now 10) Lately I 11) Dontcha Wanna Know 12) Can't Tell You

Lori Jenaire’s previous CD Within Reach was one of my personal top 5 albums in 2004, and it provided the number one song for our Quality Time top 50 picks of 2004. This track was the Angela Bofill cover Under the Moon and Over the Sky - here's the review:
"Possessing a voice carried by angels… As she sways and swoons, her voice simmers and soars, gently rocking spaces we never knew we held within…" These quotations from Lori Jenaire's Website are not hyperbole: if only all 21st century soul music was like this! Under the Moon and Over the Sky is originally a tune recorded by Angela Bofill, and this cover version reminds us of the best tracks by Baltimore-based soul-jazz group Fertile Ground. A majestic composition, a noble interpretation by Ms. Jenaire and a divine musical setting: it doesn't get any better than this!

This newie may not contain a similar jewel as Under the Moon, but I think the overall quality is more consistent than on the previous CD. Within Reach contained both rich quality soul arrangements and more modern programmed tracks, but on Fruition even the tracks with programmed beats have a refined musical backdrop featuring real instruments (saxophone, flute, flugelhorn, percussion etc.). Both Lori's vocal style and the atmosphere on the album strongly remind me of Vaneese Thomas' brilliant Talk Me Down album from 2001.

On Within Reach Lori covered songs by Angela Bofill, Stylistics and Phyllis Hyman, and this album also includes two covers versions. The album opens with California Dreamin', a song by The Mamas & the Papas from 1965 that has been earlier recorded by such soul artists as Bobby Womack and The Four Tops. I've always liked the tune but I think that it would have required a bit rootsier backdrop: it is now arranged in a smooth, programmed backdrop with a touch of flute and some nice guitar work.

The other cover tune is a much newer tune, the Diane Warren written Lately I, originally from Faith Evans' 1998 album Keep the Faith. Diane Warren's song-writing style is a bit too Whitney-ish to my liking, but Lori's powerful interpretation is very soulful and brings Vaneese Thomas' dramatic ballad Dear John to my mind.

Still, my favourite tracks on the album are original songs co-written by Lori herself. Matter of Time is a softly floating melodious mid-swayer that is crowned by a saxophone solo. It is followed by a real cream cut Danger Zone, a song that sounds like a classic Phyllis Hyman ballad, and Lori delivers the tune in a very Hyman-esque way. Again, we have a soulful saxophone solo colouring the modern keyboard-dominated backing. Splendid.

Unexpected Storm has a slight Latin-flavoured rhythm laced with nylon guitar, over which Michael Ray blows a flugelhorn solo and Lori delivers her relaxed, full-blown vocals. Pieces is another strong new song that is much played on UK soul radio stations; the track would have suited perfectly Vaneese's Talk Me Down album. Can't Tell You closes the album in a luscious sax-drenched atmosphere and the soulful tune is a self-evident choice for our Quality Time column. Class written all over it!

This album succesfully continues the tradition of Phyllis Hyman and should please anyone who adored Phyllis.
-Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express, editor

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