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The Soul Express Album of the Month

November 2001

PURE MAGIC (US Magnatar 2001)
1) I'll Do for You 2) Will You Marry Me 3) I Love You (The Letter) 4) Our Business 5) We Got Us 6) Why Should I 7) It's Alright 8) The Dance 9) Magic 10) By Any Means Necessary 11) How Long 12) Won't Let You Do That to Me

The most positive surprise of the year must be the new album by Main Ingredient, aptly entitled Pure Magic. Not only am I glad that the group is back after a long hiatus (their previous album I Just Wanna Love You was released 12 years ago in 1989), but the best thing is that the new album is full of new soul-stirring songs. Cuba Gooding has been replaced by a new lead vocalist, indie soul veteran Carlton Blount, whose vocals are rootsy and soulful in the extreme. The other two members are original members of the group, Tony Sylvester and Luther Simmons.
I'm not sure whether all the old fans of the group are delighted since the overall style of the group has been changed considerably after Blount has become the new lead singer. However, I'm certainly not complaining when Carlton Blount has the kind of rasping voice that would make Three Times a Lady sound soulful.
My absolute favourite on the album is the track titled Why Should I, which is an ultimate grower tune of the year with a classic, haunting chorus line and Carlton showing the grittiest side of his stunning vocalising while delivering the painstakingly bitter lyrics - listen to the closing moments when Carlton starts adlibbing over the chorus line which goes "why should I dry my eyes, when the tears just keep on falling...". An instant soul classic and one of the prime tracks of the year.
The rest of the album is full of good old-time soul songs, too. Will You Marry Me is a majestetic soul ballad that would be ideal for a traditional soul group like Dells. The same could be said of the mid-creeper titled How Long - a classic pleading soul song ("I get down on my knees..." etc). Even deeper is, though, the atmospheric beat ballad I Love You (The Letter), which has a melody line that simply demands for soulful interpretation, and Carlton's delivery virtually defines what soul singing is all about.
If I had to pinpoint a weakness on the album, it is the fact that the background instrumentation relies on programmed beats and 80s type synth sounds, which are only coloured by a touch of guitar and additional keys. Still, the backings definitely do not ruin any of the gorgeous ballads on offer. Instead, the synths come more to the front on the upbeat tracks like It's Alright and The Dance, which may sound rather dated to anyone who don't really like the 80s type synth funk sounds. Admittedly, I have nothing against even the heavy, Fatback-ish groove like The Dance, although I can easily guess it does not appeal to many of our readers.
Luckily, the album closes with one of the most stimulating uptempo tunes of the year, I Won't Let You Do That to Me, which is an alluring old-time uptempo soul song with a catchy melody with that classic, magical "feel-good factor" that is instantly palpable on this delightful tune. The real star of the song is the lovely soprano voice that belongs to the guest vocalist named Natasha C. Coward.
Thus, the album probably finds most fans among those soul enthusiast who were "converted" into soul music in the 80s or late 70s, but who have grown to love deeper, traditional soul in the J. Blackfoot mould as well. In my book, this is the best album by any soul vocal group since the III frum the Soul album from 1998. - IT

The Album of the Month in October 2001: Ty Stephens
The Album of the Month in September 2001: Vaneese Thomas
The Album of the Month in August 2001: Michael Bohannon
The Album of the Month in June-July 2001: Miki Howard
The Album of the Month in May 2001: Cynthia Biggs
The Album of the Month in April 2001: Gladys Knight
The Album of the Month in March 2001: Nathan Heathman
The Album of the Month in February 2001: Ian
The Album of the Month in January 2001: Karen Bernod

Albums of the Month in 2000
Albums of the Month in 1999
Albums of the Month in 1998
Albums of the Month in 1997

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