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Soul Express Album of the Month - May 2006

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Read an exclusive interview with Marva King

Marva King – Soul Sistah
(UK Expansion, 2006)
Soul Love – Every Night – Yo-Attitude – Sistah – Super Fly – Baby This Love – My Life – You Know – Be Thankful – Mellow – Trippin’ – You Know – The Flesh – Lovely – Singing Whoah – Big Ups – Tomcat Skit – Wanna Be

This is an eagerly awaited album, and after hearing three tracks on Richard Searling’s "Soul Sauce" a few weeks ago, I was also smitten. I have loved this Lady since her Planet LP release back in the 1980s, and her work with Kazu Matsui and, later, Prince and the NPG, George Howard and Steve Harvey. Marva has also moved into other areas such as modelling and filmwork with her appearance in Tyler Perry’s film "Diary Of A Mad Black Woman". However, I was rather unmoved by her "Light Of Day" album which I feel was aimed at a completely different audience, but "Soul Sistah" has brought Marva back to where I, as a listener / buyer feel comfortable. It is a set which ears of all ages will find a home.

Those who love Ledisi and N’Dambi would find appeal here as there is a large chunk of Neo-Soul and Jazzy flavours here too, and Marva’s powerful, sexy 4-octave range marries well to this style. "Soul Love" does a pretty good job of opening the latest chapter of Marva’s musical journey. Sensuality is the name of the game here, and this Lady does a great job in easing me from my original wariness into a more comfortable position with this album. Ledisi fans will become ensconced with the earthy, jazziness of "Every Night" – it is indeed an addictive track, more so perhaps on every play.

"Sistah" will also do the business I am sure. It is an empowering record and does more for "girl power" in a few minutes than any industry-produced manufactured, synthetic girly band did in many a year. Marva King rightly states that the younger generation is watching them and that they learn. She also says that it is important to teach the difference between love and lust. I could not agree more, Marva. I respect and support such positivity in music, and music can do much to improve awareness for the people as a whole. The violist here is a Karen Briggs, and should the late Noel Pointer be your cup of tea then you will love her inclusion. The ending really is a beautiful one - and I’m not really a fan of electric violin!

From all things electric to all things organic. "Super Fly" is not as bad as it sounds at all, and the Lady sounds very sexy on this number as she muses over the dress sense and demeanour of her man. George Duke and Stanley Clarke make a welcome appearance on the classy remake of Minnie Riperton’s "Baby This Love". Nice, too to have talent of this calibre on board.

"Know You" is a real gem. My partner was surprised I liked this as it sounded too "modern" (the cheek!) The beat is very stripped down; augmented by a clapping beat and acoustic guitar so yes, it is Spartan in that sense, but the vocal sparring between Marva and her (unknown!) singing partner really is magical. I love this song, especially the fender rhodes that sneak in 2˝ minutes in. Then if that’s not good enough, Najee pops up and blows some mean sax. This is a tasty and very agreeable stepper and I can’t recommend it enough.

Her reading of "Be Thankful For What You’ve Got" is also very tasteful, and better than the recent effort by Donald McCullum. One of my favourites – as well as Marva’s – is the sexy and relaxing "Mellow". This really is a song that lives up to its name and will be another that you should appreciate. This is followed by another strong cut, "Trippin’" which is laced with slap bass and crashing symbols. The rhythm guitar is amazing and the whole essence of this is rooted in a rich and funky musical past.

Skipping the ragga effort, we find a modern R&B effort that is very good, but is overshadowed by an awesome song. This song is called "Lovely". To me its an expressive, sensual, postmodern if not futuristic extravaganza of the ethereal and eerie. The dreamy and haunting backdrop is peppered with a sexy beat and has Marva really playing vocally between a deep, sensual monologue, a funky growl a la Val Watson to high falsetto. The strings that appear are fantastically dramatic and the Hammond also makes an appearance too. This infusion is wonderfully different and has often been pumped up loud in the car and here at home. For me this song alone renders a purchase of this set essential. The rest of the album really aims at a younger audience, which is fine. There is so much on here that I can relate to, and makes this – for me at any rate – her best work in years. This set is due for release on May 29th here in the UK – don’t miss it!
- Barry Towler

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