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Soul Express CD of the Month - February - March 2009

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Star Power
US Shanachie CD, 2009
1) I Used to Be - f. Christopher Williams 2) Where Do We Go from Here - f. Antoinette & Howard Hewett 3) Sweetest Taboo - f. Antoinette 4) Walk on By - f. Antoinette 5) Rock with You 6) You Take My Breath Away - f. Danny Boy 7) Stormin' Norman 8) You Are My Starship - f. Peabo Bryson 9) Shades of Brown 10) I Waited All My Life for You - f. Juanita Dailey 11) Star Power - f. Kirk Wilson 12) Reach for the Sky - f. Terrell Carter 13) Thinkin' - f. Chanj 14) Adore (I Love You) - f. Lisa Nobumoto

A new album by Norman Connors is always a big event. And although this brand new CD contains three tracks that have been released before (or actually four if you count that the Howard Hewett & Antoinette duet was already available on Antoinette's brilliant own album Verbal Crush), I think that the previously unreleased cuts still make this CD a good value for money set.

The tracks many of our readers have already in their collection include Juanita Dailey's reading of I Waited All My Life for You from her fabulous, partly Norman Connors-produced album Free (from 1998), the revised Peabo Bryson-sung version of Norman's old classic You Are My Starship (which was already released on Norman's previous CD Eternity), and the rather mediocre street-wise contemporary plodder Used to Be (with Christopher Williams on vocals), which was included on the Cafe Soul All-Stars CD from 2005.

Norman's phenomenal talent as a finder of new vocalists continues here. This time he introduces us two great new names: Antoinette (Manganas) and Danny Boy. Antoinette has just released her own, Connors-produced set (to be reviewed soon on Soul Express), and the duet with Howard Hewett, Antoinette's own composition Where Do We Go From Here is included here. Check the live version above from our YouTube video link!

This CD also contains two tracks from Antoinette that are NOT included on hew own set. Both are cover songs; Sweetest Taboo is a modern bossa nova-ish version of the Sade tune, while on her vibrant reading of Walk on by Antoinette really sounds a lot like young Dionne Warwick.

In the press release sheet of the CD, Norman especially enthuses about Danny Boy: “He has such talent that he is sure to blow in the next year. He is incredible. He is my ace in the hole at my live shows. He has a beautiful spirit and can sing anything. He’s like a young Peabo Bryson and Donny Hathaway all in one. Has great range and can dance. He is all over the stage and sings his heart out!” There is only one song delivered by Danny Boy, a track entitled You Take My Breath Away, and it really is a breathtaking new song on which Danny shows off his dexterous tenor voice. This is my favourite track from the album.

Terrell Carter is the competent tenor singer on Reach for the Sky, a ballad he has co-written with Chuck Cymone, who is actually the producer on the track. The closing track Adore (I Love You) is an acoustic jazzy floater with jazz singer Lisa Nobumoto delivering the lead vocals.

The instrumentals are less spectacular, this time, including a very typical smooth jazz reading of the Michael Jackson hit Rock with You, featuring Kirk Wilson's guitar playing. Shades of Brown is equally unadventurous with Kenny G-ish sax soloing, and Stormin' Norman is probably not the apt title for the rather predictable piano instrumental over the programmed beats.

Anyway, this album is still essential for the long string of vocal tracks. And please make sure that you won't miss Antoinette's solo CD, either!
- Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

Soul Express Video Pick from YouTube

Antoinette & Howard Hewett: Where Do We Go from Here (Live Version)

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