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Soul Express Album Review

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US Headstorm, 2007
1) Yearning (Intro) 2) Just Like Doin' It 3) Can I Kiss Your Lips 4) Man Overboard 5) Gotta Let You Go 6) Reflection 7) Caught In The Middle 8) Let Me Be The One 9) Virtual Reality 10) Gratitude 11) Hot Summer Night (End)

I have lived, breathed and slept this album over the past few weeks and have absorbed it like no release I can recall over the past few years. I was bowled over by the recent Curt Jones album as it was just sheer quality...but this album outshines that and anything without question. It is simply intoxicating. This is exactly the sort of music that I want to be hearing, and exactly the sort of artist I want to be writing about. Every track without exception is a standout; no fillers, nothing weak and no saps to the juvenile, lost current “R&B” scene or dreary UK-orientated street / urban soul scene. This is REAL, UNADULTERATED, FABULOUS soul music with nowt taken out. If ever an album was screaming for release in the UK and Europe it is this.

I have always rated O'Bryan. Every album he has released has a gem or two tucked away on it. If I were able to, I would take “You Have Got To Come To Me” to heaven with me when I eventually shuffle off this mortal coil. I will defiantly be taking this with me too. I have not been so struck with an album like this since I heard Leon Ware's “Taste The Love” album, or Burt Bacharach's “At This Time”. The scene is set with the most spine tingling instrumental intro called “Yearning”. The albumitself nestles wonderfully in a ballad / mid tempo setting, spaced with the odd beautiful interlude. “Yearning” will have you doing just that, and if “Just Like Doin' It” doesn't make your jaw drop then you are on the wrong web site. The man sounds fantastic, and I have to say that I think this material far surpasses anything he produced for Capitol. “Just Like Doin' It” is a sexy, smouldering number and would sit nicely with album highlights from Keith Washington / Gene Rice etc sets back in 1991. It really is that strong.

After absorbing myself in such a wonderful track I was simply not ready for the brilliance and sheer soulfulness of “Can I Kiss Your Lips”. Oh, with the lovely warm spring-like weather we are currently having there is no better music to accompany it. Again, if this is not your cup of tea then I think that a trip to the Soul Doctor is in order! “Man Overboard” has made it onto Internet radio and rightly so. This is classic soul material – accept no substitutes. I have said before and I will repeat it again: we live in an age where folks (including many in the soul world) celebrates ephemeral mediocrity at the expense of real talent, and when I see pit ponies being masqueraded as thoroughbreds I get very upset. This man is definitely a throughbred and deserves as much exposure as possible.

“Gotta Let You Go” will definitely please and the sublime dreamy instrumental, “Reflection” perfectly melts into the KILLER mid tempo “Caught In The Middle”; a song about a man who wants to have his cake and eat it too. This really is an exciting track – not a word I use often. This is a groove of immense proportions and O'Bryan really works well in such a song. This song is addictive and I guarantee that you will be playing this LOUD! “Let Me Be The One” with its luxurius spaced out beats and idling guitar is the perfect spoil for its predecessor and will again have you riveted.

Track 9 is simply beautiful. “Virtual Reality” coyly plays on our onanistic tendancies, and I know that I have been there and so has everyone else. Definitely a song that is coming through the pearly gates with me when the time comes! LOL. This is smartly followed by the quirky, squeaky sexy number, “Gratitude”, which is so soulful it hurts. The whole album features beautiful arrangements, soulful synths and first-class song writing, production and vocals. The lovely “Hot Summer Night (End)” brings the curtain down on what I can only describe as the performance of not only this year, but a number of years.

At the moment the album is available as a download via Napster or Snocap (if you live in the US) and I understand that iTunes will be picking this up in a matter of weeks. Hopefully this magnificent album will grace the stores as a CD release (it's now available from our own Soul Express CD shop, editor's note). However, don't let this slip away. Get an iTunes account, or whatever, download it and burn it to CD and add it to your iPod. Don't allow albums like this to be excluded from your collection. If ever an album SHOULD be in your collection then this is surely it.
-Barry Towler

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