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The Soul Express Album of the Month

October 2002

UK Soul Brother CD, 2002
1) YahZarah: Blackstar 2) YahZarah: Nova 3) YahZarah: Love Is You 4) Julie Dexter: Peace of Mind 5) Julie Dexter: What Do I Do 6) Julie Dexter: Ketch A Vibe 7) Kevin Chandler Band: Higher 8) Kevin Chandler Band: Art of Dreamin' 9) Kevin Chandler Band: Nommo 10) The Real Kofy Brown: Do 11) The Real Kofy Brown: Ya Don't Stop 12) The Real Kofy Brown: What Could It Be 13) No Style But Soul: Sweet Potato Pie 14) No Style But Soul: Ghetto Dream 15) No Style But Soul: Be with You
"Organic soul" is London's Soul Brother Records' marketing term for the non-Puffy / anti-Dupri / STOP Kenny G type of contemporary soul / jazz artistry nowadays more commonly referred to as "neo-soul". Which, of course, is another more or less stupid marketing term. Anyway, the first volume in this series, released last year, featured a very impressive line-up of the genre's biggest underground stars: Ledisi, N'Dambi, Karen Bernod, Ian and Laurnea. This sequel showcases another five artists, of whom only YahZarah and Julie Dexter were familiar names to me.
Like N'Dambi, Dana Williams a.k.a. YahZarah has worked with Erykah Badu, but she names the late great Minnie Riperton as her biggest influence. Of the three tracks on offer, all taken from her debut album Hear Me (Keo Music, 2001), it is on the superb ballad Love Is You that she comes nearest to Minnie. This track, which we included in last year's Quality Time Top 50, is an airy jazz-soul ballad with real instrumentation. Blackstar and Nova, however, don't cut it for me, both being average Badu / Jill Scott-styled midtempo tracks with fairly dull backings.
Birmingham, UK-born Julie Dexter's Dexterity album is reviewed in our latest printed issue (3/02), but of the selections included here, only What Do I Do appears on it, whereas the other two come from her debut EP Peace of Mind from 2000. These tracks don't offer much to write home about, but luckily there are more inspiring cuts on Dexterity (Love, Faith, That's Livin'). In spite of her occasional reggae and folk influences, I'd advise everyone into Badu / N'Dambi / Fertile Ground (with whom she has collaborated) to give that album a chance.
Kevin Chandler Band operates from Chicago and provides this compilation's highlights. Higher is a fine mid-to-uptempo floater, but it is the magical ballad Art of Dreamin' which steals the show. It has a memorable melody and top-class production with a jazzy soprano saxophone wandering in the background throughout the track. Nommo is a spoken-word number, but again blessed with a tasty, wah-wah-infused musical backdrop. Now where can I get the full Psoul Psychedelica album?
Kofy Brown, not to be confused with last year's one-hit wonder Koffee Brown, is a poet with a semi-sung delivery, but seldom has poetry been delivered against a musical backdrop as delicious as hers. Both Do and Ya Don't Stop contain absolutely wonderful backings, with their jazzy guitar work being a particular delight. The funky What Could It Be isn't any weaker and is propelled by wah-wah guitar and clavinet. I'd recommend the Real Kofy Brown to everyone who has enjoyed Me'shell NdegeOcello's work. Intelligent but funky!
No Style But Soul is the most left-field artist on offer, and will probably cause head-scratching even among those who enjoyed the Kofy Brown cuts. This is very jazzy stuff indeed and will probably only appeal to those who have a strong liking for the jazzier side of hip-hop or what is sometimes called nu jazz (please don't ask me to elaborate on this subject: enough marketing terms already).
Suffice it to conclude that I haven't regretted my purchase for a minute. Long may the Organic Soul series continue!
(8) - KH

The album of the Month in September 2002: Maysa
The album of the Month in August 2002: Brenda Hillman
The album of the Month in June-July 2002: Will Downing
The album of the Month in May 2002: Kloud9
The album of the Month in April 2002: Ledisi
The album of the Month in March 2002: The O'Jays
The album of the Month in February 2002: Jill Scott
The album of the Month in January 2002: N'Dambi

Albums of the Month in 2001
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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