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Quality Time

Reviewing the quality soul picks from recent CD albums

THE WHISPERS Don't Say No / Butta
US Satin Tie CD
THE ISLEY BROTHERS Just Came Here to Chill
US Def Soul CD Baby Makin' Music
THE PERSUADERS A Woman Was Made to Be Loved / Don't Think I Won't Leave
From US It's Soul Time CD Made To Be Loved
It's a rare pleasure these days to hear classic vocal group soul, but here we have a couple of successful performances by real veterans of the genre. Don't Say No sounds like a classic 70s type of Manhattans / Whispers ballad from the first hearing, to the extent that you have a feeling you have heard the tune before, but it is a new song, highlighted by a meaty saxophone solo. Butta is a track written and produced by Teena Marie, and has expectedly a more modern arrangement, but it is still a stylish traditional Whispers ballad that also offers Scotty Scott a good chance to show off his cool scatting.

If Don't Say No was a classic Whispers ballad, Just Came Here to Chill sounds more than 100 per cent vintage Isley Brothers slow tune! The title in itself is appetising, and as soon as Ronald Isley wails the alluring melody, you know that this is Isley Brothers at their finest.

While waiting for Marvin Junior's much anticipated solo debut, which is due any day now, we can satisfy ourselves with the Persuaders' highly acclaimed new set, which contains some of the most tortured down-to-earth soul vocalising of this millennium. A Woman Was Made to Be Loved opens the album with a pleasant combination of traditional vocal group singing and a more modern snappy background, but it's Don't Think I Won't Leave that really steals the show with Douglas "Smoky" Scott's incredibly rough and soulful delivery and the alternately passionate and bitter lyrics: "You know who puts the butter on your bread! Don't think I won't leave, I'm out the door, you won't see me no more."

JAMES DAY Better Days / Brick by Brick / Don't Waste the Pretty
From UK Expansion CD Better Days
James Day strives to be the modern-day Quincy Jones. In comparison with "The Dude", James obviously operates with a limited budget, but does a good job nevertheless, having talented vocalists like Audrey Wheeler and Jeff Ramsey as support. Audrey, these days also known as Mrs. Will Downing, is one of the grittiest female vocalists performing today, and she sounds utterly terrific on the sax-drenched title track and the instantly appealing quality ballad Brick by Brick. Jeff has a very warm and immediately pleasing masculine vocal tone that is not far from 80s / 90s soul heroes such as Luther Vandross, Freddie Jackson and James Ingram, and Don't Waste the Pretty is a mellow soulful hand-clapper. All of the songs above reveal James Day's talent as a writer of first-class soul melodies. A strong contender for the album of the year.

GLENN JONES w. GENOBIA JETER My First Love / Where Is the Love?
From US Shanachie CD Forever: Timeless R&B Classics
My First Love is originally Rene & Angela's single hit from 1983, and as such a rather surprising choice for Glenn Jones' album of cover versions. He duets the song with his wife Genobia Jeter and the twosome really set the tune on fire with their rousing vocals. On the other hand Where Is the Love? rivals with Will Downing and Mica Paris' version as being the most successful cover of this Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack classic.

From US STR Digital Records CD Talk to Me
Kim Prevost's Talk to Me CD is from 2002, and she has since recorded some acoustic jazz albums together with her husband Bill Solley. However, her 2002 album was more to our soulful tastes, and it included this divine, larger-than-life song Lush Life. It's not the famous jazz standard, but a new tune written together by Kim and Bill, and the melody sounds like an instant classic. Add to that the absolutely gorgeous arrangement with Nicholas Payton on muted trumpet and flugelhorn, and we have a track that will definitely be a sought-after jewel in the years to come.

JULIE DEXTER & KHARI SIMMONS Venusion (Aquarian Remix)
From UK Dome CD Moon Bossa
The combination of Brazilian bossa nova and soul music has become more and more popular in recent years. Not only did Brigette (McWilliams) record a whole album of bossa soul, but now also another neo-soul songstress Julie Dexter does the same thing here together with multi-instrumentalist Khari Simmons. Julie's sensuous voice suits well to bossa nova rhythms, some of which are programmed, but we certainly prefer those that have real instrumentation, like the Aquiarina Remix version of Venusian, on which Kebbi Williams blows tenor saxophone over the ethereal uptempo glider.

From Italian Schema CD The Invisible Session
If you're into Fertile Ground type of jazz-soul, the Italian group The Invisible Session is right up your alley. Six tracks on their debut set The Invisible Session are sung by Jenny B., who was also the lead vocalist for another classy Italian soul-jazz group Funky Company, and she sounds just brilliant here singing over the percussive, bass-driven groove. An essential purchase for jazz-soul aficionados.

LIBERTY SILVER Show Me the Way to Love
From US Thunder Dome Sounds CD At Last
Liberty Silver is basically a jazz artist, but she impresses us more on her soul material than with covers of jazz standards. Show Me the Way to Love is arguably the peak of her new CD, a sparkling mid-tempo swayer with some strong piano playing, and Liberty's mature voice has a deep, confident tone.

From US Criddick Notes CD Moments Like This
For anyone who liked Lizz Wright's vocal and musical style, Carol Riddick's (on the picture right) debut set is very much recommendable. She has much the same rootsy, slightly folk-oriented yet extremely profound and mature tone as Lizz Wright, and tracks like the vibrant mid-tempo ballad Confused demonstrate why Carol has caused such a fuzz in the Philadelphia soul scene today.

LYNNE FIDDMONT Say / Feel So Right / Something I Can Feel / No Regrets
From US MidLife Records CD Flow
Lynne Fiddmont was the other half of the duo Linsey, who recorded the CD Perfect Love on Virgin back in 1991. On her debut solo set, Lynne can boast a luxurious real instrumentation including Paul Jackson Jr, Freddie Washington, Herman Jackson, Abe Laboriel, Ricky Lawson, Luis Conte and Nathan Watts, who lay the ideal Quality Time setting for Lynn's own compositions. No bad tracks on the whole album, and to pick our favourites this time, Say has a classy sophisticated backdrop with Wayne Linsey providing the guitar arrangement, Feel So Right has a Womack & Womack-ish feel with its delicate yet soulful atmosphere, while No Regrets is the jazziest cut on display with an acoustic piano-drums-bass setting.

AL McKAY ALL STARS It's Only Love / Getaway / Evil / A Love's Holiday
From US Rhythm Records CD Al dente
Ali Ollie Woodson is the star of the show on It's Only Love, one of the new tunes on Al McKay All Stars' Al dente album, which was originally released in Japan in 2001, but is now available as a more humanly priced US copy. Al McKay himself plays wah-wah guitar and percussion on this horn-coloured (Enzo Vilaparedes on flugelhorn and Alejandro Carballo on trombone) understated groover.
On the Earth, Wind & Fire covers, not only Al McKay himself but also original members Michael Harris (trumpet) and Rhamlee Michael Davis (trumpet) are featured, and it's more than interesting to hear Ali Ollie singing Maurice White's bravura Love's Holiday.
Even much more impressive are, though, the new versions of Getaway and Evil. Getaway suffers from a programmed rhythm, but is otherwise an extremely powerful reading of the funky tune, with Michael Harris, Rhamlee Michael Davis, Steve Baxter and Andre Roberson excelling in the horn section. The track that really outshines the original Earth, Wind & Fire version is Evil, which is built over a dynamic Latin groove that is crowned by astonishing saxophone, trombone and trumpet solos.
Having witnessed Al's all-star combo live, we can attest to the fact that this no tired rehash but some truly spirited musicianship and inspiring listening - especially to all old Earth, Wind & Fire fans.

TERISA GRIFFIN Anymore / Did You Ever / Rose Coloured Glasses / Love Changed / Better Love Yourself
From US My Naked Soul Productions CD My Naked Soul
One of the strongest new vocalist to emerge in the soul scene this millennium, Terisa Griffin is currently only known in the local Chicago area, but with her 3rd album My Naked Soul, you can expect her to get much wider exposure. She has a terrific, gospel-trained voice with enormous strength and a rather unique tone - we cannot find an apt reference for her among contemporary soul singers. But any long time soul fan who hears tracks like Anymore, Did You Ever, Rose Coloured Glasses or Better Love Yourself immediately realises that we have a new major talent here - belonging to the same league with her early influences Patti LaBelle, Natalie Cole or Oleta Adams and Rachelle Ferrel, to whom she has already been compared.
-PR & IT

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