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Quality Time

Reviewing the quality soul picks from recent CD albums

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BRIAN CULBERTSON w. LEDISI The World Keeps Going Around
From US Verve CD Bring Back the Funk

I have been amazed how little media publicity this CD by Brian Culbertson has received, when the actual album is a splendid funk & soul set featuring a real all-star cast of classic funk & soul musicians like Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, Ronnie Laws, Gerald Albright, Maceo Parker, numerous Earth Wind & Fire members like Maurice White, Larry Dunn etc. The tracks on the album feature both excellent cover versions and original material; The World Keeps Going Around is an old Bill Withers tune that gets a magnificient new treatment here, complete with a tight horn section, intensive piano playing by Brian himself, and most of all Ledisi doing exactly what she is expected here: singing her a** off while interpreting the tune - in the manner only she can. One of the many highlights of the year and certainly in the top of our yearly countdown of Quality Time Top tracks of 2008. Listen to the track at You Tube.

TONI REDD Anytime of Day
From US Real Redd Music CD

On her debut set Straight From The Heart Toni Redd was already parallelled with superstars like Chaka Khan, Anita Baker and Phyllis Hyman. Her second set "N" The Key Of Redd is produced by Bob Baldwin, who makes sure that the sounds and instrumentation on the new album are top-notch, and Toni's self-confident vocalising is a pleasure to your ears. Again, I suggest that you trust your own ears by listening to the sound clips on

MS. MONIQUE You Did It to You (Live)
From US Soul Entertainment Inc. CD single

Heikki Suosalo has already introduced Ms. Monique to our readers on his Deep column several years ago. Ms. Monique has often been compared to classic soul singers like Millie Jackson and Betty Wright . This live version of a song from her Soul Sessions Chapter 1 CD proves that she could also gather a much more wider (and younger) audience than the traditional Southern soul circles, actually this terrific interpretation reminds me of Terisa Grffin's most powerful performances, while other writers have been comparing Ms. Monique to Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige.
Listen to You Did It to You (Live) on her MySpace page

JOAN CLARKE Miracles Do Come True
From US Green Recording CD Thirsty

South Floriba -based songstress Joan Clarke is currently recording a tribute album to Phyllis Hyman. While eagerly waiting for that we can enjoy Joan's debut set Thirsty and one of its prime cuts, a ballad titled Miracles Do Come True. It is coloured by tasty alto saxophone soloing by Edward Maina, and Joan herself has a mature, smooth voice that is ideal on this kind of mellow ballad material.

LEON WARE A Whisper Away
From US Stax CD Moon Ride

I'm so glad than one of the living soul music legends, Leon Ware has been signed to Stax and released an album that has taken him back in spotlight again, after recording several self-published (but still worthwhile) albums on his own Kitchen Records label. A Whisper Away is an absolutely gorgeous slice of jazzy soul, proving that Leon still has the magic that provided us some of the most cherished soul tracks in the 70s and 80s. Onaje Allan Gumbs plays the piano, while Armando Castangoli is on the saxophone, Rob Bacon on guitar and David Garcia on percussion.

PHIL PERRY Ready for Love
From US Shanachie CD Ready for Love

I wasn't that excited over Phil's last two Shanachie sets, which were all-cover albums of classic soul tunes, mainly early 70s sweet soul songs. I'm happy that his latest ten-track CD contains eight new songs and only two cover tunes. The title track Ready for Love takes Phil back to the real thing, performing first class soulful ballad material and spiced by some jazzy instrumentation. "Is there a better pure singer alive than Phil Perry?" asks our US fellow soulsite Soul Tracks; you'd better find out by yourself and check the CD!

From US Heads Up CD Esperanza

Last July Esperanza Spalding visited Pori Jazz festival here in Finland, and attracted everyone with her shining performance. The highly acclaimed jazz basist and vocalist has already released two albums, first Junjo in 2006 on Ayva Music and now in last May her sophomore set Esperanza on Heads Up jazz label. This bouncy mid-tempo mover, built on a rhythm track colored by piano and lots of percussion, is a fine showcase of Esperanza's talent both as a vocalist and a basist. Sheer jazz, of course, but certainly appreciated by many soul lovers as well.

MARC NELSON I Don't Wanna Be in Love
From US Lyric Master CD Marc: My Words

Some of our reader might remember Marc Nelson's (the son of Phyllis Nelson) first album I Want You on Capitol, when Marc was part of HUSH production team. Since then, he has been producing or writing songs for artists like Johnny Gill, Toni Braxton, Keith Washington, Howard Hewett, Tamia and Jon B.. Marc's own solos career has been less spectacular, but on his three solo sets he has performed music that is pretty similar to Babyface's style. Personally, I rate him higher as a composer than a singer, and this beautiful ballad proves that his pen is still sharp. Brian Culbertson has co-written the song together with Marc.

SOPHIA NELSON The Price to Pay
From French Harmonie Production CD Woman in Love

For anyone who likes both soul and salsa and Latin music, Sophia Nelson's latest CD is worth hunting down. The Price to Pay combines driving salsa piano riffs, punchy horn lines and a catchy melody sung by this Ghana-born current Parisian songstress. Other tracks on the CD vary from Incognito-ish jazz-funk and Angela Bofill-type of soul to African influences and Caribbean funk. Sophia also does a brilliant salsa-fied version of Grover Washington's East River Drive - probably our next pick to Quality Time Cream Cuts.
Listen to The Price to Pay on Sophia's MySpace page!

GERALD ALSTON A Change Is Gonna Come
From US Love Song Touring CD Gerald Alston Sings Sam Cooke

I have always regarded Gerald Alston as one of the best followers of legendary Sam Cooke, and on his latest album Gerald is finally able to fulfil his long-time dream recording an album of Cooke classics. A Change Is Gonna Come is a superb reading by Gerald, even though the backing is not even nearly up to the level of the original. The album closes with an extremely powerful live version of the same song.

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