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Quality Time

Reviewing the quality soul picks from the year 2006

Quality Time Top 40 of 2006


1. TERISA GRIFFIN Rhythm of Love (Live Version)

From US TerisaGriffin.com CD Live at Cerritos (Available from Terisagriffin.com)

Rhythm of Love is originally an Anita Baker-Patrick Moten tune from Anita’s 1994 CD of the same title, and Terisa does a more than memorable cover version here. Apart from being a soul vocalist of the highest class she is also a phenomenal jazz interpreter, scatting wonderfully over an intensive rhythm track. Her improvisation especially during the last minute of the track is absolutely thrilling. Think Ledisi at her gutsiest and jazziest and you get a hint of what Terisa accomplishes on this tune. A classic, and one of the highlights of the 21st century.

2. GEORGE BENSON/AL JARREAU f. PATTI AUSTIN Let It Rain

From US Concord CD Givin’ It Up

This is the kind of material we’d love to hear from Patti Austin: she’s shining over a first-class jazz-soul backdrop featuring Chris Botti on trumpet, George Benson on guitar, Patrice Rsuhen on electric piano, Marcus Miller on bass, Vinnie Colainta on drums, Barry Eastmond (co-writer of the song together with Patti’s duet partner Al Jarreau) on keyboards and Paulinho DaCosta and Bashiri Johnson on percussion. From the very first listen, you know that this track belongs to Quality Time.

3. TERISA GRIFFIN Rose Colored Glasses

From US My Naked Soul Productions CD My Naked Soul

Starting with one of the most memorable intros of the year, Rose Colored Glasses is arguably the peak of this Chicago-based talent’s acclaimed album My Naked Soul. On this particular track, Terisa delivers her powerhouse vocals over a fascinating percussive backdrop laced with guitar, and there is some kind of unique tension surrounding the proceedings.

4. VICTOR FIELDS Thinking of You

From US Regina Records CD Thinking of You

Recorded in June 2006 at the Plant Studios in Sausalito, where according toVictor, he and his musicians “found some powerful magic”. On this future summer soul classic you can almost feel the late-night laid back Sausalito atmosphere as the saxophonist Vince Lars blows his solo and Victor delivers his ultra-mellow vocals. Jeff Lorber has co-written the excellent new tune.

5. LYNNE FIDDMONT Say

From US MidLife CD Flow

Lynne Fiddmont was the sweet-voiced lead singer of Linsey album Perfect Love back in 1991. Fifteen years later, Lynne – now divorced from her husband Wayne Linsey – released her excellent debut CD Flow, from which we have picked this refined masterpiece. The melody is extremely beautiful and it has been set in a superb real musician backdrop with Mark Stephens providing the acoustic piano solo. Timeless.

6. THE INVISIBLE SESSION f. JENNY B 'Till the End

From Italian Schema CD The Invisible Session

If you’re into Fertile Ground, Five Corners Quintet, Nicola Conte and other representatives of the 60s/70s inspired soul-jazz genre, The Invisible Session is right up your alley. The Invisible Session is an all-Italian ensemble and the vocalist Jenny B. is a well-known Italian singer who was also the lead singer of Incognito-ish Funky Company in the early 90s.  'Till the End is the glorious opening track of the self-titled album by The Invisible Session, a compelling combination of a bass and piano-driven groove and the sultry lead vocals.

7. KENNY THOMAS Him

From UK Curb CD Crazy World

As a vocalist, Kenny is not quite the new James Ingram that he obviously aims at, but he certainly knows how to write a classic soul tune. Him has the same feeling as Lisa Stansfield’s All Around the World, being an instantly alluring melody in a 70s Barry White-ish arrangement. Very clever.

8. LIBERTY SILVER Show Me the Way

From US Thunder Dome CD At Last

Another jazz singer who is perfectly capable of delivering soul material as well, as this gliding mid-tempo ballad demonstrates. Liberty has a deep alto voice that she uses in a professional manner over the fine piano-driven backdrop.

9. MIKI HOWARD Inseparable

From US Shanachie CD Pillow Talk

Miki’s homage to Natalie Cole’s 1976 number one R&B hit easily outshines the original. Miki is really one of the leading soul singers at the moment, equally at home in a soul and jazz setting. Her phrasing on this familiar melody is simply stunning.

10. ME'NA Journey Begins with You

From US Menasvision CD Living My Life

So many cream cuts on this future cult album, and we had difficulties to pick only one for our top 50 countdown. Journey Begins with You is an utterly stylish, flute-coloured wistful song that perfectly displays the overall quality of the album.


11. SISAUNDRA LEWIS f. NAJEE Speak

From US Global CD Shout

Sisaundra Lewis’ reading of Speak is definitely one of the most spirited vocal performances of the year, and in addition to that, the arrangement is highly original with an acoustic intro and Najee blowing some terrific flute. Sisaundra’s contribution on Najee’s previous album on the track Emotional was a top ten track in our last year’s countdown.

12. MARION MEADOWS feat. WILL BROCK Miss Know It All
From US Heads Up CD Dressed to Chill
This mellow toe-tapper with a passionate male vocal is essentially a reworking of Meadows’ earlier collaborations with Blake Harris. If you mix Next to You with Flava, you’ll end up with Miss Know It All. Meadows may be recycling a formula, but we happen to think it is a winning formula.

13. PERSUADERS Don't Think I Won't Leave

From US It's Soul Time CD Made To Be Loved

While waiting for Marvin Junior's much anticipated solo debut, which is due any day now, we could satisfy ourselves with the Persuaders' highly acclaimed new set, which contains some of the most tortured down-to-earth soul vocalising of this millennium. Don't Think I Won't Leave  features 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.”

14. JEFF ROBINSON Waiting for the Tables to Turn

From US Fluid Recordings CD Eyewitness

Waiting for the Tables to Turn  is the prime track from Jeff Robinson’s sophomore set Eyewitness. The song is based on a groovy musical backdrop fusing soul, jazz and funk in Jeff’s inimitable style. He has been compared with Will Downing, but it’s hard to pinpoint any particular source of influence.

15. ONE 51 Feat. HEIDI VOGEL Bring Me to Your Life

From UK Expansion compilation CD Eleanora Presents Underground Soul

Maybe not exactly “Underground soul” but a unique piece of jazzy soul, built over a very strong percussive rhythm, which is coloured by some genuinely jazzy keyboard playing. Heidi herself is a 25-year-old London born singer who sounds more mature than her age.

16. GLADYS KNIGHT Do Nothing till You Hear from Me

From US Verve CD Before Me

Gladys’ foray into jazz territory is a very much enjoyable experience for die-hard soul fans, as well, one should think, since Gladys sings the familiar standards in her inimitably soulful style. The opening tune of the collection is a fine case in point: the swinging accompaniment by the Clayton / Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and Gladys´ earthy vocals go together amazingly well.

17. THE ISLEY BROTHERS Just Came Here to Chill

From US Def Soul CD Baby Makin’ Music

The Isley Brothers have been able to record classic soul songs virtually on all of their albums, and Baby Makin’ Music does not make an exception. Just Came Here to Chill is an instantly alluring soul melody and Ronald delivers it with his usual classy manner.

18. THE TEMPTATIONS Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)

From US New Door CD Reflections

Truly majestic vocalising, in the best Temptations tradition, by G.C Cameron, Terry Weeks and Ron Tyson, can be heard on this version of the Jim Weatherly song, originally a number one hit for Gladys Knight & the Pips. Sadly, the rest of the album was highly disappointing, containing uninspired modernisations of classic songs by other Motown artists.

19. MALA WALDRON Whispers in the Wind

From US Soulful Sound Music CD Always There

Whispers in the Wind is yet another specimen of classy soulful jazz with a swaying mellow midtempo groove, over which Mala delivers her utterly pleasant if not that original vocals

20. FRANK McCOMB Only in My Dreams

From UK Expansion CD The Truth Vol. 2

Frank McComb is obviously not one of the easiest persons to deal with, but we all know that he can deliver some classic Donny Hathaway –type of soul. The Truth Vol. 2 album was actually the legendary, shelved Motown album that finally saw the daylight, and the CD contains some of the best moments Frank has put on record. Backed by musicians like Harvey Mason, Sekou Bunch, Doc Powell, Paulinho DaCosta, the Jerry Hey horns etc, this is really something else than his recent, one-man band bootleg releases with homespun sounds.


21. MARVA KING Mellow

From UK Expansion CD Soul Sistah

On her previous CD, Marva King tried to update her image with an R&B / funk –oriented set, but Soul Sistah with its strong 70s flavour was much more to our tastes. Mellow is like an Isley Brothers ballad with female vocals with an instantly memorable melody, self-written by Marva.

22. FREDDIE JACKSON Hold on Me

From US Orpheus CD Transitions

Nice to hear Freddie back in full swing. The overall sound and musical background represent the current R&B trends, but Freddie improvises on the melody in an altogether inspired fashion.

23. DAVID SEA Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

From US Love Makes the World Go Around

On his latest album, David Sea covers two songs that were also featured on Ali Ollie Woodson’s Right Here All Along album: Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow and Turn out the Stars. Ali Ollie’s versions were truly breathtaking, and David Sea’s readings are almost as spine-tingling.

24. KIRK WHALUM f. GABRIELA ANDERS Wey U

From US Rendezvous Music CD Kirk Whalum performs the Babyface Songbook

Another delightful bossa meets soul combination from Kirk Whalum’s previous CD. The track is basically an instrumental track featuring Christian McBride, Bashiri Johnson, “Lil John” Roberts and Chuck Loeb in the background, and Kirk blows his meaty tenor solo over the warm rhythms. Gabriela does a little ethereal, whispery vocals in a bossa nova style. If only her solo albums would be equally stylish.

25. STEVE 'THE SCOTSMAN' HARVEY f. LEDISI I Can't Let You Go

From UK Expansion CD The Everyday People Project

While still waiting for the major label debut from Ledisi, you can enjoy this perky flute-tinged mid-pacer. Ledisi is really in her element while singing over the lively real musician backing. She really is one of a kind.

26. MICHAEL J. PARLETT feat. JOY ROSE True Love

From UK Talent Int. CD Waiting on You

Joy Rose, Incognito's spine-tinglingly soulful soprano voice, really shines on this jazz-soul gem she co-wrote for session saxophonist Mike Parlett’s album. Parlett’s convincing work on soprano sax brings back fond memories of Grover Washington’s ‘80s output. Interesting fact: Parlett is also a radio DJ with a regular show on Solar Radio.

27. KENNY LATTIMORE & CHANTÉ MOORE Just a Dream

From US LaFace/Verity 2-CD Uncovered/Covered

Kenny and Chanté's second collaborative album was a surprisingly consistent set of mellow downtempo soul. Its peak was arguably this undulating ballad, actually a solo vehicle for Chanté whose ad-libs demonstrate her unquestionable talent as a soul singer. Johnny Britt (of Impromp2 fame) adds a further touch of class to the proceedings with his muted trumpet.

28. MARILYN SCOTT A Flame

From US Prana CD Innocent of Nothing

Produced by George Duke, A Flame is one the highlights on Marilyn’s most recent CD. The whole album does not reach the heights of her previous CD Nightcap, but A Flame is certainly on par with it. The track is actually quite light-hearted, yet extremely vibrant with its finger-snapping rhythm and Marilyn’s elegant vocals.

29. KOOP I See a Different Day

From German Diesel Music CD Koop Islands

The Swedish duo’s third album isn’t as shining as the previous one (Waltz for Koop), but I See a Different Day manages to create much the same atmosphere. Vocalist Yukimi Nagano still sounds utterly fresh and wonderful, and aficionados of danceable 60s soul-jazz should be pleased by the airy sophisticated groove.

30. JOHN LEGEND Slow Dance

From UK/US G.O.O.D. Music CD Once Again

John Legend has received wide recognition in the music media and from the record-buying public for his retro approach. Although some of the material is too rock/pop-inclined for our tastes, there’s no doubt the man is quite skilful in evoking the atmosphere of a bygone era, Slow Dance being our favourite from the most soulful end of the spectrum.

 

31. JAZZHOLE All the Ways

This percussive mid-tempo mover reminds us of Maxwell’s best efforts in the mid-90s, and at the same time represents Marlon Saunders’ (the lead vocalist of Jazzhole) tastiest performance to date.

32. GLENN JONES w. GENOBIA JETER My First Love

From US Shanachie CD Forever – Timeless R&B Classics

A truly spirited reading of the old Rene & Angela song by this husband & wife duo. Genobia Jeter Jones is a celebrated gospel songstress with a fabulous, deep voice. Taken from Glenn’s recent all-cover album on Shanachie.

33. LUTHER VANDROSS Shine

From US J CD The Ultimate Luther Vandross

Sampling Chic’s My Forbidden Lover, Shine sounds a lot like Luther’s Change period in the early 80s. The previously unreleased Jam & Lewis produced tune is a cool club-oriented groover with a soulful tune that reminds us of his 1981 classic Never Too Much.

34. CAROL RIDDICK Confused

From US Criddick Notes CD Moments Like This

Although the overall tone of Carol’s debut set was folk-tinged, she impressed us with her Lizz Wright-ish mature vocals and determined interpretations, especially on this vibrant mid-tempo ballad titled Confused.

35. THE WHISPERS Butta

From US Satin Tie CD For Your Ears Only

Teena Marie had written, arranged and produced this classic Whispers ballad, and it was one of the prime cuts on their much celebrated comeback album For Your Ears Only.

36. AL McKAY ALL STARS f. ALI OLLIE WOODSON It’s Only Love

From US Rhythm Records CD Al dente

Arguably the best new tune on Al McKay All Stars’ latest CD, originally released in Japan in 2001, but published finally in the U.S. last year. Ali Ollie Woodson was the lead vocalist on five tracks, most of which were EWF covers, but It’s Only Love is a new song written by Wyman Brown. Ali Ollie delivers his customary vocal acrobatics over the snappy, Flugelhorn-spiced modern rhythm.

37. KLOUD 9 Didn't Think

From UK Expansion compilation Kloud 9 Presents the Vibe Room

Didn't Think is yet another proof of the immense talent of this duo that successfully follows in the footsteps of Keni Burke and Isley Brothers in fusing fluid grooves with smooth and silky, yet soulful vocals.

38. KATHLEEN BERTRAND Since I Laid My Burdens Down

From US KJBE Music CD New Standards

What a magnificent voice this lady has! Kathleen Bertrand’s new album transforms old standards and negro spirituals into a new format, as the title of the CD suggests. Since I Laid My Burdens Down is a prime example, providing a delectable jazz setting for Kathleen’s mature interpretation.

39. DONALD McCOLLUM You're My Everything

From UK Dome CD U Don’t Want My Love

One of the catchiest soul songs last year, with lots of shameless mainstream pop appeal as well, but Donald’s vocals are soulful enough to credit this on our esteemed column.

40. TEENA MARIE f. SMOKEY ROBINSON Cruise Control

US Cash Money CD Sapphire

Smokey Robinson duetted with Teena on two tracks on her latest set, and Cruise Control was the hit single of these two. It is based on a melodic tune which allows the twosome to build a good dialogue with each other.

-IT, PR & KH

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