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
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
4. VICTOR FIELDS Thinking of You
From US Regina Records CD Thinking of
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
From Italian Schema CD The Invisible
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
From UK Talent Int. CD Waiting on You
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
From US LaFace/Verity 2-CD
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
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
From US Shanachie CD Forever – Timeless
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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