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Soul Express Album of the Month

December 2003



RONALD ISLEY Meets BACHARACH:
Here I Am
US Dreamworks

Alfie – Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head – In Between The Heartaches – Make It Easy On Yourself – A House Is Not A Home – The Look Of Love – Count On Me – This Guy’s In Love With You – Close To You – Anyone Who Had A Heart – Love’s (Still) The Answer – Here I Am – Windows Of The World


When I discovered this CD, I fear I approached it in exactly the same misinformed, misplaced way as I did The Temptations’ "For Lovers Only" album. "Oh God!" I cried "Here we go, this’ll be a washout – same old stuff rehashed. Won’t be much good". WRONG! This is no meandering MOR set as I had feared, but a CLASSIC and ESSENTIAL album of interpretations that will be loved, played and cherished by lovers of soul, jazz, standards and near-enough everybody with any tasteful bone in their bodies for generations to come. These are much vaulted songs lovingly written by the genius that is Burt Bacharach. These songs, 11 of them at least have been recorded by classic quality artists such as The Carpenters, The Walker Brothers, and of course our very own Dionne Warwick among others. Along comes Ronald Isley who takes these well-known famous songs and remoulds them into a giddy and intoxicating blend of quality music aided and abetted by full orchestration. Ronald gives us a performance of a LIFETIME.
When I hear this great man sing I know for certain that this is the style of music that should be making today. The ridiculous ‘Mr. Biggs’ character is insulting, demeaning and beyond pathetic and should be immediately tossed aside by Ronald. This CD cannot be liked to "Body Kiss", but needless to say as far as I am concerned it is in a far superior league and is so emotional, considered, wistful, teasing and creative. This is in marked contrast to the crass, commercial and unsophisticated effort to appeal to the 10 – 25 age group on "Body Kiss". I clicked onto the sound samples on the Internet and headed for the tracks that I was unfamiliar with. Lets just say that 10 seconds into the title track and I had welled up and caught a lump in my throat. Within seconds I knew this was something very, very special and on hearing "Love’s (Still) The Answer" I was completely and utterly sold. It was, needless to say, an immediate purchase, and I do mean immediate (damn the fact I really could not afford it this month). Recall, if you will, The "Masterpiece" album by The Isley Brothers, and especially their version of Phil Collins’ "If Leaving Me Is Easy". If you know and love that song then you know what territory we are in with "Here I Am".
Every track is a masterpiece of sophisticated music in its most exquisite form, and with Ronald sounding as fresh as ever this is indeed an album that will be in my top 20 if not top 10 of 2003. Furthermore, this was recorded LIVE at Capitol studios in Hollywood. I bet the sound technicians didn’t know what hit them – they have not had any decent product for many a year and this definitely must have shaken them up a bit! Hard to pick out favourites, but apart from the two gems already mentioned I have to say that "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" is just fantastic, beyond all expectations. "The Look Of Love" with its lush backing is an immediate head-turner and full credit to all the wonderfully talented orchestra for their fantastic sound. Herb Alpert’s "This Guy’s In Love With You" and rendition of The Carpenter’s "Close To You" I thought could NEVER be given a decent workout but Burt and Ronald weave pure musical magic into these. I wonder what Dionne Warwick or even Cilla Black (who had the hit here in the UK) will think of "Alfie"? I am still in the thought that hers is the better version but who knows after even more plays?!
I was bowled over even more by the heavenly version of "In Between The Heartaches" – the flugel horn and string section, added to Ronald’s effortless performance brings tears to my eyes every time. There’s nothing wrong with that – that is what music is supposed to do. Its simply just beautiful music. There are two new songs: "Count On Me" and the already mentioned "Love’s (Still) The Answer" which is co-produced by a certain Ted Perlman who gave us the great, great Manhattan’s "Even Now" set back in 2001, as well as working with Regina Belle also. My CD collection will be a much richer and fuller for owning this set. Yuletide is soon upon us and the classic style to this CD gives it an exuberant, seasonal quality that definitely befits the season. What more can I say but just buy this CD – it’s a true work of art, lovingly created and will be a pleasure to you for the rest of your listening life. Quality always stands the test of time, and this will never, ever age. MANDATORY. (10)
- Barry Towler


Albums of the Month in 2003
Albums of the Month in 2002
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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