Quality Time Summer Cream Cuts

LOWRELL
Mellow, Mellow Right On
From 1979 US AVI LP Lowrell
Mellow, Mellow Right On is a self-evident choice to Summer Cream Cuts for the lyrical content alone, but the much-sampled bass-heavy groove and the funky guitar licks together with the horn and string lines also make the track perfect listening for hot summer days. Lowrell Simon sang in the Chicago vocal group Lost Generation in the early 70s and had three solo hits beside Mellow, Mellow on the Billboard soul charts between 1978 and 1981, but hasn't been heard from since.

THE McCRARYS
Love on a Summer Night
From 1982 US Capitol LP All Night Music
"Love on a summer night, a gentle breeze on a starry night, the feeling's there, music everywhere, love is in the air, won't you take me there." No way we could dismiss this one from a listing of all-time favourite Summer Cream Cuts. Love on a Summer Night relies heavily on the airy carefree atmosphere and jazzy sounds, while the sibling group The McCrarys provide the suitably soaring vocals. Marlon Henderson contributes the refined guitar plucks, and producer Wayne Henderson, known for his work in the jazz-funk group The Crusaders and numerous productions in the R&B and jazz-funk fields, is responsible for the memorable trombone solo.

FUNKY COMPANY
Give Me Time Again
From 1995 Italian Family Affair Productions CD Tendency of Love
Funky Company offers an Italian take on that smooth and mellow Incognito / Brand New Heavies type groove. And does it in a successful and utterly enjoyable way, with curvy, sensual-voiced Jenny Bersola providing the vocals to match the tasty acoustic backings.
The overall sound on the album is velvety and lush; just perfect listening for warm summer nights. Give Me Time Again starts with an intro that alone earns the track the much-coveted Quality Time seal of approval: wistful vocals over subtle percussion and piano, and then the swaying rhythm takes over. The super-mellow atmosphere is complemented by a refined piano solo, and Jenny Bersola adds a sultry touch to the overall serenity. One to savour!

NICOLE
New York Eyes (with Timmy Thomas)
From 1985 US Portrait / CBS LP What about Me?
A classic, swaying duet between two Florida based vocalists. Nicole McCloud recorded two underrated albums in the 80s, and Timmy Thomas is best-known for his early 70s pop smash Why Can't We Live Together. This time around, it's not about racial tensions, but rather sexual tension between two lovers. To call Nicole's vibrating vocals sensual is something of an understatement, and Timmy Thomas sounds more soulful than ever before. Thomas' organ playing also sounds amazingly rhythmical and soulful, and strings have rarely been so intensive. If you want to hear how a real soul duet differs from your average pop collabaration, just listen to the ecstatic interplay at the end of the song with Nicole & Timmy repeating each other's names and ad-libbing with uninhibited abandon.

KENI BURKE
Risin' to the Top
From 1982 US RCA LP Changes
An anthem if there ever was one! The gorgeous groove builds itself one layer at a time: keyboards, bass, drums, piano, synth flute. Add to this the lyrical lines with the following message:
"Keep on believin' all the dreams inside of you / And don't stop achievin'... / Let's keep risin' to the top / Give it all you got / And we don't let nobody stop us", and we have a tune without which no annal of soul history is complete. The uplifting atmosphere is perfectly complemented by Keni Burke's warmhearted, sympathetic vocals. This is one of those tunes where the soulful element is married with an insistent groove in an astonishingly effortless way. Defines the term "classic summer groove".

JOHNNY BRISTOL
I Sho Like Groovin' with Ya
From 1976 US Atlantic LP Bristol's Creme
Johnny Bristol's body of work contains a lot of candidates for this column, but I Sho Like Groovin' with Ya is an especially groovin' piece of melodic summer soul. The combination of the loose rhythm instrumentation and the altogether unforgettable strings is fascinating in the extreme, and Johnny's typically warm and emotional vocalising underscores the summery feel. Lyrics like lovers trippin', skinny dippin', steady movin', sho like grooving complete the wonderfully passionate atmosphere. Crème de la Crème!

CARL ANDERSON
How Deep Does It Go
From 1991 US GRP CD Pieces of a Heart
An unexpectedly soulful, sax-drenched mid-swayer from the actor-turned-singer's best-to-date album, at least from a soul fan's point of view. The Leon Ware - John Barnes composition is just as passionate as the title suggests, and Kirk Whalum's saxophone caresses the background impeccably. The production sounds highly expensive, yet that doesn't diminish its elegance one bit, and why should it?

PIECES OF A DREAM
Warm Weather
From 1981 US Elektra LP Pieces of a Dream
This track has everything you could ask from a flawless summer soul tune: sounds of the ocean, the lapping percussions courtesy of Ralph MacDonald, mellow jazzy instrumentation and the sensuous female vocals by Barbara Walker (whatever became of her?).
"There is nothing like a warm summer's day, the sun is shining and the soft wind serenades, we can walk in the park and make love after dark, love in the nighttime, I like the Warm Weather, feel so mellow it's like a natural natural high, I've got to get outdoors, it's too nice, too nice to be inside, we can ride to the beach, boy, just you and me..." Get the picture?
The ultimate summer track.

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