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Soul Express Album of the Month - December 2006

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(US My Naked Soul Production CD, 2006)

1) My Naked Soul Interlude 2) Anymore 3) Did You Ever 4) Sunshine Interlude 5) Sunshine 6) Wonderful 7) Cigarette Interlude 8) Cigarette In The Rain 9) I Can't, Without You 10) Rose Colored Glasses Interlude 11) Rose Colored Glasses 12) Love Changed 13) Alright 14) One More Fight, One More Try 15) Better Love Yourself 16) Naked Goodbye 17) Sunshine Remix

This is my candidate for the soul album of the year in 2006. When I first heard Terisa Griffin's voice late last summer, I knew I hadn't heard any songstress as impressive as Terisa since Ledisi (in year 2000), so I can easily say that Terisa is the most striking new talent to emerge in the soul scene for several years. She has a voice that is so strong and passionate that you have to pick artists like Jennifer Holliday, Rachelle Ferrell, Stephanie Mills and Oleta Adams to find some point of comparison, but Terisa is really a unique talent and there is no other voice that sounds the same as she does.

Terisa, real name Theresa Griffin, was a featured vocalist on the excellent Bass X project Volume II: Heir Wave (from 2004), on which she sang a track titled All Inside, which was my favourite track on the whole album and on which Terisa was immediately paralleled to Anita Baker. Indeed, the elegant yet ultra-soulful track had much the same feeling as Anita's best cuts, when Terisa delivers the swaying soul ballad in a tasty smooth jazz setting. The last two minutes simply ooze with class when Terisa gets a chance to show off her marvellous adlibbing - absolutely brilliant.

Naked Soul is Terisa's first full-length album (she has earlier released a five-track EP titled Songbird in 1999), and while it's still a self-released CD on her own label, it contains several real masterpieces. The album opens with a track entitled Anymore, which has the breathtaking passion that reminds me of Jennifer Holliday's legendary smash And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going. It is so satisfying to hear someone sing with such a raw, emotional passion these days!

However, the track that has received most praise on this album is Rose Colored Glasses. While Anymore was built over a stripped down piano basis, Rose Colored Glasses boasts an instantly convincing intro with Spanish guitar, percussion, drums and piano, over which Terisa sings the memorable ballad tune, written by herself together with Butch Stewart. This is the track that will be high on all "Tracks of the year" listings by soul columnists this year!

As an arrangement, almost equally impressive is Love Changed with its tasty horn colouring over the real instrumentation. Terisa stars the song with a monologue, and then continues with a classic type of soul ballad spiced by mellow trumpet-laced backing. Another track that would qualify for the tracks of the year in 2006!

In her Soul Express interview Terisa stated that "Gospel music was a wonderful, influential part of my childhood", and you can easily hear that while listening to Terisa's powerful delivery on tracks like Sunshine and Wonderful. Even more explosive as an interpretation is the track Better Love Yourself, which starts in a serene tone, but then gradually the tension grows towards the fiery closing minutes, when Terisa shouts her heart out while preaching the survival message over the churchy setting.

A couple of more modern arrangements veer towards current R&B sounds, and have a sound more reminiscent of Mary J. Blige or Kelly Price, but even on these tracks Terisa keeps the strong soul flames burning over the programmed beats. Cigarette in the Rain is the track closest to chart R&B sounds, but even that track is clearly an above average mid-plodder with its powerful melody and singing.

I've been very happy to notice that this album has been gaining more and more exposure from various soul specialists lately. In the November issue of the leading UK black music magazine Echoes, the editor Chris Wells suggested his readers to check Terisa's album while "waiting for the next Ledisi album or maybe Anita Baker to drop something good for Blue Note". Bearing in mind that these two names are the most acclaimed soul songstresses in the last two decades, that's a high appraisal indeed!

An unmissable album.

Ismo Tenkanen
Soul Express

Other CD Reviews
Albums of the Month in 2006
Albums of the Month in 2005
Albums of the Month in 2004
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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