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The Soul Express Album of the Month

October 2001

TY STEPHENS
DEEPER IN FANTASY
(US Musichameleon Entertainment TSR-02)

Of the various US import CD's that are currently only available by special outlets, Ty Stephens' Deeper in Fantasy is by far the most impressive. On his own Website (http://www.tystephens.com) Ty mentions that he draws his inspiration from classic recordings of such artists as Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau and Donny Hathway, and this really shows from his second CD - but I hasten to add that I prefer Ty's latest album to most of the recordings by the aforementioned musical heroes! Further comparisons to Jon Lucien and Will Downing in various magazine and newspaper reviews actually put Ty in a more comparable context.

Ty has already been named as the Best Vocalist in BET's Jazz Discovery competition, and his debut set Musichameleon received the best R&B album nomination in 1999 by City Beat Magazine. So it's almost needless to say that as a vocalist Ty Stephens does not pale in comparison with Stevie, Al or Donny. I especially appreciate Ty's inclination to add throaty intensity and some dynamic swing into his vocals. However, the most arresting side of Ty's CD is the individual approach he has in his self-written songs and arrangements. The background is a combination of real and programmed instruments, and most of the tracks are flavoured by tasty, well-chosen solos or other outstanding features in the arrangements.

All the aforementioned makes the CD quite personal, despite the obvious influences and sources of inspiration. The opening track Love Planet reminds me of Luther Vandross at his very best, the smoothly flowing ballad Let The Other Guy Go starts in a serene tone but gradually grows in its spirit, and Daydream is a truly tasteful jazz-inclined mid-creeper. Something Strange is another wonderfully swaying mid-tempo tune with determined vocals, while the title track Deeper in Fantasy has a peaceful yet pulsating ballad setting, over which Ty delivers his strong vocal lines. Finally, Too Many Gone continues the musical tradition of Donny Hathaway in an admirable manner, being the most penetrating ballad interpretation on display here.

There's not a weak track on the album, although I would rather have excluded the rocky guitar intro from the otherwise effective uptempo swinger (I'm Just) Here to Be Loved. As a whole, another main talent to watch out in the future, and Deeper in Fantasy is undoubtedly among the top albums this year. -IT

The Album of the Month in September 2001: Vaneese Thomas
The Album of the Month in August 2001: Michael Bohannon
The Album of the Month in June-July 2001: Miki Howard
The Album of the Month in May 2001: Cynthia Biggs
The Album of the Month in April 2001: Gladys Knight
The Album of the Month in March 2001: Nathan Heathman
The Album of the Month in February 2001: Ian
The Album of the Month in January 2001: Karen Bernod

Albums of the Month in 2000
Albums of the Month in 1999
Albums of the Month in 1998
Albums of the Month in 1997

Other CD reviews
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