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The Soul Express Album of the Month

September 2001

UK Unleashthe80s Records, 2001
1) Til You (Intro) 2) Til You 3) The Magic of You 4) Dear John 5) Looking for One Good Man 6) Talk Me Down 7) A Woman's Love 8) Sweet Breath of Life 9) Fortune 10) Black and White 11) A Candle
Produced by Vaneese Thomas, Wayne Warnecke, Michael Colina
While I reviewed Vaneese Thomas' untitled debut set back in 1987, I claimed that the material on her debut set even outshined Anita Baker's Rapture album. And when I now state that this sophomore set by Vaneese easily outshines her debut set in every aspect, you have some idea about the quality of this album. What we have here is no less than the best soul album recorded by a female artist in the whole 90s - this CD was recorded in 1993.
The only possible criticism I could imagine of this CD is that it is not as unique or trailblazing as for instance the aforementioned Rapture set. This album is more bound to become a critical success and a cult album amongst soul devotees than any commercial milestone and a new trendsetter for the following years. In fact, you could even blame this album for being conservative - there's nothing new in its formula and overall style - but it's simply perfect in its own particular genre: quality soul of the 90s.
In my review of Vaneesa's debut album I also stated that her greatest advantage is her ability to write first class soul songs and produce herself. This applies here as well: the strength of this CD starts from the extremely tasteful songs, most of them co-penned by Vaneesa herself.
What's even more important, Vaneese has also vastly improved as a vocalist. She sounded very professional already while recording her debut album in 1987, but when this album was recorded six years later, she sounded absolutely stunning. Her basic tone is thoroughly soulful and expressive (at places reminding me of Patti Austin - but more powerful), and just listen to her ad-libbing at the end of almost any song - sheer ecstasy.
Add to this that the overall sound of this CD is second to none, and virtually each track is coloured by tasty instrumental details in the form of saxophone, piano or other solos. The guest musicians and backing singers include Kirk Whalum, Bob Baldwin, Cynthia Biggs, Patti Austin, Sharon Bryant, Fonzi Thornton etc.
There are no weak moments in this CD, but that doesn't mean that there are no peaks. On the contrary, there are several tracks that would qualify for the song of the year!
For those who like their soul deep and traditional, check out tracks like A Woman's Love or Dear John - and you simply can't get deeper than that on any soul album by a female artist in recent years.
On the other hand, if you prefer a more modern touch in the Anita Baker / Regina Belle mould, try tracks like The Magic of You, Talk Me Down or Til You, and you have songs that are destined to become your all-time favourites.
The number one tune in my book is The Magic of You, which is an absolutely gorgeous Baker-ish mid-swayer (written by Vaneese with Bob Baldwin) highlighted by a robust saxophone solo over a beaming piano backing - and Vaneese's vocal delivery is phenomenal. The title track is equally breathtaking with its incredibly fascinating melody and a delicious piano solo. Also, the lyrics simply urge soulful interpretation: "you lift me up so high I can barely breathe", "the flames of our desire keep me burnin'", "boy I go to heaven it's so physical I get carried away" etc. Classy in extreme.
Read more about Vaneese elsewhere in our forthcoming issue 3/01, and just make sure that you won't miss this CD! (10) -IT

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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