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Soul Express CD Review

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VARIOUS ARTISTS: – Kloud 9 Presents The Vibe Room
(UK Expansion, 2006)
Intro – Kendall Duffie / Everything You Need – 2-WAY / Didn’t Think – KLOUD 9 / Jonesin’ – MEN_NEFER / Treasure – LEZA / Ooh Baby I – TIM DILLINGER / I Can – ALTHEA RENE / Runnin’ – MAYSA / Sunny Day – MEN-NEFER / Get Away – 2-WAY / You Got Me – LEZA / Feel Love – TIA SMEDLEY / Chill Funk – MICHAEL FAIR / Outro - Kendall Duffie

Kendall and Kelvis Duffie – Kloud 9 – have compiled a hot set of Nashville talent for our listening pleasure and have sagely called it "The Vibe Room". This is an area where I know you will feel as home as I. I was thrilled to see that one of my faves, Tim Dillinger, is involved. This man is a phenomenal talent and to have him here on a new track is fantastic.

Most other names are new to me, bar Flugel Horn player Michael Fair and Maysa, of course. It's an essential set and one aimed fairly and squarely at the modern soul fraternity. It's overflowing with toe tappers and head nodders and all cuts are of the highest calibre. I was most impressed with the sexy duo called 2-Way who launch us into the soulful stratosphere with a groove that is so mid-80s its unbelievable. Midnight Star, anyone? FANTASTIC groove from these gals, and their more contemporary "Get Away" has more of an urban, hip hop jazz flavour to it. Both tracks fit these lasses like a glove. Very nice.

The brothers themselves add their own mark with the understated "Didn’t Think" which should garner much airplay on more respectable stations. "Jonesin’" has an early-mid 90s UK flavour a la Ray Hayden / Opaz which is rather pleasant, and even more remarkable for a Lady called Men-Nefer who is more at home on the Memphis soul circuit! Flugel Horn comes courtesy of Michael Fair. Michael currently has a smooth Jazz set available via CD Baby which comes recommended, and his own inclusion here is the cool "Chill Funk" which I know will not disappoint.

The groove of "Treasure" reminds me of Donell Jones’ excellent "U Know What’s Up" – this though has more substance and more adult lyrics. Leza proves that she is certainly no piece of musical junk. The brothers have indeed discovered treasure with this silky songbird. Fans of Tim Dillinger will not be disappointed with this impassioned slice of blue-eyed soul. His vocals are expressive, dripping with soul and altogether effortless. If only we had more vocalists of this calibre today. "Oooh Baby I" will not be one that you will overlook. In fact, the more I play this track the more it grows on me.

One of my favourite instruments is the flute. It's Althea Rene who kicks up a storm with "I Can" and the real instrumentation chugs along at a fresh pace, Kloud 9 on backing vocals and plenty of atmospheric keys help to boot.

For me it’s Maysa who sends this CD into outer space. This is one hell of a track and I cannot stop playing it. "Runnin’" reminds me of a more soulful, albeit less bass heavy, Masters At Work moment, and if you are a fan of their fantastic tunes then you will soon want to give this track a spin. It's one of the best uptempo tracks I’ve heard in AGES. Worth the price of the CD for this song alone, let alone all the other corkers displayed for our titillation.

Tia Smedley has a nice vocal presence, and her spoken effort reminds me of the style of 90s group Voyceboxing. This is far better than Leza’s second effort, "You Got Me" which is possibly the weakest link in the chain. And even in saying that don’t presume it’s a bad track either! After a wobbly, contemporary start, it soon picks up into a nice midtempo. Can do without the megaphone homey bit at the start, though. Not becoming, really. There. The grumpy old git has spoken! A big ‘Hurrah!’ to the Kendall Brothers for their overseeing and production and a round of applause for all the talented singers and musicians involved. I hope you’re all ready for another volume, guys?

- Barry Towler

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