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Soul Express Album Review

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8 for the 80s
UK Expansion CD, 1979/2008
1) You Deserve To Dance 2) Give Me Some Emotion 3) Love You Give To Me 4) I Want To Blow (My Horn) 5) Fire 6) Go For It 7) Heavenly 8) Mild Wind

This is the third of Webster's Epic releases to see the light of day as a UK release. Sony had released this in Japan a few years ago, and still raises a few pounds on eBay today. Still, here it is at a very reasonable price thanks to Ralph Tee at Expansion. I sincerely hope that Expansion continue to release classic, out of print, albums like this, as well as championing the best of today's fresh talent. This is a very welcome release, but I have to say that although it contains two of my favourite Webster Lewis songs, the album as a whole is not as strong as the other 3 he released for Epic.

The opening cut is neither here nor there for me, an uptempo number that rides along with the – then – contemporary Isley's theme of “It's A Disco Night (Rock Don't Stop)” flavour. OK, but not worth a candle up against the following two songs! “Give Me Some Emotion” comes with some real punch; the drums crashing in with the supporting brass hits are sublime, topped off with a rumbling bassline and funky guitar and triangle. This really is magnificent stuff and no wonder it was included by Richard Searling on his must-have “Soul Souvenirs 2” compilation. Where the heck did volume 3 get to?

Again, Herbie Hancock co-produces this set and the arrangements by Tower Of Power's Greg Adams is, naturally, excellent. The album is worthwhile even for this, but following this is the KILLER “The Love You Give To Me”, which is a dream of a track. This is class from top to bottom and from inside out. If only more modern music was like this then i would be a happy man! Ralph was wise enough to include this gem on his “Wind Down Zone 5” compilation back in 1994 – in fact, this was one of the reasons I bought that particular CD! Orchestration – lush it is, too! - is from none other than the legendary Charles Veal.

If the jazzier style is more your bag then “I Want To Blow My Horn” will satisfy. Funky and definitely of its time, this track stands up to scrutiny but to me sounds more dated than his work on “On The Town”. Also check “Fire” with its rocky guitar and almost oriental keyboards. This rollicks along and begins to do the business for me when the female vocals kick in. The horns really owe a lot to Greg Adams, and the Tower Of Power horns. ”Go For It” has a great bassline and some great funky keyboards a la Clifford Coultier and some precise hand percussion.

This is contrasted by the very laid back and gentle “Heavenly” which features the unmistakeable vocals of D.J. Rogers! A mighty tune, weighing in at nearly 8 minutes, there is enough to settle back into and let the warmness encompass you. Or was that because I spilt my cup of tea?! Well, whatever the reason, it's a doozey! The album closes, not with any bonus songs I fear, but Webster tinkling away on the ivories to a track called “Mild Wind”. This showcases the great man's skills and displays a great sense of both rhythm and melody all from one instrument. Very clever and quite thrilling if you actually stop and listen to it intently. The track is dedicated to Steve Conger. This has its moments, but for me Webster's best was definitely still to come...
- Barry Towler

The 4 Webster Lewis reissue albums on Expansion:

Webster Lewis: On the Town (1976)
Webster Lewis: Touch My Love (1978)
Webster Lewis: 8 for the 80s (1979)
Webster Lewis: Let Me Be the One (1981)

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