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Soul Express Album Review

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Touch My Love
UK Expansion CD, 1978/2008
1) Hideaway (5:01) 2) Barbara Ann (6:05) 3) There's A Happy Feeling (6:14) 4) Touch My Love (4:08) 5) Believe In Yourself (5:20) 6) Seasons (14:25) 7) Loving (3:35)
Bonus Tracks:
8) We(e) Church (5:38) 9) Japanese Umbrella (8:31) 10) Spirit Of Love (5:29) 11) Touch My Love (Alternative Mix) (4:53)

Webster’s third album (his second for Epic) was released back in 1978 and is now part of Expansion’s excellent reissue quartet of the great man’s work. “Touch My Love” is more of a straight late 70s fusion (I DETEST the UK “Jazz Funk” misnomer so will never use it) set than his previous album, which dipped a toe or two into the then fashionable Disco trend. The tone for this album really is set in stone with the excellent opening song, “Hideaway” with its leading piano, darting strings and flavoursome female backing vocals. This was a time where major labels such as Columbia etc spent considerable sums on quality music, and the result is easily captured on this gorgeous track.

Everybody is – or should be – familiar with the CLASSIC “Barbara Ann”; a track that is a great mix of a lot of my favourite tunes of that era; Manfredo Fest’s “Jungle Kitten”, David Bendeth's "Feel The Real" and Eddie Russ’ “See The Light” to name but two. This song has always been – and rightly so – popular in the UK on the Club scene and has featured, in the past, on a number of compilations. How fantastic to have it in it's proper setting on remastered CD! From this fusion flavour the tone hits a more disco flavour with the female-led “There’s A Happy Feeling” – not bad but pales in comparison to the FUNKY title track with its infectious melody and full-blown vocals. This track is definitely one for the dancers, and at the very least without the camp Disco hang-ups of the era.

With the rousing piano, organ and handclaps, “Believe In Yourself” takes Webster from the dancefloor to the pulpit where the Rev Webster orates some positivism in self-belief. This is definitely tongue in cheek, or at least this is how it comes across to me! Much more palatable for me is the gorgeous and attractive “Seasons” with it’s BIG instrumental intro. Almost worthy of MFSB at the hands of Dexter Wansel, the vibes, strings and wrenching sax work in fantastic concert with each other. What a tune! Worthy of a purchase for this alone, and once the track really kicks off, the orchestration gives us a feel of the handiwork of the legendary Claus Ogermann.

If an introspective mood is what you’re in then the gentle vibes of “Loving” will match your mood perfectly, but not one to listen to in the car after a long day at work! Don’t want to end up in a ditch or a farmer’s field, do we?! The guitar work on “We(e) Church” heralds a style reminiscent of Eric Gale, and the keys usher in warmer climes, to which the hitherto unreleased gem “Japanese Umbrella” surely relates. This track is easily as good as the man’s other great instrumental songs such as “Barbara Ann” or “El Bobo”. The keys are very much in the Bob James bag, and the cymbals crash nicely along with the electric guitar – think Carlos Rios or Eric Gale, and at 8:18 this is not a fleeting track.

Another bonus cut is the superb “Spirit Of Love” which was recorded as “Japanese Umbrella” was at the same recording session foe “Touch My Love”. This track is a full-blown vocal and will not disappoint those who appreciate the man’s style. Closing the set is an alternative version of the title song, and not bad it is too, but not vastly different from the original.

My advice on these reissues from Expansion really is that if you buy one, you ought to buy them all. Unmissible stuff.
- 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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