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Soul Express CD Review

WILL WHEATON: Old School Soul
(US Platinum Bass, 2005)
Old School Soul - Come On Everybody - Never Meant To Hurt You - Heaven Tonight - Satisfy - Do My Thang - When Nobody Gave A Damn - Just Can't Get Enough - Where Are You Now - Any Other Way - Come On Everybody (Club Mix)

If you bought Will's "Consenting Adultz" set then you will already have warmed to this gentleman, his singing, his songwriting and his take on the marvellous idiom that is soul music. This set has been a long time coming, but is well worth the wait. Will proves again that he is head and shoulders above any of the major label clones and his work on this album is as solid as anything he has delivered before. For me the set is very adult orientated and the focus is on Will's passionate, oft rough vocals and his magic with the pen. For these ears there are no less than four essential cuts that stand out, and these will definitely appeal to a wide audience as you will see.

The opening cut is very much a classic soul jam that pays homage to the REAL artists and records out there. This is a track that is very much in the midtempo mould and should get a few feet tapping onto the more discerning dancefloor. Vocally Will owes a lot to Luther Vandross on this recording and the summary pace a la Keni Burke will win many hearts and minds, the flute and wah wah guitar all merge in a heady mix of instrumentation and nods towards the Isleys, Isaac Hayes, Luther and The Temptations. Essential listening indeed. I do, though, take issue with the term "old school". It elicits ideas that classic artists are past it and has-been. I know this is not what Will is implying, but the lesser educated music press has helped confine a lot of quality artists to the musical history book with the use of this phrase, even though many artists are still actively recording! For my money, there's quality and there isn't. Its as easy as that. This, I should emphasise is the real deal and I don't find this CD in any way "old school".

Take for example the superb house / garage dancer - yes, you did read that right! - "Come On Everybody". This slamming dance beat, the bongos and the cool synth and guitar add up to one hell of an irresistible dance track. To me this is the type of uptempo song that Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes would have done; I am thinking of "Hostage", "Prayin'" and "Reachin' For The World" - that sort of material. Let's face it, "Prayin'" cannot be seen as anything other than the prototype for the real, US Garage sound of the late 80s. This is a great dancer and one to get you up and raring to go at any time of the day. I love this type of dance groove because it makes me feel invigorated and happy. What more can you want from a record?

Track 3 of my 4 favourites is the dead calm and chilled out acoustic ballad "When Nobody Gave a Damn". This relies chiefly on a haunting and yet subtle synth line and solo guitar. The backing vocals are very hushed and almost reverential. Will really does excel on tracks like this and proves beyond doubt that he really is a multi talented artist and writer. The likes of Usher are simply unable to be as varied as this. All depends on the computer programs they run I suppose!!!

What makes this recording very special also is the addition of the brilliant Bridgette Bryant Blades on lead vocals. Peggi Blu is a backing singer and is responsible for those haunting supports. Producer on this song is the incredibly talented Ted Perlman. It is Ted that comes up trumps with my "diamond of diamonds" track, "Any Other Way". Ted has offered us some of the most essential music so far this century - The Manhattans, Peggi Blu - and repeats himself again on this amazing ballad. This is just wonderful soul music for 2005 and easily stands alongside classics such as "Let's Try Love Again" which was elegantly brought to life by Gerald Alston and Peggi Blu. It's definitely "Quality Time" material and I often play this track before or after Smokey Robinson's "Fallin'" - just as I can have an extra goose bump!

Another track well worth getting into is the superb "Where Are You Now" which is another low-key acoustic number featuring David Thomas from Take 6. This adds another great dimension. Will, for me, is a true artists and be he old school, new school, whatever school, he is class and a gem. Please do not allow this CD to slip away.
- Barry Towler

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