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Soul Express Album of the Month - April 2006

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The Whispers – For Your Ears Only
(US Satin Tie, 2006)
Get It On – Don’t Say No – Butta – Love Won’t Let Me Wait – Love Strokin’ – Hold On – Livin’ It Up – Love – Can I Get Next To You – Diamonds – It’s You – For Your Ears Only – I Sing This Song For You – The Whispers Love You Too

I have been really, really in a low mood recently – unbelievably so, in fact – and one of the few things to have brightened my days is this, a brand new set from one of THE soul groups of all-time, The Whispers. It's been almost 9 years since the release of their excellent Interscope album and such a wait has easily been tempered by the fact that they have delivered what is their STRONGEST album ever! They guys look great and they sound as fresh and vibrant as ever. This time their release is on their terms on their own label, and support has come from a whole plethora of quality artists all helping make this one special album indeed. The sound is definitely major label quality and the music is real, not synthetic. If you adore the best of the best that these gents have ever put out then you will not be disappointed with this CD. It seems that the fellas have really sat back and taken stock of their business, and with the help of Darryl Payne have bounced back with this awesome set. Names such as Teena Marie, Robert Brookins, Ali-Ollie Woodson and Erik Zobler lend a hand with writing, production, vocal arrangements and mixing. Can’t be a bad thing having such qualified help!

The opening song launches into a fantastic slice of late 70s sounding jazz-fusion a la Gino Vanelli, filtering into a real quality stepper paying homage to those "old skool" artists such as Marvin Gaye, Rick James and Ray Charles. This is handled in the same way that my good friend, Will Wheaton has done on his fabulous "old School Soul" track. This is feel-good soul at its best. From this gem we find another jaw-dropper in the form of "Don’t Say No". A Grady Wilkins and Alonzo Ward song, it really has a foot in their classic Solar ballads, edged with a superb 70s Philly vibe, but what really takes this into orbit is the FANTASTIC jazzy skit that erupts unexpectedly as it does with Captain Sky’s gorgeous version of "Natural High". This song rates as one of the best records the Whispers have EVER recorded.

Teena Marie takes the helm of "Butta", and if this is what she is doing right now, please let us have a lot more of it. The cool, slinky groove is very today but Walter and Scotty are as polished and smooth as silk with this type of groove, and the harmonies really are straight out of the Solar days. An essential track.

I was a bit worried about their take on Major Harris’ 1975 Classic "Love Won’t Let Me Wait" as this is one of those songs that should not be touched. However, the guys with the help of Robert Brookins have really taken the song, shaken it to its roots and rebuilt it from scratch into a new beast which has The Whispers stamped all over it. Nice job done, chaps! Nicholas Caldwell is very much still with the group – now with his beard even whiter – but although there may be snow on the roof he proves without doubt that his creative fires still rage inside. "Love Strokin’" really is a super-sexy effort from word go – again another contender for one of their best ever efforts. Nicholas’ writing and production fires on all cylinders and should ensure that more than a few bed sheets get turned down when this is played!

The Philly vibe pops up again courtesy of the Ron Wilson and Ronnie Bell tune, "Hold On", and the brothers croon to their hearts content, backed by the unique vocal harmony that we have always known and loved. This continues into the lovely, lovely "Livin’ It Up" which has that haunting synth supporting the sitar and guitar. Splendid work!

Talking of splendid work, if you liked the material on their 1990 "More Of The Night" set then you will appreciate the haunting Nicholas Caldwell penned and produced "Love". This really would fit snugly with songs such as "More Of The Night" and the superb "Don’t Be Late For Love". Get the picture? Yes, I thought so! Still need convincing? If so, I would say that you’re reading the wrong website! Anyway, if so then the name Ali-Ollie Woodson should spur your enthusiasm into action. His addition to this special project is the amazing "Can I Get Next To You". Let’s hope we hear more from him in 2006.

Possibly the weakest link on here – if I can even have the gall to suggest such a thing – is the midtempo "Diamonds" (not a remake of Herb Alpert’s dancer.) This is still very, very good, but is my least favourite on this album. "Its You" with its sexy sax, keys and late 80s sense of propriety delivers big time, and its gentleness is not only refreshing but indeed welcome in an age when everybody tends to be too reliant on heavy basslines. It's not until track 12 that we hit the title cut – again this is an essential track with a neat rhythm guitar, keys and sashaying groove. No, the Whispers are better than ever and are back with a vengeance!!!

"I Sing This Song For You" with its gospel overtones is also very, very traditionally Whispers through and through and so is the final cut which is a tribute to all their fans. Now, I expected this to be complete and utter cheese but NO. This is as strong as anything else on this incredible album and it is fitting that we, their fans, are given a nod at the tail end of the set. This Whispers fan is thrilled to bits with this album. I could never have dreamt of such a fantastic comeback. I strongly advise that you order this CD ASAP as this is a limited edition release!!! Go on – what are you waiting for???!!!
- Barry Towler

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