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Soul Express CD Review

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BYRON WOODS: In The Land Of Smooth
(UK Expansion, 2004)
In The Land Of Smooth - Fly Away - Work Of Art - Girl, I Need A Little Time - Payback Is A Dog - If It Takes All Night - You Are Here Tonight - In The Land Of Smooth (Interlude) - Special Kind Of Woman - So Good - Can This Be Real (feat. VOCALPOYNT) - He'll Never Love You (duet with MIKE LOGAN) - I've Been In Love (But Not Like This)

Oooooh, yes.  Yes, yes, yes.  REAL SOUL MUSIC.  Expansion have done themselves proud this time with this superb CD.  Byron Woods is a real talent and I only wish that the gentleman would deliver us more frequent sets.  This superbly crafted, sumptuous album has been overseen by Andreas Hellingh whom we all know and love from his excellent, tireless (and I do mean this literally, folks) work for Soul music from his base in Amsterdam.  You will find no one more dedicated and proactive in the pursuit of and support of soul music on the circuit today. 
I can thoroughly recommend this whole album with special emphasis on four cuts in particular, and these four cuts are just superb.  One is very special and dear to me.  "Fly Away" is the song and I shall tell you why.  You, like me, will certainly 'connect' with certain writers, artists or producers and they will, of consequence, reach you where it matters most: the heart.  Garry Glenn was one such artist.  His work and his vocal skills really are second to none.  His all too early passing late in 1991 was a serious blow, just at a time when the black music scene was teetering on the precipice of the rap / R&B cesspool. His testament was left on his superb Motown set and his songs still sound as good today as ever. 

"Fly Away" was written with Byron and sees the light of day here, 13 years after his passing.  What a beautiful, beautiful song.  Byron, if you read this, you have done the man a great job on this and he will be proud of it.  This is a prime example of top-notch jazzy soul.  Superb as this song is, we move onto the mandatory "Special Kind Of Woman" which is a CLASSIC in every sense.  This has echoes of the great early 80s soul ballads on, say, Capitol; the brassy undertones and smooth falsetto backing really smack of greatness - which it is, of course!  I guarantee that you will adore this song and will be cherishing this in another 20 years' time. 

"So Good" continues the superb musical flow into an early 90s midtempo groove.  Vocal group Vocalpoynt share duties on the very able cover of The Natural Four's "Can This Be Real"; a qualified modern quality song with a nod to the vocal traditions of our earlier Chicago heroes.  You will, I expect, agree with me when you hear this CD that the cover of The Spinners' Classic "He'll Never Love You" is another superb song.  This time we are treated to a duet with the excellent, excellent vocalist Mike Logan.  I do not usually like cover versions much, especially if Thom Bell was responsible for the original, but this really is excellent. 

The CD finishes up with an old favourite - the great stepper "I've Been In Love (But Not Like This)" and closes the lid on another box of delights from the good folks at Expansion.  If you want quality soul music for 2004 then you will do no wrong in ordering this fine CD.

- Barry Towler

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