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Soul * Funk * Jazz * Salsa records

Soul Town CD Reviews:

Reviews in Finnish / Arviot suomeksi

MARVIN GAYE – Here, My Dear (Tamla 1978/Motown reissue)
Marvin’s ”divorce album” has stood the test of time – we’re talking here of a late-70s masterpiece on which the sensuality of Let’s Get It On and I Want You meets the film-noir jazziness of Trouble Man.
As usual, Marvin uses a lot of double-tracked vocals to great effect, and saxophones wander throughout the album in a most tasteful manner. Prime examples of this style include such gems as When Did You Stop Loving Me, Is That Enough, Time to Get It Together, Sparrow and You Can Leave, But It’s Going to Cost You.
You’ll also find on here a couple of understated, falsetto-sung ballads and two funk-oriented jams, Anger and Funky Space Reincarnation, the latter of which was sampled and revised in the 90s by Brigette McWilliams (on No Groove Sweating) and Jamiroquai (on Light Years).
A classic.*****

INCOGNITO – Positivity (Talkin Loud 1993)

Incognito’s new, excellent album Who Needs Love should be out later this month also in England (on the Dome label). Meanwhile, you might want to check that you haven’t missed out on this fine 1993 album now available at mid-price.
Most of the vocals are handled by Maysa Leak, who shines on the beautiful ballad Deep Waters, surely one of the best Incognito tracks ever. Other classy vocal cuts include Still a Friend of Mine, Talkin’ Loud and Pieces of a Dream.
Also pay attention to the semi-instrumentals Thinking ‘Bout Tomorrow and Better Days with their fantastic brass parts.

KENNY LATTIMORE & CHANTÉ MOORE – Things That Lovers Do (Arista, 2003)

These newlyweds offer an album of duets that is a definite improvement on their latest solo albums, Weekend and Exposed respectively. Includes classy versions of such classic ballads as You Don’t Have To Cry (René & Angela, 1985), Is It Still Good To Ya (Ashford & Simpson, 1978), Make It Last Forever (Keith Sweat & Jacci McGhee, 1987) and Close the Door (Teddy Pendergrass, 1978). However, the album’s highlight is a stylish remake of Here We Go, a posthumous hit for Minnie Riperton with Peabo Bryson in 1980, for which the producers James Poyser and Junius Bervine have sampled the magical string arrangement of the original version.
In between these sophisti-soul covers we also find two new ballads written and produced by Jam & Lewis. ***½

DARWIN HOBBS – Broken (EMI Gospel, 2003)

The first noteworthy soul album of 2003 is provided by Darwin Hobbs, an inspirational soul vocalist whose voice closely resembles that of Luther Vandross. The gem of Hobbs’ previous album was the club track Everyday, which producer Tommy Sims had based on the bassline of the Gap Band classic Outstanding. This new album contains three club tracks written and produced by Sims, Unexplainable, The Light and The Thank You Song, all of which follow this 80s-influenced style. Of these, The Thank You Song with its ecstatic gospel-choir arrangement is one of the most compelling club tracks of recent years. The Mike City-produced Against the World is a cool midtempo which doesn’t pale in comparison with those Sims-crafted gems.
Ballads like Nobody But Jesus (a duet with Shirley Murdock) and Beautiful to Me are strong pieces of inspirational soul. The closing two numbers, Break Me/Draw Me and We Worship You Today are beautifully arranged, deep ballads produced by Danny Weatherspoon, remembered for his work with Chantay Savage in the late 90s.
An album we’d like to see Mr. Vandross release some day. ****

KEITH SWEAT Live (Elektra 2003)
A 60-minute “greatest hits” selection of his finest tunes. As was the case with Freddie Jackson’s live album from a few years back, these live versions with their solid rhythm section of drums, bass, guitar and keyboards outshine the original studio recordings in every respect. Highlights include the midtempo opening medley of “Something Just Ain’t Right” and “Don’t Stop the Love” and of course all those fantastic slow grooves: “Freak Me”, “Make It Last Forever” (featuring a promising newcomer named Calandra Glenn), “How Deep Is Your Love”, “Merry Go Round”, “Nobody” (with Athena Cage) and particularly the ecstatic reading of the LSG hit “My Body” on which Gerald Levert and Johnny Gill offer vocal support.

THE S.O.S. BAND – s/t (Tabu 1980/Right Stuff 2002)

THE S.O.S. BAND – Too (Tabu 1981/Right Stuff 2003)

Chartwise, the S.O.S. Band were one of the biggest successes of the early 80s, and are usually associated with the synthetic Jam & Lewis sound (e.g., Just Be Good to Me, Tell Me If You Still Care, No One’s Gonna Love You, The Finest), although this 8-piece group made their breakthrough in 1980 with richly arranged disco/soul under the wing of legendary trombonist Fred Wesley.

The debut album contains the group’s breakthrough hit Take Your Time (Do It Right), an instant dance cut with a catchy guitar riff. The track spent five consecutive weeks at number one position on the R&B chart in the spring of 1980. Other noteworthy disco tracks on the album include S.O.S. and Take Love Where You Find It. The sole ballad selection, What’s Wrong with Our Love Affair?, is surprisingly soulful and showcases Mary Davis’ heartfelt vocal style.

The sophomore album Too was partly an attempt to find a follow-up to Take Your Time (e.g., the top 20 hit Do It Now). Side two of the original LP is much better, offering a quartet of classy soul tunes: Stay, a stylish Love Affair-type ballad sung by Davis, Are You Ready?, an excellent two-stepper, Do You Know Where Your Children Are?, a richly arranged ballad duet, and For the Brothers That Ain’t Here, a bona-fide jazz-funk instrumental. Soundwise, these tunes could be compared to Wayne Henderson’s excellent productions in the 70s (cf. Side Effect, David Oliver, Esther Phillips, Pleasure).

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