ANGELA JOHNSON PRESENTS: A Woman's Touch (Label: Dome)

Monday, 21 April 2008 06:23 Bill Buckley E-mailPrintPDF


Angela Johnson's best known as a performer. Working with Cooly's Hot Box and as a solo singer she's built herself a decent fan base and this new 14 tracker should please all Johnson devotees and hopefully bring her work to a wider audience, because 'A Woman's Touch' is a first class snapshot of the state of real modern soul music. Here there are none of the retro pastiches that are often labelled "modern" soul; instead, though the music pays respect to the past, it's all fresh and vital and several of the cuts could well go on to become soul staples of the future. First of all a word about the album's titling - which may confuse. Though Angela's name is out there up front, this isn't an Angela Johnson solo set. Technically this should be filed away under 'various artists'. Nor, despite what the LP's title might suggest, is the collection a set of feisty female anthems or a look at the world through feminine eyes. Rather, you get an eclectic mix of songs that look at issues (of the heart and of a wider nature) through BOTH male and female voices. The 'woman's touch' simply refers to Angela's tenure of the producer's chair and the ownership of the music throughout. And the big bonus is that the artists Angela's assembled to work with read like a who's who of the indie/modern soul world… I mean how about Rahsaan Patterson, Maysa Leak, Eric Roberson and Frank McComb for starters? Add to those, people like Take 6's Claude McKnight, Monet, Lisala, Tricia Angus, Julie Dexter, and Gordon Chambers, Marlon Saunders and Lenora Jaye and you realize that there's a soul feast in store. Everyone will find their own mouth-watering delights herein, but the tastiest bite is 'Play' from Frank McComb. The cut finds our man in an uncharacteristic up mood with his aching vocal floating over tight, precise beats and a bubbling Fender Rhodes. It's topped with a delightful Freddie Hendrix trumpet solo and you'll find it all truly irresistible. As catchy is Gordon Chambers' 'Get Away'. This one has a hint of reggae to it and will recall Anthony Hamilton's 'Everybody'. Look no further for a feel-good, summer anthem. If, however, you want some down-time try Maysa Leak's 'More Than You Know'. With its Bacharach waltz-time piano and heartfelt melody, it's right up there with the lady's best. But there are lots of other great cuts too … too many to detail. Disappointment? Well, in truth Rahsaan Patterson's 'Dream Flight' doesn't quite make it. The song starts brightly - typically Patterson - but it seems to get lost amidst some unfocused rock guitar in the middle. Still, the rest of the album truly satisfies and like I said up top, it's all real, modern soul.
(BB) 4/5


Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions: 'Movin' On Up: The Music And Message Of Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions' (Label: Reelin' In The Years,Universal )

Sunday, 20 April 2008 12:49 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions: 'Movin' On Up: The Music And Message Of Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions'

With their gospel-soaked, sweet soul harmonies Chicago's The Impressions proved to be one of the most influential African-American vocal groups of the 1960s. Led by Curtis Mayfield's seraphic tenor voice and featuring the plaintive harmony vocals of Fred Cash and Sam Gooden, the group racked up an astonishing 29 Billboard R&B smashes between 1961 and 1969. What distinguished them from their rivals was their self-sufficiency in terms of songs - in Curtis Mayfield, the bespectacled 'gentle genius,' they had an articulate, profoundly perceptive writer whose message-laden material seemed to chronicle the life and times of black America in the Civil Rights era. This superlative 2-DVD documentary features contributions from Mayfield himself, along with Cash, Gooden and a host of luminaries - these include arranger, Johnny Pate, Public Enemy's Chuck D, Carlos Santana and politician Andrew Young, who claims "you hear in Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions the spiritual power of Dr Martin Luther King." Interspersed between the spoken commentaries there's plenty of rare footage of the group, taken from US TV. The second DVD focuses on Mayfield's 70s solo canon (including lots of 'Superfly'-era footage) when his work took on a more overt socio-political stance. This is a fabulous - and dare I say it, highly impressive - documentary about the trailblazing '60s group and their leader. Mandatory viewing for soul collectors.
(CW) 5/5


STARPOINT: 'Keep On It' (Label: PTG Vinyl-Masterpiece)

Saturday, 19 April 2008 06:32 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Hailing from deepest Maryland, the '80s Stateside band Starpoint originally began life as an oddly-named quartet called Licyndiana comprising siblings Ernesto, George, Orlando, and Gregory Phillips. With the addition of sweet-voiced chanteuse, Renee Diggs (who sadly succumbed to a multiple sclerosis-related illness in 2005) the band changed its name to Starpoint and inked a deal with Casablanca's Chocolate City imprint in 1980. 'Keep On It' was the combo's second album - the first of two LPs they issued in 1981 - and features eight tracks. The funky title track, a US R&B Top 30 hit, is partly indebted to the raw funk of '70s groups like the Ohio Players and Cameo but significantly also anticipates the sleeker, more polished, boogie-style grooves that characterised '80s soul and dance. The latter qualities are evident on the gorgeous dancer, 'I Want You Closer' (a minor US chart entry in the summer of '81) featuring Diggs' beautifully lucid voice. The album's opener, 'I Just Want To Be Your Lover' is cast in the same infectious, uptempo mould, while the engaging romantic ballads 'For You,' 'We're Into Love,' and 'Baby Let Me Do It' showcase the group's adroitness at handling slower tempi. I recall that some soul fans in the '80s considered Starpoint a somewhat lightweight act - similar in style to Atlantic Starr - but this reissue shows that despite the surface frothiness they had more substance than many gave them credit for. This excellent CD is one of four old Starpoint albums reissued by the Dutch label, PSG. For more info go to
(CW) 4/5


OTIS REDDING: 'Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul' (Label: Rhino)

Thursday, 17 April 2008 11:49 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

OTIS REDDING: 'Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul'

If you asked a seasoned soul veteran to compile a list of the Top 20 soul albums of all time, there's a strong chance that it would include this classic opus, first issued in the States on Stax's Volt subsidiary in October 1965. Soon after its release, 'Otis Blue' topped Billboard's R&B album charts, cementing raspy-voiced Redding's position as one of the pre-eminent soul singers of the mid-'60s. It's been reissued on CD before, of course, but this new collectors' edition is a deluxe 2-CD set crammed with a heap of bonus material. The original 11-track LP has certainly stood the test of time. Otis's earthy, passionate, deeply sensual voice with its rich gospel inflections has a raw cathartic power that epitomises soul music at its very best. Like all great singers, he's able to transmute other peoples' songs and fashion them in his own image - just listen to the way he takes on the Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction' and transforms a classic rock song into a stomping, sock-it-to-'em soul workout complete with horn fanfares. He also reworks a trio of old Sam Cooke tunes ('A Change Is Gonna Come,' 'Shake' and 'Wonderful World') and injects them with a more intensely emotional sense of depth. The album, of course, contains the original version of 'Respect,' a self-penned tune which Aretha Franklin later transmogrified into a feminist anthem. It also features the plaintive, voice-shredding, angst-ballad, 'I've Been Loving You Too Long,' which was a key song in Redding's live shows. In this latest CD configuration, the mono version of the LP is presented first, followed by several alternate mixes (three of which are previously unissued) and six tracks recorded live at the Whisky A Go Go in April 1966. The second CD includes the original stereo mix of the LP and also features a later re-recording of 'Respect.' In addition, you'll find five live versions of tracks from 'Otis Blue' recorded in Europe during March 1967. To be honest, the bonus studio material doesn't really enhance our appreciation or understanding of 'Otis Blue,' though the live cuts undoubtedly offer a vivid snapshot of the singer's combustible in-concert performances. A landmark album from one of soul's greatest practitioners.
(CW) 5/5


TRINA BROUSSARD: 'Inside My Love' (Label: Expansion)

Thursday, 17 April 2008 11:47 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF


Sometimes there are decisions made by record companies in relation to soul music acts that are absolutely unfathomable to fans and collectors. Why, for example, did Atlantic shelve fine solo LPs by Sam Moore and Bettye LaVette in the early '70s? And why did Motown elect to consign perfectly good albums by Brenda Holloway and David Ruffin to a cobwebbed future in the vaults? Of course, the record companies will probably cite what they perceive as valid reasons to justify their decisions - budgetary constraints perhaps or maybe even a disagreement with the artists themselves. Sometimes, though, just a change of regime and personnel at the company can affect the fate of an album. This preamble leads us to consider another - and much more recent - 'canned' album. Houston native, Trina Broussard - who sang backgrounds for the likes of Pebbles, Toni Braxton, Babyface and Mariah Carey in the '90s - was signed to producer Jermaine Dupri's So So Def label (then an imprint of Sony/Columbia) in 1997, where she recorded a version of Minnie Riperton's 'Inside My Love' for the 'Love Jones' movie soundtrack. Released as a single, the record made the lower reaches of the US R&B lists. The single 'Love So Much' followed two years later, a precursor to the parent debut album, 'Inside My Love.' Promo copies were distributed by the record company but inexplicably, just before its official release, Columbia pulled the plug and shelved the album. The reason behind their action isn't clear to outsiders but quickly the existing promos began exchanging hands for big sums of money. Nine years later and the in-demand 10-track album - hailed as a lost classic by those who'd previously heard it - finally sees the light of day thanks to the resourcefulness of Expansion. Almost a decade on and unlike a lot of modern R&B, it doesn't sound dated. It also boasts an impressive cast of A-list contributors, ranging from Rahsaan Patterson and Alicia Keys (co-author of 'Why Do I Feel So Sad') to Trey Lorenz and James Poyser. The title track is a sublime reading of the Leon Ware-co-penned original - it's sleek, sensuous and soulful. 'Sailing' is probably the killer cut: a gorgeously breezy cut with an infectious chorus. 'Not Around' also boasts an addictive hook, while the slower 'All Night Long' blends a churchy, gospel feel with jazz inflections. Also listen out for 'Remember Me,' a summery, sweetly soulful mid-tempo number whose gently undulating groove is seasoned with slivers of Hammond organ. The original 10-track album is appended by a bonus cut in the shape of the Yuletide tune, 'It's Not Really Christmas.' Broussard has her third album, 'Life Of A Libra,' scheduled for a 2008 release - but until that surfaces, this lost treasure should satisfy the most discerning of soul fans. Superb. You can buy it from
(CW) 4/5


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