CANDACE WOODSON; Desire (Expansion)

Wednesday, 31 July 2019 19:23 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altFor some time now we've been enjoying some tasty singles from one time southern gospel singer, Candace Woodson. A music graduate of the Tennessee State University in Nashville, we first heard of Candace back in 2015 when she released the insistent mid-tempo modern soul groove, 'Free' (not the Deneice Williams' classic, by the way). Candace's 'Free' was tough and gritty and we learned that the lyric really was intensely personal. Candace, you see, had, thankfully, just been given the all clear from a life threatening cancer.... she truly was "free".

We were also told that the single heralded an imminent album but instead of a long player we were treated to several Tom Glide mixes of 'Free'. Now at long last the album is with us and the ten tracker confirms what we guessed from 'Free'.... Ms Woodson is a real contender with a powerful voice that can also do "tender". Her gospel roots are obvious.

Hear the lady's soul credentials at their best on the ballad 'The Answer Is No' – a convincing piece of work. It's one of several slower moments though equally insidious is a brace of electro-flavoured mid tempo items.... 'Don't Think I Want It' and 'Perfect' on which some clever brass fills weave in and out of the electro backing. 'Free' (in its Ton Glide mix) remains the big dancer though the more mid tempo album title track will please the more sophisticated, less frantic rug cutters.

I'm sure that Ms Woodson would be the first to admit that this album pushed few envelopes. It's not meant to be a ground breaker. But factor in a great soul voice, catchy songs and memorable hooks and there's nothing here not to like. With health issue now behind her, Candace can build on 'Desire' and go on to fulfil  the potential that she shows here.

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 August 2019 18:56


SHALAMAR: 'Gold' (Crimson)

Sunday, 21 July 2019 10:38 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                           altIt's 42 years since this much-loved US vocal trio made their recording debut with the percussion-driven Motown medley, 'Uptown Festival,' for Don Cornelius' Soul Train label. Despite sounding like a disco novelty single, the tune became a Top 10 US R&B hit back in March 1977 and also, significantly, landed in the UK Top 30 and began the group's long love affair with the British public that is still going strong.  Indeed, between 1977 and 1986, Shalamar racked up eighteen chart smashes in the UK, and hit a particularly rich vein of form during March '82 and June of the following year when they scored four Top 10 singles. The first decade of their career is chronicled by this fabulous new triple CD, which besides containing all the hits features near misses and prized albums cuts as well - in fact, here, you'll discover all the Shalamar tunes you'll ever need.

Unsurprisingly, the collection begins with the group's biggest UK hit, 1982's unforgettable 'A Night To Remember': the record that truly immortalised the classic line-up of Howard Hewett, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel. Watley sang the lead on that but it was mostly Hewett (a replacement in 1979 for Gerald Brown who had taken over from original singer, Gary Mumford) who stepped out front, his soulful tenor impressing on the hits 'The Second Time Around' - the group's only US R&B chart-topper - 'I Can Make You Feel Good,' 'There It Is,' 'Make That Move,' and the anthemic dance floor burner, 'Friends.' More hits followed in '83 - namely 'Dead Giveaway,' 'Disappearing Act,' and 'Over And Over.' All three tracks were  taken from the group's seventh album, 'The Look, ' which showed them moving in a rockier, new wave-like direction. Even so the LP was a Top 10 UK hit but by that time cracks had begun to appear in the group's relationships with each other and their record label and management. 

Consequently, at the very apex of the group's fame in 1983, Watley and Daniel left under a cloud to pursue solo ventures. Howard Hewett, however, soldiered on with new recruits Delisa Davis and Micki Free and scored hits with the synth-heavy 'Dancing In The Streets' (which featured on the hit movie Footloose) and the electro-flavoured 'Deadline USA.'  The latter also graced a film soundtrack (the quickly forgotten Irene Cara movie, DC Cab)  while 'Don't Get Stopped In Beverly Hills' appeared on the Eddie Murphy-starring blockbuster, Beverly Hills Cop. All those tracks are included on 'Gold'  and some of them you'll find in 12-inch form on the third disc of this 3-CD set alongside long club mixes of  favourites like the evergreen 'A Night To Remember' 'The Second Time Around,' and 'Right In The Socket.'

If you're looking for a time machine guaranteed to take you back to the mirror-balled dance floors of the late '70s and early '80s and the heady days of your youth, perhaps, then 'Gold' is unquestionably the album to get. (By the way, for vinyl fans, 'Gold' is also available as an 8-track LP). 

(CW)  4/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 July 2019 18:57


JERRY BUTLER: 'The Ice Man Cometh' (Mercury/Elemental)

Sunday, 21 July 2019 10:33 Charles Waring E-mailPrintPDF

                                altJerry Butler's decision to leave The Impressions in 1958 to pursue a solo career after a short spell with the fledgling Chicago soul group was vindicated when he topped the US R&B charts in 1960 with 'He Will Break Your Heart.' Throughout the remainder of the 1960s, the Mississippi-born singer  with the honeyed baritone voice proved a consistent hit-maker, racking up a raft of charting singles, initially for Vee-Jay and from 1967 for Mercury. But his second No. 1 single proved elusive until late 1968 when Mercury released the infectious 'Hey Western Union Man,' written and helmed by rising Philly production team, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff. As well as topping the charts, 'Hey Western Union Man' ushered in a new, urbane and sophisticated,  soul style and established the blueprint for Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia sound.  The track was the lead off song on Butler's groundbreaking third LP for Mercury, 'The Ice Man Cometh,' which is now remastered and reissued as a limited edition CD and 180 gram LP by Elemental.

'The Ice Man Cometh' is one of soul music's all time essential records: a landmark LP that should be revered alongside the likes of Marvin Gaye's 'What's Going On,' Aretha Franklin's 'I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You,' Al Green's 'Let's Stay Together,' and Curtis Mayfield's 'Superfly.'  The 11-song set also contained Butler's third and final US R&B No. 1, the anthemic 'Only The Strong Survive,' which like 'Hey Western Union Man' was co-written by the singer with Gamble & Huff, as was the Top 5 US smash, 'Never Give You Up.' Other singles from the album, though they were less successful, were the brassy dancer, 'Lost,' and the string-drenched impassioned beat ballad 'Are You Happy.' Orchestral strings also feature prominently on the gospel-inflected 'I Stop Heaven,' a heartbreak tale called 'Go Away - Find Yourself,' and the mid-tempo, '(Strange) I Still Love You,' where female background singer counterpoint Butler's pleading lead vocal. Interestingly, the album's arrangers include Thom Bell and Bobby Martin, who would both go on to play an important role in the genesis of the Philadelphia sound, which would come to dominate soul music in the 1970s.

Connoisseurs of '60s - or indeed Philadelphia - soul music will probably already own this in one form or another, but if it's not in your collection, you should acquire this album right now. You won't be disappointed. And it just might change your life...

(CW) 5/5

Last Updated on Sunday, 21 July 2019 18:58


TONY LINDSAY: Something Beautiful (via CD Baby)

Friday, 19 July 2019 17:51 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altWithout being a household name, Tony Lindsay is something of a soul veteran. Though from Kingston, New York, his career really began when he moved west in 1980. In San Francisco he formed his first band Spangalang, then went on to work with The Soul Soldiers, Black Magic, and the Ray Charles Project. Twenty five years ago he was spotted by Carlos Santana who brought Tony into his band. With Santana, Mr L featured on seven albums, won 11 Grammys and toured the world. In Santana downtime he's a songwriter – his tunes have been recorded by people like the Whispers, Tevin Campbell and Howard Hewett while he's also an in-demand session and background singer working with a remarkable list of names. Quite an impressive CV for sure; then there's Tony's solo albums - this one 'Something Beautiful' will be his fifth and it's already winning plenty of friends in the smooth, sophisticated, modern soul world.

Cut getting the big thumbs right now from the soul tastemakers is 'Find The Day' It begins with some gentle piano figures before the introduction of sweet, cinematic strings floating over subtle Latin rhythms. There's a definite Santana flavour here –for obvious reasons. Lyrically, 'Find The Day' has a gospel message – a celebration of divine love and the optimism that true faith can deliver. The album's title track, though not as overtly "gospel" in its message, also speaks of finding happiness ("something beautiful") by stepping out of your comfort zone. Sound wise, it's has a lovely, laid-back modern room feel. I'm guessing, though, that the album's opener, 'Sweet Love' is the one which the rug cutters will head for... sophisticated beats and a feel good feel!

'In My Shoes' is another busy bustler while for ballad fans there's the dramatic 'It's For The Love' (check the 'This Guy's In Love With You' intro) and the simpler 'So In Love' . Add to those the hands-in-the air anthem 'Victory', another Santana-flavoured cut - 'Set Me Free' and a rock inflected ballad 'Against All Odds' and you have a varied bill of fare held together by Tony Lindsay's remarkable voice.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Friday, 19 July 2019 17:59


G G; Kintsugi Heart (via Simply soul)

Thursday, 18 July 2019 19:04 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altOver the last several years, GIGI HAROLD has won plenty of followers in and around the London music scene with her special take on blue-eyed soul with a hint of jazz. Her 2018 album '4am Angel' was particularly well received and GG (the name she uses professionally) has just released the follow up collection – the oddly name 'Kintsugi Heart'.

Superficially "odd" but the explanation is (we think!) this. GG tells us that the 14 tracker is "written from her heart" and that the songs "weave stories of love and loss". Well "kintsugi", we've learned, is an ancient Japanese tradition, that encourages people who accidentally break something precious – an ornament, a vase, a glass ... whatever, to piece it together again. Maybe not perfectly – but there are special crafts people who will take on the job. They put the objects together again and leave the repairs visible – often spraying them with resin – even powdered gold. The result is, we're told, beautiful. Kintsugi means "golden joinery" in Japanese and (we think) GG's album is the story of a broken heart being put together again, but leaving some scars and traces of the past relationship.

Enough of the philosophy – what does the album sound like? Well... classy blue eyed soul with just a garnish of smooth jazz. Best reference point, I guess, is Swing Out Sister. GG sounds nothing like Corinne Drewery; her voice is tougher, more strident – unusual even. But the overall soundscape is similar... most obvious on the lovely 'Why' which features some lovely muted trumpet. It's an album highlight. The beater that is 'Smile On My Face' is another good 'un while the opener, 'Come Along With Me' mines a proper cool, soul groove. 'Take Some Time' is more experimental while he closing 'Souvenir' offers some variety. This is a stately Latin-inflected cut with some French lyrics... tres bien!

Production's down to GG's partner Mark Harold and amongst the musicians are plenty of UK soul "names" - Kenny Wellington [trumpet] David Baptiste [sax], Brian Harris [guitar/sitar], Mike Goodman [guitar, ]Michael Henderson- Grant [flute +sax] and Andy Goodall [ drums].

'Kintsugi Heart' truly embraces the beauty in the broken but if you want to investigate, you'll need to be quick – the album is out now – but it's limited to just 300 physical copies!

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 July 2019 19:20


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