CAMERA SOUL; Connections (Azurra Music)

Wednesday, 08 November 2017 20:41 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altCamera Soul is an Italian soul and funk band led by Piero and Pippo Lombardo. Piero is a kind of behind the scenes guy – handling writing and generally managing things; Pippo helps big bro with song writing and also plays keyboards. The core of the rest of the band is Beppe Sequestro (bass), Liviana Ferri (percussionist), Fabio Delle Foglie (drummer) and the lovely Maria Enrica Lotesoriere who handles the vocals.

The band work out of Barri in Southern Italy but with three acclaimed albums under their belt the band have a following throughout Europe and in Japan and their last collection – 2015's 'Dress Code' - topped all the credible soul charts in the UK. On the back of that success Camera Soul will be touring the UK at the end of November, taking the opportunity to promote this – their new long player – 'Connections'.

The 18 track album is already winning praise from soul commentators while savvy DJs have cherry picked a couple of cuts for heavy rotation. Those tunes are the set's title track and a lovely sweet n'smooth 'Tonight (in This Night'). 'Connections' (the song, not the album) is being aired in two versions; the original which is a tight, melodic soul groove and in a Tom Glide remix. The TG mix cranks up the beats into almost soulful house territory and, oddly, I think, omits the gorgeous vocal. What Monsieur Glide creates though is one huge modern soul groove that is both hypnotic and irresistible. 'Tonight' is different again – smooth jazz meets modern soul; but a lovely melody, beautifully delivered and produced... quite charming!

Elsewhere, ones we like right now are the Latino-inflected 'Meu Carnival', the poppy Northern soul pastiche 'Never Enough' and 'This Is Not The Right Way' which mines a similar groove to 'Tonight'. Listen up too to the poignant tribute to Maurice White - 'In The Stone'. It's far too brief and segues into the aforementioned 'Tonight'. Clearly EWF have been a big influence on the Lombardo brothers and I think dear old Maurice would be impressed by what Camera Soul have produced here.

Camera Soul's 'Connections' is out now and you can find out more @

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 November 2017 21:03


ERIC BENÉT; Eric Benét (BMG)

Tuesday, 07 November 2017 11:13 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altThis eponymous 12 tracker is Eric Benét's eighth studio album and his first since 2012's 'The One'. The delay may have disappointed fans of the Milwaukee-born soul man, but they won't be disappointed by the new collection; it offers everything that those fans have come to know, love and appreciate abut Mr B!

First off there are plenty of those on point contemporary R&B beaters that Eric's always excelled at. Best example is the brash opener, 'Can't Tell U Enough'. The MC Lyte guested 'Holdin' On' offers a similar flavour. Slightly different but equally satisfying and danceable is the funky, Prince influenced 'Cold Trigger'... clever and quirky with a sampled Vincent Price (I think) short, spoken intro. My ears can also hear the influence of Prince on the ponderous but sexy beater that is 'Insane'.

Highlights of Benét's long players, though, have always been the sweet ballads – tunes to showcase the man's fragile falsetto. Best of the bunch here is the big production (courtesy of Demonte Posey) that is 'Fun And Games'. 'Broke And Busted' is lovely too, while 'Floating Through Time' is as ethereal and atmospheric as the title suggests. Most intriguing ballad though is the melancholic 'Never Be The Same'. Sub-titled 'Luna's Lullaby', there's clearly a personal story behind this one.

This album's biggest surprise is the huge Latin romp, 'Holdin' On'. With guest input from celebrated trumpeter, Arturo Sandoval, this is full on salsa – uplifting and optimistic. Clearly there's a connection here with Eric's recent contribution to the Cuba album 'Two Beats One Soul' (see our review section).

The album's lead single is the sweet, building floater, 'Sunshine' – a good choice; a showcase for Eric's famed falsetto.

'Eric Benét' is out now.

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 November 2017 11:27


COOL MILLION: Best Of .... (Sed Soul Records)

Friday, 03 November 2017 19:21 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altSince 2008 (yes 9 years!) the Cool Million crew (Rob Hardt and Frank Ryle) have been serving up a unique, superlative take on the modern soul idiom. The pair - one German, the other Danish - are passionate about soul music and as practising DJs they know the joy and optimsim that soulful dance music can bring. So, what to do when you need new, quality dance tracks to play out? Easy – create your own! That's what Frank and Rob decided to do nine years ago and, putting their proudcers hats on, they set to work with people Leroy Burgess, Eugene Wilde, Jean Carne, Keni Burke, Alton McClain, Marc Evans, Dimitri From Paris, Kenny Thomas and dear old Lisa Stansfield to craft a soul sound that had its roots in the great days of those 80s Soul Weekenders but which also had classy contemporary flavour. That mix produced a soundscape that is immediately identifiable as the "Cool Million sound" and in the last nine years any number of producers have tried to copy the process but no one (yet) has managed to capture that special sound as well as Rob and Frank.

There can't be too many modern soul collectors who don't know about Cool Million; indeed most will have plenty of Cool Million cuts in their libraries; failing that, if they're dance event attendees, they'll have cut plenty of rugs to cool Cool Million tunes.

Well if you want to keep on dancing, or refresh your Cool Million collection, or, indeed get know the team for the first time, here – via a 15 track "Best Of..." collection – is wonderful opportunity to do any of those things.

The genesis of this album is interesting. Rob and Frank told us when they work on new material they always refer back to their previous glories for ideas and inspiration. So, while preparing their upcoming (2018) tenth anniversary album, they had a long listen to their back catalogue and they decided that there was so much quality in there that their first "Best Of..." would be a good idea!

That good idea is now officially available and though many of the cuts will be familiar to modern soul buffs, to have them lined up like this is a real treat and when things like the Marc Evans-vocalized 'Don't Cha Wanna Dance' is lined up next to Kenny Thomas' 'Without Your Love' which precedes the Dimitri From Paris remix of 'Oh!' you realize just what Cool Million have achieved in the last nine years.

As a bonus there are two new songs - 'That's My Lady' featuring Danish singer Gregers and 'Lovers Come, Lovers Go' featuring US singer Kiki Kyte. There's also a new treatment of the duo's 2011 Keni Burke fronted 'So Real' ....which is exactly what it is ... so real, so good! All three of these "new" tracks boast the wonderful Cool Million sound, so for the price of one CD you can have yourself your very own modern soul night... courtesy of Rob Hardt and Frank Ryle. They won't tell us their secret formula but my hunch is that first and foremost they're passionate soul fans and that passion is what drives their music!

(BB) 5/5

Last Updated on Friday, 03 November 2017 19:31


ARETHA FRANKLIN; A Brand New Me (Atlantic Rhino)

Friday, 03 November 2017 12:02 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

altA few years back, music producers Nick Patrick and Don Reedman were asked to celebrate the music of a certain Elvis Presley by adding new, imaginative, orchestral backing tracks to a selection of some of his best loved songs. The result was generally well received, though veteran Elvis purists weren't completely convinced.

Right now the soul world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of ARETHA FRANKLIN joining Atlantic Records, and to mark the occasion the Atlantic/Rhino execs decided that it would be a "good idea" to bring in Patrick and Reedman to do the same with the Queen's back catalogue. As they did with the Elvis project the pair brought the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra into the Abbey Road studios to create the new tracks over which Ms F's classic vocals would be floated. With a little technical wizardry and a lot of love, the album is now available and cleverly titled 'A Brand New Me' after one of the set's key cuts.

And that Gamble-Huff song (originally recorded by Aretha on '72's 'Young Gifted And Black' album) is typical of what you can expect. The production is massive, and here Patrick and Reedman dip their brushes into the big swing band palette and it works beautifully. Elsewhere productions and arrangement are even bigger and much more lavish –witness the opener 'Think'. For this the producers try the Phil Spector "kitchen sink" approach. Indeed Spector's 'River Deep Mountain High' seems to be the inspiration behind the treatment here.

SJF's favourites, right now are 'I Say A Little Prayer' and 'Angel'. Both were things of total beauty in their original incarnations and with the new arrangements they remain just that. On 'Prayer', Patrick and Reedman preface the song with sweet, shimmering strings while on 'Angel' those RPO strings work the same magic; on both, THAT sumptuously soulful vocal remains right up front – the star of the show. The producers know that's the secret. No point in tampering with a masterpiece; maybe enhance or renew the frame!

As with the Elvis project, 'A Brand New Me' won't please every Aretha fan. But while we wait for totally new material, this will satisfy. At worst, it gives food for thought and a chance to debate; at best if offers the opportunity to enjoy those knee-trembling vocals all over again!

(BB) 3/5

Last Updated on Friday, 03 November 2017 12:08


VARIOUS; Soul Festival (Expansion)

Wednesday, 01 November 2017 14:14 Bill B E-mailPrintPDF

alt'Soul Festival' is a new compilation series form modern soul brand leaders Expansion Records and we're told that the series will focus on "the period from when new soul music took influence from the Northern soul we enjoy at UK clubs and events". The date span on the covers defines that period as 1971-1979. "A time", the compilers say, "when records became more lavish in their arrangements and grander in production, but always with that essential soul feel".

Rather than rabbit on, though, best perhaps to give you some examples of the flavour that 'Soul Festival' offers. The set kicks off with Margie Joseph's 1975 outing 'I Can't Move No Mountains' and finishes with Richard Stepp's light and lovely 'Caught Up In A Whirlwind'. Both are indeed "grand" and "lavish" and, yes, "soulful". In between there's lots more of the same. Big favourite here right now is Ed Robinson's 1971 version of the Knight Brothers' Chess classic 'Temptation 'Bout To Get Me'. It's one of my favourite songs and to my shame never ever knew about this lovely updated version. Another gem is the included version of the anthem 'Funny How We Change Places'. Most know and love Debra Anderson's version but it here it comes courtesy of "Dede Schwartz"... the name Dee Dee Warwick used during her tenure at RCA Records.

Other highlights here at SJF include Gerald Sims' 'You'll Never Be Sorry', sometime Young Rascal, Felix Cavaliere's 'Never Felt Love Before' and Ben E King's 'What Do You Want Me To Do'. Other featured artists include Bobby Thurston, Leon Ware, Timeless Legend, Patti Austin and Chuck Cissell... those who know his version of 'Love Is Missing From Our Lives' will love his sprightly 'Don't Tell Me You're Sorry'.

'Soul Festival' offers 20 classy cuts. Let's hope the series takes off and becomes a soul institution like 'Soul Togetherness'

(BB) 4/5

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 November 2017 16:02


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