Today I fancied listening to something a bit chilled so I dug out this album from the iPod archive. I’m pretty sure we have all bought albums on the strength of one track, and in this case it was The Finest because it features Alexander O’Neal and was produced by Jam and Lewis. It has that classic 80’s jazz funk/soul sound with deep bass lines and electronic drums which I would normally enjoy but I have to say I found this album a bit of a tough listen. I’m all for a bit of moodiness but for me many of the tracks edged too far into the dreary. The lead vocal is almost stand-offish and I can’t quite get the feeling behind it. Still if this sounds like your thing then give it a try, maybe it just wasn’t the right day for it.
Standout track: The Finest
I know that some people don’t like Adele’s music, that’s inevitable, but its hard not to like Adele for being Adele. Last night at Wembley she proved (again!) what a superb artist and person she is. Despite having a croaky voice regularly soothed with honey and lemon, she gave a flawless performance of every song she sang. I don’t know if people generally consider her as a soul singer, but she has got a great soul voice and 21 is really a great soul record. She has such a depth to her voice and this album captures the real angst of her relationship breakup at the time. The stripped down feel in some tracks allows her vocal and lyrics to shine, but whatever track you listen to her voice powers through in feeling, not just in volume. There is a real authenticity to her performance that you don’t always get.
Standout track: Take It All
I was too young to be able to reference the film when it came out in 1980 but by the mid 80’s the legacy of the Blues Brothers was still going strong ( and still is!), not only with the film which we watched on VHS (yo kids, go look that up…) but with loads of tribute bands. It was they who introduced me to Atlantic RnB and classic soul tracks. I think this soundtrack still holds up as a great collection of music in its own right. The music is fantastic, particularity the horns and bass, played by some of the musicians who worked on the original tracks back in the 60’s. Of course the supporting cast including Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles bring their great performances, but John Belushi’s vocals stand up well amongst the Kings and Queens of Blues and Soul. A great album to start the day to!
Standout track: She Caught The Katy – easily overlooked as the opening track.
Produced by Minneapolis-based Jam & Lewis, Hearsay is Alexander O’Neal’s magnum opus and the source of his biggest singles in the 80’s. Hearsay was my first “concept” album, set at Alex’s party with “Interludes” in between the songs playing out events. Hearsay combines funk and soul in a pop package and there are some classic tunes on here. As with most parties you get the upbeat tracks at the beginning and the mellow stuff near the end, but it’s kind of the wrong way round for commuting into work! Alex just has one of those powerful voices and 30 years later (yes, 30! Can’t believe it!) its still a great listen from start to finish. I have seen him live a few times, and I remember seeing him walking to Hammersmith Apollo because the of the traffic jams. Awestruck, we snapped a photo but his minders presence dissuaded us from saying hello personally!
Standout Track : Never Knew Love Like This (with Cherrelle) – Yeah, there’s Fake and Criticize but this is a classic.
Lianne La Havas just has one of those voices. It has a distinctive tone and depth that makes it hard to mistake her for anyone else. I was expecting not to like this album, her second, but found myself liking it almost instantly. Its not all funky beats, there are some guitar-based and rockier tracks where at times I am reminded of Skunk Anansie. She can let rip with her voice or bring it down to quietness, sometimes in the same song, but every time her soulful voice cuts through it all to stand out. Its easy to see what Prince saw in her with her contributions to his album Art Official Age, and as a songwriter she clearly has talent. I look forward to her next album, and will probably seek out the first one. Soulful, jazzy and a bit rocky at times – in a good way.
Standout track : Unstoppable – if the opening track doesn’t grab you nothing will.