LeNora Jaye’s Story is Taking Over SoulCuts

24 01 2011

Ok, folks. 2011 has arrived with its first essential release, The Story by new soul heroine LeNora Jaye. I recently had the pleasure of reviewing the album for my pals over at soulinterviews.com and can report that its a mandatory purchase for all lovers of timeless soul. The quality is so high on this debut that I’m reminded of Ledisi’s first album, which, as you’ll surely agree, can’t be a bad thing. The Story is a varied album on which LeNora’s songwriting and production skills shine brighter than that big fat orangey thing up there in the sky. Contributions from Steve Wallace, the excellent Astral 22 (who also associate produces) and Angela Johnson, among others, round out an album that takes the listeners on a replenishing trip through soul, jazz, gospel and house.

Have a listen to our favourite cut from the album, the glorious house jam, Never Get Away. It’s only crime is its brevity. What a killer!

Read our review here, and purchase the CD from Simply Soul Mail Order or Soul Brother Records. The album will be available for download via all the usual outlets from Valentines Day. It’s a date!


New Reviews on Soulinterviews!

15 12 2010

We’ve added a couple of new reviews to our favourite site, soulinterviews.com, namely our Al Olive review and a new appraisal of Mtume’s first two albums, Kiss This World Goodbye / In Search of the Rainbow Seekers, out now on soulmusic.com. Check out the Mtume and Al Olive reviews. Oh! And don’t forget to listen to Souly’s excellent Robert Brookins tribute. Who? It’s a fascinating story taking in Philip Bailey, George Duke, Stephanie Mills, Mo Pleasure and Earth, Wind & Fire. Have a listen and find out.

Al Olive – Dream – Review

2 12 2010

Al Olive’s Dream is a romantic, soulful journey imbued with the timeless qualities soul fans associate with Luther at the height of his powers. Much has been said about Al’s similarity to Mr Vandross and, while it would be churlish not to acknowledge the influence the great man has had on Al’s artistic development, Dream, with its adherence to old-school musical values, is undoubtedly not a simple facsimile of past classics; it’s a collection of timeless soul that stands out from the crowd by the virtue of its honesty, simplicity and straight-forward romanticism, not to mention a soul voice that deserves to be talked about in the same breath as heroes such as Ron Isley, Howard Hewitt, Will Downing and, of course, Luther Vandross.

The album kicks off with the delightful Slow Down, one of 2010’s most surprising soul cuts. Coming off like a cross between My Sensitivity and Any Love, Al effortlessly croons his way through a track that celebrates the nervousness that accompanies the first flush of attraction. Al is that rare breed of soul singer able to incorporate sensitivity, masculinity and romance into a coherent and believable performance. Dream may be Al’s first solo album, but it draws on fifteen years professional singing experience to deliver a mature collection for true soul lovers.

A couple of years in the making, Dream embodies the ‘timeless soul’ beloved of SoulCuts; music from the soul that refuses to pander to fashion or trends. Without a single duff track, Dream is a succession of highlights ripe for the soul connoisseur. As an independent release, it stands shoulder-to-shoulder, if not higher than, any major-label soul album of the past few years. The songwriting is consistently strong with thoughtful and mature lyrics aligned to a sense of melody that recalls Luther at the height of his powers. Furthermore, there’s a subtlety (both musically and vocally) that runs throughout the album, as evidenced on tracks such as the beautifully nuanced There For You and the stunning Fall In Love Again, that causes the album to get under the listener’s skin. Each and every listen unravels further pleasures, the lack of gimmickry affording the album much greater depth than the standard 2010 soul/R&B album.

Each cut on Dream is provided ample room to breath by producer Frank Hames. The restrained instrumentation and sympathetic arrangements serve as the perfect backdrop to Al’s captivating vocals. The pedigree of the project is further underlined by the joyous, jazzy tune, Easy Smile, co-written with David Ritz, Marvin Gaye’s biographer and the co-writer of Sexual Healing. But, Dream is an album that doesn’t rely on big name producers and an endless procession of guest stars. It’s a timeless collection of romantic soul as good as any album released in 2010.

Dream has been independently released by Al and is available via CDBaby. It’s so good, I might just have to buy myself another copy!

Fave Cuts: Slow Down, There For You, Beautiful Stranger, Never, L.O.V.E, Easy Smile, Heart Ache, Fall In Love Again

SoulCuts Eric Benet Review on soulinterviews.com!

25 11 2010

I finally managed to knock out a review of the exceptional new Eric Benet album for my friends at soulinterviews.com.

After living with the album for the past few weeks, I firmly believe that Eric and George Nash Jr (his co-producer, co-writer and co-arranger) have delivered a future classic. It’s an impeccable collection of sophisticated soul that demands the attention and hard-earned cash of each and every soul fan. Check my review over at the wonderful soulinterviews.com.

And do let me know your thoughts, either in the comments section, on Twitter, or Facebook.

Wow! What an album! Pop open a couple of tabs to read the review while checking out the album via the stream currently on Essence.

Although there’s no UK release date as such, Simply Soul Mail Order have it on sale at a very reasonable price!

New Reviews at soulinterviews.com

9 11 2010

We recently reviewed a couple of albums for our friends over at the indefatigable soulinterviews.com. We thought you may want to take a peek!

First up is Brian Culbertson’s XII, featuring high profile guests such as Chuck Brown, Kenny Lattimore, Brian McKnight, Avant, Faith Evans, Earl Klugh, Ray Parker Jr and Natalie Stewart (The Floacist) . Although smooth jazz is somewhat of an anathema to SoulCuts, there’s much for us soul-bods to dig on the pianist’s new album, not least the wonderful cut with Kenny Lattimore, Another Love. It’s so good it scooped the prized position of the jump-cut on Expansion’s Excellent Soul Togetherness 2010. Check the tune below and our review at soulinterviews.com.

We also review the legendary Lennny Williams’ new CD, Unfinished Business. It finds the ex-Tower of Power man in fine voice. Lenny’s also released a video for the salacious Six in the Morning. Thanks to our friends at Grown Folks Music for putting us on to this, um, interesting video. Enjoy! Click here to read the SoulCuts review.

The Foreign Exchange – Authenticity – Review

29 10 2010

Authenticity is a tightly crafted collection of atmospheric electro-soul and pop that could well see Nicolay and Phonte surpass their earlier Grammy nomination. It’s a brave record, short and to the point, both lyrically and musically. I’m reminded of the writer’s maxim: edit, edit and edit again! There’s not an ounce of fat on Authenticity, each track is delivered succinctly, right from the heart of the matter. It’s a welcome antidote to the usual bloated R&B from across the pond.

The album’s overarching soundscape expands on the music Nicolay explored on his Shibuya release, marrying it exquistely to Phonte’s songwriting to produce a soul album that defies the critic’s usual sophistic genre classifications. For music lovers, that’s certainly worth a round of applause.

The Last Fall is a sombre opener, reminiscent of LIAB’s House of Cards, with Phonte declaring that he’ll never fall in love again. Lyrically captivating, Phonte explores the disappointments of love on Authenticity. It’s an approach that certainly distances him from the usual juvenile preoccupations of the modern R&B singer (R Kelly’s Bangin the Headboard, anyone? No, I thought not.) but perhaps leaves those with sunnier dispositions pining for Percy Miracles…

Authenticity’s title track turns up the darkness calling to mind a sombre Michael Mann midnight scene, our hero (Phonte) cruising the wet city streets, a chopper between his legs, pink neon reflected in the puddles, alone with his demons. Some of the music on Authenticity truly feels cinematic. It’s surely only a matter of time before Hollywood comes knocking. Although on this evidence, it’s unlikely to be Disney.

Eyes To The Sky is a short, but compelling, melancholic little twist of a cut on which Phonte bares his soul. At a minute and a half it’s woefully short. There’s undoubtedly the germ of a greater song there, but all is forgiven as the track segues into the Pat Metheny Group vibe of the standout cut, All Roads, a melodic pop-jazz excursion that, with the right support, could break Foreign Exchange into a whole different league.

Fight for Love continues in a similar vein, Zo!’s warm keyboard work providing a foil to Phonte’s melancholic delivery and lyrics with an astral synth solo.

The next three cuts move into more familiar territory, each of them capturing that beloved LIAB vibe. We’ve posted our love for Maybe She’ll Dream of Me previously, but it still stands out as one of the strongest cuts on the album, that devastatingly simple synth and piano outro thick with emotion. Don’t Wait features FE alumni R&B singer, Darien Brockington on a much bouncier groove which wouldn’t sound out of place on YahZarah’s excellent Ballad of Purple St. James. Make Me a Fool delights, with indie darling Jesse Boykins III and rapper Median on a crisp cut worthy of multiple rewinds.

Everything Must Go kicks off with a synth groove right out of Zombie Flesh Eaters before moving into an electro-acoustic folk cut reminiscent of Terry Callier’s most fulfilling work. As with the aforementioned Eyes to the Sky, I’d love to hear a much longer version of this track.

Laughing At Your Plans, with Chantae Cann, kicks a little differently with some nice country flourishes and a James Taylor feel. It’s the kind of cut you’d maybe expect to hear on a Lizz Wright or Norah Jones album, perhaps hinting at a sound FE may explore going forward. It ably illustrates that, despite having harnessed a successful musical formula, Phonte and Nicolay are still eager to experiment; they haven’t fallen into a comfortable groove.

This City Ain’t The Same is a beautiful pop song featuring YahZarah on lead vocals. It’s a perfect close to the album, her sweet tones paradoxically both a neat contrast to Phonte’s darker delivery and an echo of the songs that have come before it.

Authenticity amply lives up to the high expectations created by previous Foreign Exchange releases. It’s easy to forget that it’s only the group’s third release, given how highly revered they are on the indie soul scene. When you consider how much Nic and Phonte’s music has developed over the course of those three albums, Authenticity is nothing short of outstanding.

Buy Authenticity at the Foreign Exchange Music Store.

SoulCuts Reviews Jeff Hendrick on soulinterviews.com

13 10 2010

SoulCuts has a review of the latest Jeff Hendrick CD over at soulinterviews.com, one of the greatest and most passionate soul related websites out there. Head on over to read the review and get your fix.

Jeff is a unique voice among the current crop of indie soul darlings and well worth investigating for modern soul lovers. I wouldn’t describe his music as particularly fashionable or hip, but it’s undoubtedly well-crafted, honest and clearly soulful, all qualities that transcend any ephemeral trends. Find out more about Jeff at his website, http://www.jeffhendrick.com/.

In the meantime, how about the standout cut from the Color Blind album, Back to the Days. Yeah, I thought so…

Read the SoulCuts review on soulinterviews.com right here. Takin’ it deeper!