Tom Glide Gives SoulCuts Some Luv

9 11 2010

Regular SoulCutters will be all too familiar with our love (or should that be ‘luv’) for In The Name of Luv, the debut album from Tom Glide & The Luv All Stars. It’s a joyful celebration set to a soundtrack of some of the most driving soul and funk of recent times. With a CD release now a reality, via the infallible Expansion, SoulCuts met up with the album’s creator to feel the Luv. A humble and relaxed Tom filled us in on the album’s genesis,

The producer, Patrick and I had played music together in college in the eighties and both fell in love with the groove sound on the dance floors. You know, the music of Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & The Gang…and we said that, one day, we would make an album just like our heroes…

But their dream stalled when the pair finished college and went their separate ways. Tom moved to England for a short time following an invite from the legendary Chris Blackwell to record in the UK. He stayed in Shepherd’s Bush for a year, spending huge swathes of time in the studio recording with legendary artists such as Aswad.

I sent Island a demo and the next thing I know is that Chris Blackwell is calling me, asking me to come to London. So, I made an appointment, arrived and Grace Jones is there, opening the door. That was it. We stayed in the studio for like 40 or 50 days. Just crazy, amazing times.

As time moved on, Tom developed a love of electronic music, moving in to deep and tech house. Patrick and Tom had not seen one another in 25 years when Patrick contacted him out of the blue and asked if he would DJ his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. The two old friends got to talking and Patrick told Tom that they should record that album they’d discussed as students. With Patrick’s backing, Tom set to work and got together the outlines of a couple of tracks. They looked on the Earth, Wind & Fire website, as you do, and found a number for Rahmlee, the legendary, sole surviving, member of the Phenix horns (the power behind Earth, Wind & Fire). And so Tom rang him up,

I said Hi, I’m a producer from France and we would like to make some funk songs with you.

This is the point when most people would put the phone down. However, the generous-spirited Rahmlee asked Tom to send him the MP3s. Tom sent through early versions of what would become the sumptuous ballad, I’m Crazy and the effervescent Get It Off. Rahmlee called him back a week later (he was on tour with the original soul man, Bobby Womack, at the time) and declared his love for the music and desire for them to collaborate on an entire album. This was in July 2009. A year later, the album was finished.

Rahmlee, for the unitiated, is a trumpeter, arranger and producer who has worked with some of the greatest soul acts of all time including The Chi-Lites, Gene Chandler, Donny Hathaway, Bobby Womack, Macy Gray, Ramsey Lewis, The Jacksons, Tyrone Davis and, of course, Earth, Wind & Fire, to name but a few. As a member of the Phenix Horns, Rahmlee helped to define that unmistakable brass sound synonymous with EWF’s purple patch, going on to tour the world and work on innumerable Grammy-winning albums.

The 63 year old master’s punchy horn arrangements manage to be the star of the show without overpowering the groove. At the mention of Rahmlee’s name, Tom gets all misty-eyed and looks me squarely in the eye, his relaxed persona now rather serious. He wants to make sure that I fully understand what he’s about to say,

Rahmlee’s the only remaining member of the Phenix horns. There’s nobody else who can make that sound now. You know, he played with Phil Collins for years…you know that track Sussudio. The guy is a GENIUS. An absolute genius. His understanding of the overall spectrum of music, the science of voicing, is incredible. He knew exactly what he wanted and how to go about it. He knew how to make the sound grow, just what to do. And yet, with all that talent, he is still so humble, so friendly…we have definitely become…tight…we spoke for a long time about music…

And it’s this passion and reverence for the music, combined with the desire to have fun that makes the album such a triumph. We all have friends with whom we can talk for days on end about music, and it’s apparent that the team involved in the production of In The Name of Luv share that same love. Yes, it’s impeccably put together, the arrangements are bright and intelligent, but it’s the feeling that it conveys, it’s driving optimism, that really makes the album shine. Mind you, those string arrangements are also rather special in their own right,

That is all down to Maurice Heard. This guy is another genius. He’s from Detroit and has worked with so many great people like George Clinton and Amp Fiddler. He’s always worked with a lot of dance music, people like Quentin Harris. I am so happy with his arrangements. You know, I’m a lover of string arrangers like Claire Fischer, the guy that worked with Prince. And when I first listened to Maurice’s arrangement on I’m Crazy, I got the goosebumps.

Tom speaks passionately about all his collaborators on this album from bass players Byron Miller (George Duke) and Alex Al (only 23 years old, the last bass player to play with Michael Jackson, just an incredible talent), through to living legends James Gadson and EWF founding member, Larry Dunn.

Given that In the Name of Luv has been released via their own record company digitally and via Ralph Tee’s formidable Expansion on CD in the UK, I was intrigued as to how the project was financed. It’s ostensibly an independent release, albeit featuring a host of A-grade major players complemented by rich horn and string arrangements. Its the kind of album that doesn’t get made any more, not even at major label level.

We were so lucky. Patrick financed the record. And yes, it was expensive. We had the challenge to create this retro funk sound. We had 45 days in the States, but Patrick did not count the money. We could not have done this without him. He was nothing but encouraging. If we are going to do it, we have to do it right, he would say. I am so thankful.

It’s an amazing leap of faith to invest so much financially and personally into a project and it’s to Patrick’s credit that the album is now here for us to enjoy. And this, once more, captures the joyful spirit of the album; born out of love for the music, unencumbered by commercial needs, Tom Glide and The Luv All-Stars want the people to have fun,

Back in the eighties, everybody was smiling. It was about fun, about pleasure, no problems. People went out to party not just to go out. And the music of that time, Earth, Wind & Fire, George Duke, Slave, Pleasure, so many great, great artists. We just wanted to capture that retro feel.

However, I find the ‘retro’ tag rather misleading. It does the album a disservice to use that hideous marketing term. I prefer ‘timeless’. In The Name of Luv truly sounds like a lost classic. There are no frills, no marketing gimmicks, it’s nothing but soul music designed to raise a smile and move your feet. I can’t wait to hear what Tom and his cohorts come up with next,

We definitely want to make the second one. Maybe we’ll do it in Europe this time. The great thing about The Luv All-Stars is that anybody can come through it. With the first album I only wanted male vocalists. That was very important to me. Maybe on the second one we’ll have all female singers. But, the new challenge for us is to bring it to the stage. It is going to be a challenge, because we will need at least eleven people to perform. We will need at least a couple of weeks rehearsal and we will definitely need Rahmalee there. We can’t do it without him, without the horns. But we definitely want to do it here. All good things start in England, you know.

I don’t know about that. On the evidence of In The Name of Luv, I’d say some of the best things come from across the Channel!

Get the album from Soul Brother Records and Amazon. Your very soul depends on it!


Tom Glide & the Luv All-Stars – In the Name of Luv – Review

3 10 2010

In the Name of Luv is the brainchild of fellow Frenchmen, Tom Glide and Patrick Smadja. Years ago, as students, the two promised one another that they would one day record an album with a bunch of Earth, Wind & Fire musicians. Fast-forward a few years and Tom Glide has assembled his dream team (including RahmLee, Larry Dunn, James Gadson and a whole host of top-brass soul luminaries) to produce the most joyous album I’ve heard this year. It’s an unabashed love letter to the classic American soul sounds of the early eighties, replete with punchy horns, sweet strings, real musicians and a truckload of fantastic tunes.

The album kicks off in fine style with the punchy Get It Off, a spirited dancefloor groove, replete with a sterling arrangement and some impressive horns centre-stage. It’s an A-grade cut that’s wholly representative of the overall quality of the project.

Get It Off

There’s nothing showy about any of the arrangements here, no long solos or musical masturbation, everything fits together in support of the song and the groove. And that groove takes for its inspiration the music of EWF, Quincy Jones and the more sophisticated dancefloor soul of the late 70s/early 80s. Although it’s far from simply being a collection of retro-soul, In The Name of Luv accurately distils its influences to create an album that sounds like a lost Earth, Wind & Fire record. It magically captures the spirit of first discovering EWF or The Dude; recalling a time when music sent a shiver down your spine.

What’s Your Fantasy

What’s Your Fantasy is an exemplary slice of soulful disco that deserves to be a huge. It’s a real step-up from the proto-disco Jamiroquai has been releasing over the past ten years, showing how it should be done, not skimping on the soul for the sake of the groove. I’m Crazy drops the tempo for a beautiful Philly-styled ballad complemented by a lush, romantic string arrangement that recalls Larry Gold’s excellent Don Cello & Friends album (check Bunny Sigler’s Can I from that album!). Along with the title track, it’s one of only two ballads on the album, both delivered with style and finesse by Orlando Johnson.

I’m Crazy

The horn led Fanfare segues into Can You Feel It, another tight groove propelled by a superior funky horn arrangement and some storming percussion. The quality just does not let up on this album. There is not one poor track. Even the slightly cheesy title and one-dimensional lyrics of Kool Party can’t hold things back, delivering another absolute belter of a jam; a superior slice of Saturday night soul!

The absolute stand out cut is Love is Coming Up. It’s hard to single out particular tracks for attention on such a consistently excellent album, but this track has now taken the top spot in the SoulCuts 2010 chart. The horn and vocal arrangements on this track are stellar, sending a shiver up the spine. The intro is masterful, a little synth, some scat vocals and the track builds, bringing in bass and drums before driving forward with those punchy horns. There’s a subtlety to the track that brings to mind that sophisticated late 70s/early 80s sound you’d usually associate with a Norman Connors or Quincy Jones production. Yes, it’s that good.

Love is Coming Up

In the Name of Luv ends with the title track, a stretched out romantic ballad with Orlando Johnson on lead vocals. It’s a wonderfully smooth end to the album with a restrained horn arrangement and delicate keys. A subtle track on which to end an album full of energy, spirit and passion.

This album shines brightly as an absolute labour of love. It transports the listener to a better place. It may not be a revolution in sonic terms, or songwriting. Some may even view it as not being particularly progressive for soul music, but I’d argue the case that this is exactly the kind of music we need to be hearing right now, born out of love for the genre with an expressed desire to entertain, move and delight the audience.

In the Name of Luv may be the successful realisation of a long-held dream for its creators, my only hope is that it’s a recurring dream and that this soulful troupe continue to make music together for many years to come. Please, don’t delay, go grab a copy of this album now and enrich your soul! A physical copy will be out sometime in the future on the excellent Expansion label, but you can currently download it at iTunes, quick, jump to it!