SoulCuts Advent Calendar Day 1 – I Love Christmas – Eugene Wilde / Rob Hardt Interview

1 12 2010

The SoulCuts Santa has arrived to deliver a whole host of Christmas cheer. Over the festive season, we’ll be delving deep into our big, fat, soulful sack to bring you a delectable musical treat every day right up until the 25th.

We’re kicking off the festivities with a new track from legendary 80s soul vocalist Eugene Wilde. I Love Christmas is a nice slice of boogie soul produced by SoulCuts favourite Rob Hardt (one half of Cool Million) and one of the choice cuts on his new, Christmas at SedSoul album. We’ll be featuring a few of our preferred tracks off this Chrimbo collection over the coming weeks. With a line up that includes the aforementioned Mr Wilde, Ann Sexton, Noel McKoy, Peggi Blu and Marilyn Ashford Brown, among lesser known artists Lene Riebau, Jeniqua and C Robert Walker, Christmas at SedSoul is the perfect gift for the independent soul fan.

SoulCuts met up with Rob to talk about the Christmas album and all things soulful. We are huge Christmas soul music fans, as the upcoming blog entries for December will testify. Rob, undoubtedly shares our passion for Christmas soul music, echoing our sentiment that it’s a woefully underrated sub-genre. We started by talking a little about Rob’s favourite Christmas soul cuts,

I like Smokey Robinson, Santa Claus is coming to town. I really like it. The Temptations, Donny Hathaway, even the old stuff like Nat King Cole….and we have The Christmas Song on the album.

The album mixes up covers and original songs to great effect. Most surprising, perhaps, is the more traditional styling of Rob’s version of The Christmas Song featuring Peggi Blu on vocals. A touch jazzier than more straight-ahead versions, this new take undoubtedly captures the feel of a classic Christmas album. Rob joked,

You can really hear the fire on there. I did think about putting a crackle on it. Actually, I wanted to put the record out with a smell on it…you know, like a Christmas smell…cinnamon and all this…next time we’ll do it….but, we thought about it, and remembered all the records we don’t sell in a year, we need to keep them in our basement, so we would always have this smell of Christmas throughout the house if it doesn’t go so well.

I don’t think that’ll be a problem for Rob, given the overall quality of the 11-track album which manages to avoid the schmaltzy pitfalls usually associated with Christmas releases. No curdled egg-nog on this festive offering! We asked Rob how he approached the Christmas at SedSoul album,

Well, the Christmas element comes mainly through the lyrics as I have no jing-a-lings, or Christmas bells on the record. We’ve kept it quite funky, soulful, a little jazzy. I didn’t want to have the stereotype. I did the music and asked the artists to write on top of the music and I told everybody, feel free to sing about anything, you know: the lonely Christmas in a hotel room on your own with your best friend Jack Daniels, I don’t care, but put something about Christmas in to it. And everybody came with positive Christmas feelings, nothing negative. And all the artists were happy to do it. I think all the artists would like to make that classic Christmas record, be the next George Michael, even though that’s very difficult!!!!!

Of course, the motivation for many artists when making a Christmas song is to write one that will be played year on year. With versions of Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Ann Sexton), This Christmas (an intriguing blend of the original married to a Sexual Healing vibe!) and the aforementioned The Christmas Song, the album mixes established classics with brand new songs. SoulCuts asked Rob if he considered that there were any future ‘classics’ on the album,

I think that the Eugene track will be big on the dancefloors, a little 80s boogie style, so hopefully it is a little timeless…and we have a head-start in that we chose a style of music that’s already twenty or thirty years old! Our record cannot date any more! Old from the beginning! And I really think that Noel McKoy’s track is something that combines the pop and the soul elements. I think a lot of people will relate to it. It has good lyrics and Noel is a good lyric writer. I think it captures what Christmas is all about for some many, people coming together. And this makes it, for me, like a little Christmas hymn.

We just loved talking to the jovial Rob on his recent trip to London. We’ll have another Rob Hardt feature later this month recounting the story of how this guy from Germany became one of modern soul’s more influential figures. Stay with SoulCuts for more from Germany’s greatest soul star since…….well…….EVER!

Christmas at SedSoul is out now on download and CD. Check the SedSoul website for further details and to listen to the album in its entirety, or download via iTunes. Ho, ho, ho!


JD73’s Pure Gold Gives SoulCuts One Helluva Rush

26 10 2010

We love the new JD73 album at SoulCuts. It’s a veritable treasure chest of jazz-funk, boogie and soul aimed unabashedly at the dancefloor. From the first lick to the closing cut, Pure Gold is one of the most energetic soul albums of recent times. I’ve been dad-dancing with wild abandon since it plopped through the SoulCuts letterbox a week or so back.

It may share its name with a popular, and undoubtedly disgusting, brand of poppers, but JD73’s Pure Gold’s headrush lasts much longer than a couple of flithy minutes, and it won’t leave you feeling all pukey. Pure Gold is some honest to goodness Herbie Hancock flavoured disco funk. It’s nothing but good for your soul!

We’re working our way up to a review of the whole album, but it’d be rude if we didn’t share a little of the goods before then. Check the mix below. It runs through all the album’s killer cuts and is bound to whet your appetite for the whole tasty concoction.

The album is released on Joey Negro’s Z Records, a wholly appropriate home. If you enjoy The Sunburst Band, you’ll bust a nut over JD73. Pop on over to the Z Records website and get yourself some digital goodness before it’s too late. You can also get it at Amazon and iTunes too, but they’re not as lovely.

Stay with SoulCuts for more on JD73. In the meantime, check the website,

Hot SoulCut Alert – JD Green – Sleepwalking

22 09 2010

JD Green is a talented new soul artist with a refreshingly free and jazzy style. Her unique, honest voice impressively defies the critic’s usual need for classification. We’ve been playing her deeply soulful debut album for the past couple of days and will definitely be reviewing it in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we just had to share one of the many outstanding cuts on Diurnal Movements, the exquisite Sleepwalking. I’ve fallen deeply in love with this track. It’s fairly representative of the overall soul meets jazz tone of the album, although that’s not to say that the album is without its surprises. If you like this cut, you’re sure to love Diurnal Movements. Stay tuned for the review!

And if you feel the urge, head on over to JD Green’s Bandcamp page to purchase the intoxicating Diurnal Movements. You know you want to!

Soul Cycle – Flipped – Review

22 09 2010

New York’s Soul Cycle come correct with their new release, Flipped. At seven tracks deep, Flipped mixes up a few old tracks from their back catalogue and covers a handful of popular soul and jazz classics. An initial review of the tracklisting suggests an uninspiring collection of cuts that have been covered to death. I mean, we surely don’t need another version of I Can’t Help It or My Cherie Amour? Well, Jesse Fischer’s Soul Cycle somehow manage to breath life into a bunch of classic tunes, delivering smartly arranged cuts smack-bang at the intersection of soul, funk, jazz and R&B.

The opening cut is a reworking of Empty Pockets from their 2007 album, Urban Organics. This new version drops the Headhunters vibe of the original for a more contemporary sounding, sticky-synth driven, future-funk feel, and it works a treat, declaring a new chapter in Soul Cycle’s approach to jazz, resulting in a cut that is both a little more cutting edge and accessible than their earlier work.

Saunders Sermons (Maxwell’s trombonist and an accomplished soul/jazz vocalist in his own right) drops in to anoint the contemporary R&B meets jazz-standard interpretation of oft-covered In a Sentimental Mood, replete with some lounge-reggae vibes(I just made that genre up, believe me, it’s cooler than I’m making it sound). It’s a fascinating version, respectful and progressive.

Stevie’s My Cherie Amour arrives with a blast of hot synth action before tumbling into a sweet latin flecked groove. Melanie Charles provides an expressive vocal perfectly poised between soul and jazz, with ethereal backing vocals floating in and out of the fascinating arrangement. It’s one of those cuts that’s over all too soon. Maybe the guys can bring out ‘Flipped & Extended’ as their next release!!!

We’ve already raved about the Rogiers starring Outkast cover, Prototype. This firm SoulCut favourite mixes up a nice 80s quiet storm soul vibe with a little hip-hop and drum and bass action. The respectful but original arrangement is complemented by Rogiers’ beautiful vocals and a righteously funky keyboard solo from band leader Jesse Fischer.

Stevie crops up again in the shape of I Can’t Help It. I have to doff my cap to vocalist, Mavis ‘Swann’ Poole, Jesse and the Soul Cycle crew for breathing new life into this cult MJ track. The arrangement even has a little old school house feel, complete with a spot-on keyboard vibe solo. The track segues effortlessly into a reworking of the instrumental cut Streets of Gold from Soul Cycle’s recent Mosaic album. The production on this track is so fresh and, as with the preceding tracks, clearly highlights the group’s undoubted progression from an old school jazz-funk collective into a tight, contemporary and relevant act.

Soul Cycle’s earlier albums were certainly enjoyable, but perhaps a little parochial in their undeniably accurate recreation of 70s funky jazz. This new album, however, should encourage a broader audience for Soul Cycle’s brand of jazz and soul, without alienating existing fans. Flipped cogently captures the spirit of a progressive group looking to be part of the future of soul and jazz while delivering accessible and enjoyable music.

Get yourself over to their Bandcamp site and download a copy. Perhaps the best 5 dollars you’ll ever spend! Tell ‘em SoulCuts sent ya! You won’t regret it!

Find out more about Soul Cycle over at their website.

Kebomusic – The Soul Prototype – Review

26 08 2010

In need of some laidback jazzy, hiphop tinged soul? Of course you are. We all need some of that. And Kebomusic’s debut EP, The Soul Prototype, has it in abundance. It’s certainly worth a download.

The brainchild of Atlanta based musician and producer, Derrick Pryce, The Soul Prototype brings together a talented bunch of indie vocalists and musicians to deliver a consistent set of bubbling, relaxed soul, jazz and hip-hop cuts, all delivered with some sparkly keyboard work.

Highlights include the jazzy soul of Escalators featuring Steve Wallace, the damn sweet, stripped vibe of I’m Still Here, complete with delicate vocals from Kenny Wesley, and the midtempo goodie, Smile, featuring Lasonya Gunter.

Have a listen to the standout cut, I’m Still Here featuring Kenny Wesley!

We have to thank the folks over at Music Addikts for first putting us on to Kebomusic. We’ll be checking for that album, The Experience, promised for 2011, with some pretty high expectations. Nice work!

Find out more information on Kebomusic and download the EP right here!

Friday Funk – Don Blackman – Heart’s Desire

20 08 2010

Following a sterling p-funky performance from rare groove hero Don Blackman at London’s Indig02 last night, today’s Friday Funk just had to be his all-time classic, Heart’s Desire. Undoubtedly one of the greatest tracks on his infamous 1982 GRP album, this tune has a fat chocolate cake bass line, jazzy vibes and a nice old fonky vocal. It’s kind of like a jazzier, tighter, more soulful Parliament cut.

I almost snapped my neck head-nodding to the big man’s brand of funk last night. Nearly 30 years on, Don Blackman has still got the funk and we like it! Turn it up!

Carmen Rodgers – The Bitter Suite -Review

16 08 2010

Sound the trumpets! Carmen Rodgers is back with one of the most fascinating and substantive releases of 2010. And it’s only an EP!

It’s been six years since Carmen released Free, a decidedly neo-soul affair produced by SoulCuts favourite Geno Young. We loved it and the soul cognoscenti universally agreed that Carmen was destined for big things. She was the next Jill Scott, they all said. And then…well, the years passed without so much as a guest spot, until the release of The Bitter Suite EP earlier this Summer.

The Bitter Suite is a thematically and musically coherent EP. It documents the breakdown of a relationship through uncompromising lyrics set to a thick jazz, hip-hop and soul gumbo. Five songs deep, interspersed by some real talk that would have any eavesdropping man tiptoeing back out the door pronto, it sounds like a wholly personal release, raw with emotion.

Take a listen to the jazzy Never Again right here!

The production puts Carmen’s voice centre-stage. It’s a winning approach, allowing her rich, calming tones to lull the unsuspecting listener into a relaxed state before delivering the adroit killer punch of those bittersweet lyrics. The EP’s also musically rich, taking in deep neo-soul-tinged grooves (It’s Me, Tell Your Story), acoustic soul (the delightful Home), jazz-dance (the subtle complexity of Never Again) and some spacey jazz balladry (the haunting Better U Than Me). It’s also far from commercial. Hell, Carmen’s vocal styling on Better U Than Me even reminds me of Flora Purim in places, and we ain’t ever seen her shaking her rump at the VMAs!

If I were to single out a track for particular attention, it would have to be It’s Me. It’s an expertly crafted cut on which the vocal performance, music, production and lyrics hang together perfectly. The repetitious, chugging, slow funk groove captures the mood of the lyrics, while Carmen’s laid-back performance, repeating the same lines over and over, conveys the emotion in the lyric more powerfully than any vocal histrionics could. It may require repeated listens to unlock its qualities but I just can’t get enough of this tune.

Take a listen to the the EP highlight, It’s Me, right here!

The Bitter Suite is a triumphant return from Carmen Rodgers. It’s a thick slice of jazzy soul, delivered with style and substance that leaves us desperate for more. Fortunately, it’s only the precursor to Carmen’s full album, Intermission, due sometime later this year. Do yourself a favour, get over to iTunes and tell ’em SoulCuts sent ya.

For more information on Carmen Rodgers, go straight to You know it makes sense!