SoulCuts Eric Benet Review on!

25 11 2010

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

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

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!


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!

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!