The years from 1978 up until 1983 are the most exciting years in soul and R&B I think. Not only because those were the years I started to seriously listen to and collect records, but it was such a rich and substantial period, with many legendary producers in their prime years, like Leon Sylvers, Nick Martinelli, Quincy Jones, Kashif, Paul Laurence, and so many more.
Composer and multi-instrumentalist Alex Puddu has put together a wonderful 11-track collection of songs which hark back to those years. He even asked Gene Robinson Jr. into the studio to record three tracks with him. Gene was vocalist of Breakwater – the group released two timeless albums on Arista in 1978 and 1980 (Kae Williams was in that band, too, who later wrote, produced and arranged for The Brooklyn, Bronx & Queens Band). Those three tracks open the album, which is also available on vinyl by the way and Alex plays electric guitar, synth, Moog, electric piano, synth bass, and vocoder. “You Are My Fire” starts out in great disco-soul fashion, Spinners-like and with Gene’s vocals still strongly pervasive. I especially like the 80s keys and synth sounds on “Be My Lover” and the backing vocals too. “Don’t Hold Back”, in pure William DeVaughn fashion, is another catchy soul tune with Gene shining bright.
Two songs feature vocalist Duane Hobson, who has worked with Alex on previous projects. “Back Against The Wall”, the organ and brass-led groover with touches of vibraphone, is a welcome change towards more straight-ahead soul tunes. “Saturday Night”, a boogie disco stomper, has Duane easily floating over the bass-heavy groove. Bass is played by Paul Westwood, who has worked with everyone from Peter Green to Elton John, from Cleo Laine to Nik Kershaw. The reggae-fied entry “Release The Catch” featuring singer Sawa is fair enough, but not really my first choice.
Five instrumentals round up this worthwhile set which never comes across as a faint memory of the good old days, but rather as a convincing melange of late 70s/early 80s spirit transported into present-day sounds. Some Shakatak moments appear on the synth and keys-heavy title track and the final cut, “Blue Lines”, concludes this very entertaining album on a mellow, almost transcendental note. Nice one!