Tony Monson did it again. Compiling a superb collection of “deep laid-back soulful grooves” pretty much exactly a year after the first volume came out (see review on these pages). And once again it is a brilliant mix of songs from the 70s and today’s cream of the crop. Some of the tracks already belong to my vinyl collection and it is always refreshing to hear one or two of them in new and exciting company. Like for example the opening masterpiece by Angela Bofill: “Under The Moon And Over The Sky” from her debut “Angie” album (1978) still oozes exoticism and soul and a near-perfect execution.
Elsewhere on the album, a song pops up that I still cherish since I bought it back in 1984 on 12″ on the obscure Kelli-Arts label: the utterly laid-back groove of “I Choose You” by Paris is still sublime to this day. The Isley Brothers are featured again here, this time with “The Highways Of My Life” from their 1973 LP “3+3” – the Isleys already at their peak with a lot more classic cuts to be delivered throughout the 70s and 80s. As far as the newer cuts go, there is the return of South African Greg Dean with “Unconditional Love” with vocals by the great Jarrod Lawson and Chantae Cann (also see review on these pages).
And the original version of “You Are My Starship” by Norman Connors and Michael Henderson (1976) is always welcome. My surprising new discoveries are the nine-minute plus “Remember To Remember” by Rick Holmes. The Roy Ayers-produced track with spoken vocals as a dedication to dozens of Black icons unfolds its real hypnotizing effect by its repetitive backing vocal arrangement and mystic synth. The other one is by UK singer and songwriter Debra Debs. Her “Blending Colors” about interracial relationships is mesmerizing and a sure contender for repeat listens. Extremely soulful and ethereal indeed.
I didn’t like the Lamar Thomas cut from 2007; the rapping about Memphis and the Delta come across as pretty corny on “Mississippi Delta Blues”. Elsewhere, there is a very sophisticated, airy light house track by Joey Negro & The Sunburst Band: their “Far Beyond” from 2004 is a welcome addition here. More exoticism is displayed by Mouth Music and the 1993 “He Mandu” with chanting vocals and Afro touches backed by a synth-heavy groove.
From last year, a slow groover is featured by The Foreign Exchange; “Face In The Reflection” features singer Phonte and producer Nickola. The smooth-jazz or contemporary jazz or whatever you want to call it group Novecento from Italy has Danny Gottlieb, Dave Liebman, and John Tropea as guests on a dreamy “Living So Fast” with singer Dora Nicolosi (from 2007) and background singer Sunny Hawkins steps out front on an equally dreamy, but much more soulful and deep “It’s Like Air” (2007) – a wonderful ballad with a strong vocal.
Jazz violinist Miri Ben-Ari gets the house touch by producer Kerri Chandler on a rather ephemeral “Peace In The Middle East” and Boston-based singer Ashanti Munir, another totally overlooked, but powerful and superb voice, flows in the R&B direction with “It Should Be You”, another slowjam ballad from 2010 featuring Neil Letendre as duet vocalist. This is a grower.