Greg Dean – Unconditional Love

Greg Dean "Unconditional Love"South African musician and producer Greg Dean, who lives in New York, had already released the first single from his album last October; the soulful title track features the brilliant Jarrod Lawson and Chantae Cann on vocals. So here is the full-length album, an 11-tracker brimming with soul, fancy production, and superb guest vocalists.

It is good to hear something new from Jarrod. He is not only featured on the title track, but also on the magnificent midtempo, slowly grooving “Colours” with Jarrod’s cute falsetto vocals and an effective background vocal arrangement. The song has a real catchy hook attached to it. The warm Rhodes sound on “Grass Ain’t Greener” cushions the equally swaying track which features Eric Roberson on vocals. The song develops to a spiraling climax towards the end.

The album was co-produced by Shedrick Mitchell whom I saw recently on stage during Winter Jazz Fest in New York with Grégoire Maret during an amazingly soulful, gospelly set. Carol Riddick is featured on the eerie, sophisticated ballad “Pitter Patter”, complete with 80s-sounding layered keyboard backings and more of those voluminous background vocals. The piano intro to “Like Rain” makes room for the R&B vocals of Natalie Weiss and Amber Iman (who played Nina Simone on Broadway in “Soul Doctor”) and a track that is more geared towards so-called adult-oriented rhythm and blues.

I’m a big fan of Gordon Chambers, not only of his strong and sympathetic voice, but also of his songwriting skills. “That Would Be All” is a classic soul ballad, a bit on the kitschy side, but hey that’s fine. I can bear some corny moments – but four minutes is enough. And in comes Chester Gregory on the finger-snapping “Keep On Lovin’ You”. A solid track with some genuine vocals. And there is another Broadway figure on the album: Mykal Kilgore with his delicious voice graces the sweet ballad “Denial”.

I’m not really into the overblown production work on “Sacrified Queen” which features vocalist Aaron Marcellus who gets a bit buried in the bloated song. And Chantae Cann is featured again on the way-too-short album closer “New York 6 Train” (that’s the green line). The album in total is pretty short, too, but sounds very promising.

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