Hil St. Soul – Soul Organic

It is hard to believe that 20 years have gone by since the release of “Soul Organic”, the debut of London-based duo Hil St. Soul featuring singer Hilary Mwelwa (originally from Zambia) and producer, songwriter, and musician Victor Redwood-Sawyerr. The 20th anniversary edition of the album is now out on Dome Records, released in a 2LP Gatefold sleeve with three additional bonus tracks.

Interesting that the majority of the tracks still work today. Pieces like “Nostalgia” have stood the test of time and haven’t really aged a lot. That neo soul and R&B melange of “Just A Matter Of Time”, now added with a remix version, still has its merits today. The duo has clearly created a new, organic and unique sound which is now more ascertained than during the early years after its initial release.

I also think it’s interesting that certain pieces now have a different stance than 20 years ago. I always thought that “Concrete Jungle” was more of a filler track, but its haunting melody is adamantly hook-laden and visceral. As is “Props”, the contagious foot-stomper. The old-school soul of “Free Spirit” with its cool, vibrant, gospelly vocal arrangement had almost been forgotten here. The beauty of “There For Me” is still intact. And the bass-heavy “For Your Love” still puts me in a good mood.

Which brings us to “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)”, the Stevie Wonder-penned classic made famous by Aretha Franklin in 1973 and featuring keyboards played by Donny Hathaway. Even though Aretha’s urgency is missing on Hil’s version (as it is on all cover versions up to this day), it is still quiet impressive and her vocals shine bright and effortlessly, elegantly glide through the piece. One of the bonus tracks is an acoustic version of the track which actually highlights her vocal stylings. I’m also still very much into the string and brass arrangement of “Together” which features those signature vocal overdubs. The third bonus is “Down To Business”, a slowly chirping groover.

Hil St. Soul are playing London’s Hideaway Jazz club on January 10th and 11th.

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