Three CDs, 35 tracks – the 2018 edition of the Luxury Soul compilation is among us and it is full of fantastic soul grooves again, like its predecessors reviewed here in 2017, 2016, and 2015. From the very cool cover version of Keni Burke’s classic “Risin’ To The Top” by Tristan featuring Heston right on to the 1986 cult track “Galveston Bay” by Lonnie Hill. And as usual, there are a lot of new names and unknown tracks do discover, like “Give Love” by Marcus Anderson which features a great soulful vocal by Anthony Saunders on a mellow track which starts out like a Barry White-esque piece and later turns into a smooth midtempo stepper with a nice sax.
Most of the tunes here are from last year or the year before. I almost forgot about the very Will Downing-like thick vocal power of Will Wheaton and the sheer bliss that is the voice of Bridgette Bryant. Their “How Do You (Do The Thing That You Do)” is one of the highlights of the set. The familiar vocal of Chaka Khan can be heard (albeit pretty vague) on the light house jam “Baby Don’t You Go” by The Wanda which also features the vocals of Beres Hammond, which I never really liked. SoulLutions bring us back to the lush and stylish early 80s soul sounds with handclaps and strings on a splendid “Thankful” (could be a modern-day Dynasty track) and there are also the latest Expansion Records additions on CD 1 here, like Kenya (with a Tom Glide Mix of “Take Me Away”) and Jay King (the very “Georgy Porgy”-style “Runnin'”). Elsewhere, there is a very sexy, jazzy “Who To Love” by Lina and a return of Gordon Chambers with a Cool Million remix of “So Real” which features Keni Burke who also co-wrote the tune (it sounds a bit like a “Risin’ To The Top” revisited with the bass line). I also like the neo-soul meets Loose Ends style of Kim Tibbs on “My Better Side”. The first CD ends on a nice disco note with Marcia Mitchell and “Who Said Love Would Last Forever”, straight out of the Donna Summer book (without her glorious voice though).
The second CD has 2017 and 2018 productions only, except for a 1982 instrumental by flutist Bobbi Humphrey which she recorded on the Roy Ayers-led label Uno Moelodic. Roy also produced “Baby, Don’t You Know”. The disc starts with the inimitable vocals of Chris Jasper on a typical Isley-ish “That’s What Love Can Do” and continues with the sublime “Forget Me Not” by Myles Sanko, included here with the Rob Hardt (of Cool Million fame) remix. The tune still reminds me of “Back Together Again” by Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway. I’m really very much into Myles’ voice. A standout track. I wasn’t aware yet of Dimitris Dimopoulos & Sulene Fleming who are featured here with the classy dancefloor stomper “Sparkle” (sounds a bit like the much missed Marlon Saunders productions from the 90s). And Frank McComb returns as special guest on “Long Distance”, a deep club house track by Sir Piers. Very cool keys on this one and a spacy arrangement. Also included: the shuffling soul of Mr. Brian Power featuring Lifford on “Time After Time” with a pretty catchy hook, the David Joseph “You Can’t Hide Your Love From Me”-style “Soul Night” by Mather & Kingdon, and a track from the new BritFunk Association album which will be reviewed here individually as well. The 70s-style “The Message” by the Andre Espeut Quintet complete with horns and swell backing vocals, another Cool Million track (featuring Gregers) and a tune by Crack Of Dawn, formerly unknown to this writer, round up the second CD. “Your Love” turns out to be one of the monster cuts from the album, another one from the Barry White book.
The final disc has half a dozen recordings from the 70s, 80s and 90s, mixed with current faves. Expansion Records own Tracy Hamlin returns here with “Standby”, my favorite tune from her solo disc. The 1983 “Standing On The Outside” by Kazu Matsui feat. Robben Ford was recently inlcuded on the Ethereal Magic 3 compilation as well. I really dig the seductive, neo-soul swaying beauty “Little Girl” by Sophia Ripley and the smooth meets Latin “Negative Pleasures” by Robb Scott feat. Sylvia Mason James and its Incognito stylings. A welcome return can be found as well by Christopher Willliams who I think sounds better than ever on the very deep soul ballad “You” by Adika Pongo. The tune was co-written by the great Sandra St. Victor. There is also a 1991 track by Leon Ware on Expansion (the very unmistakeably Ware-ish “Heartbeat”, still have the original 12″), and also a 1993 Expansion cut by Watergates called “Look Into Tomorrow Tonight” (very Jamiroquai-ish), written by Julian Jonah. “Secret Love” by The Groove Association is a so-so soul ballad and you can’t go wrong with Kashif. We’re treated here to the 2003 recording “So Emotional”. Thrilling, chilling vocals and all that. A pretty cool stepper. And the the always brilliantly elegant Linda Clifford (“I Just Wanna Wanna” from 1979) and a very early Jones Girls cut (“If You Don’t Start Nothing”, 1974). Thanks to Ralph Tee for another wonderful compilation.