And here’s another great indie soul compilation which we’re also looking out for at the beginning of each year: Luxury Soul 2019 is another 3-CD box with 35 indie and modern soul tracks, with 21 tracks released last year or this year and the remainder going as far back as 1981 with a can’t-do-wrong classy piece by Ronnie McNeir & The Instant Groove called “My Baby”.
Most of the songs on CD 1 are new recordings, like the opening mellow mid-pace groover “Falling Back Into Love” by Marc Evans, already one of the highlights of the entire set. Sharp brass, amazingly soulful and powerful voice from Mister Evans. Steve Nichol of Loose Ends is still around and is featured here with a wonderful “Dangerous Romance” which includes Ellene Masri on vocals and Soulpersona on production. Great vocal arrangement on this one. Some new names appear as well, as always, like Byron Blu Mitchell. His “Standing Ovation” veers towards the R&B end of the spectrum but still shines bright as a solid, real soul track. I hear some Barry White strings. The brilliant Natasha Watts is added with a subdued, chilling “Special Day” (from her excellent My Next Chapter” album) and the mellowness continues with Phillip Leo and “Don’t Judge Me”.
There is another Gina here: Gina Foster reminds me of some of the mellower Deniece Williams tunes from the 70s on “What’s Happening Next?” and there is a welcome return of Mica Paris on an otherwise pretty lame and tame “No Explanation” by Chris Standring. This tune is actually saved by the presence and strength of Frau Paris. Stuck in the early 80s is “You Got Me” by Buscrates feat. Laura Benack, going back to those halcyon days of the early 80s with their signature keyboard and synth sounds. Great piece! The downright lissome pipes of singer Saskia make “Secret Lover” a pretty deep and moving soul churner.
Six tracks on this comp feature Incognito mastermind Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick: He produced and co-wrote the very catchy “Living For Today” by Dira and Maysa‘s house-induced “Pressure” from her 1999 album “All My Life” and continues to excel with Kloud 9 and their title track from the 2009 album “Everything Is Good 2Nite” (which still sounds great after 10 years) and one of those typical Incognito sounds on “Got To Keep Moving On” including the signature brass palette surrounding singer Olga Makovetskaya. And then there is the almost-forgotten group Inner Shade and “Are You Using Me”, sounding like another Incognito off-shoot. CD 3 also brings us back to the 2015 cover version of Tom Browne’s “Brighter Tomorrow” with Diplomats Of Soul feat. Incognito & Imaani.
CD 2 also features a tune harkening back to the glorious early 80s: “Stronger” by Nickee B almost sounds like Evelyn “Champagne” King or Kashif revisited. Chris Jasper keeps on throwing those midtempo soul wonders out into the orbit: I really dig “Show Somebody Love” from his most recent album “Dance With You”. More great dance stuff is included from Tracy Hamlin (“You’re My Sunny Day”) and Darien Dean featuring Tiffany T’Zelle (“Last Song”). Smooth jazz also finds its place here, but not without the help of some fantastic vocalists: Rahsaan Patterson guests on a 2016 piece by saxophonist Euge Groove and guitarist Norman Brown is special guest on “Free To Be Me” from the brilliant Lindsey Webster album which we’ve also reviewed here.
The third CD welcomes back One Way feat. Al Hudson and a new recording from an album to be released later this year: “I Want Your Love”, written by Dave Roberson and Al Hudson III, mixes old-school soul crooning with an updated, warm and elegantly funky One Way cushion. Classic singer Rockie Robbins can be found with his 1991 single “I’ll Always Love You” and the afore-mentioned Kashif still sounds classy and one-of-a-kind on his 2003 “Crazy Luv”. Still can’t believe that he’s left this earth. Soul siren Victor Haynes is back with “Hopping, Skipping, So In Love”. His boisterous vocal style, somehow a mixture between Johnnie Taylor and Bobby Womack, is pretty rare these days. We also get a very sexy, jazzy cut from Robb Scott‘s brilliant album “Siren” which came out last year. “Winter Love” features the sultry Elisabeth Troy. Can’t get enough of this track at the moment.
The remainder of the set includes the only real ballad; “Just Believe In Love” by Patrice Isley (forget those synth strings though), whose powerful voice is surrounded by some cute sax and keys, the trappy “Drifting” by Kim Tibbs, a Loose Ends-y “Stay Away From You” by Chris Ballin (1993) and a relatively rare Jimmy Cobb outing from 1983: the title track of the Pee Wee Ellis-produced “So Nobody Else Can Hear” is a pretty forgettable jazz vocal ditty featuring singers Gregory Hines and Marilyn Redfield.