The much anticipated Soul Togetherness edition for this year is finally out and it is, yet again, a great round-up of consistently high-quality modern soul. The 15-tracker starts out with a deep disco-dance groove with the ever so graceful Jocelyn Brown on “Don’t Quit” by Dutch house producers Diephuis & Eastar. I already can’t get enough of this. The way she shouts out the line “Be A Believer” is pure Gospel, pure strength and pure joy.
Next up is a track which sounds like a mixture between an 80s George Duke production and Earth, Wind & Fire: Los Charly’s Orchestra with the superb Andre Espeut on vocals (Terry Callier) features some really grooving horn lines and sexy vocal arrangement. The flow is a bit disturbed with too many bridges I think. But still, a marvelous tune.
More 80s sounding stuff comes with the UK outfit SouLutions and “I Got To Party”, another current modern soul dancefloor instant classic with some far-away sounding vocals that only add to the attraction here. From Austria is Farina Miss, featured here on a Cool Million track called “Stranger” and even though the piece is classic Cool Million bliss, Farina’s voice doesn’t get to me. Too much vibrato. Way too much…..
As usual, Richard & Ralph come up with a couple of older tunes from the late70s/early 80s, like the extended version of Breakwater‘s “No Limit”. The guys only released two LPs (check out both of the covers!), and this is from their first one. A truly timeless piece of 70s soul with smooth synth and handclaps included. Tracy Hamlin is back (check out my review of her last album called “No Limits” – there you go again) with “Just Talk To Me”. I really like her unagitated, sympathetic voice and the overall midtempo crisp production.
From Detroit comes Zo! (Lorenzo Ferguson), writing and producing “Just Whatcha Like” for and with Joi Gilliam. The track is from his new album “SkyBreak” and the nice thing here is that once again, it proves that the current modern soul scene has its deep deep roots in the early 80s with a lot of keys and synths sounding from that era, but moving it into the contemporary world production-wise. Joi’s voice is demanding and a thrill. The tune has some 1981 Leon Sylvers sound written over it.
We also go back here to 1982 with vocalist Ronnie Jones and a relatively bland-sounding “You And I”, a tame disco ditty that gets too repetitious too soon. The Cool Million guys are back with a track by vocalist Seest and the piece comes right out of the Paul Laurence production book (ca. 1983) with Opolopo on an insinuating Moog. For a nice change, there is a throwback to an obscure track from the early 70s by Big Lee Dowell & The Cannonballs feat. Maxim Moston, complete with a catchy piano intro and real strings. A beautiful soul cut.
The most unusual track on offer is maybe “Lotta Love” by Nicolette Larson, usually not known for cutting soulful sides since she’s coming more from the country side of things (there are a lot of things in common here, though, as you know). The 1978 classic is featured here in its extended version. Cool for a nostalgia trip and still a head-nodder and foot-tapper. Trina Broussard is back with a Sade-sounding midtempo soul swayer called “Adieu” and Puff Johnson is featured with her 1996 Narada Michael Walden-produced and penned “Never Loved Nobody”, sounding a lot like “The Lovers” by Alexander O’Neal, but not really growing into a stunner.
The album is rounded out by anthems destined to become future soul hymns: “Sunny Day” by Hannah White and the boogieness and pure class of “I Can Feel It” by Beat Rivals. The album has insightful and short info to each individual track again and as usual, is highly recommended (also check out my review of the 2015 edition by using the Search button here thank you).