Two of the best indie soul compilations each year are the Luxury Soul and the Soul Togetherness collections. Now, the team around Ralph Tee has come up with a new one: Soul Life compiles 16 quality soul tracks starting with the Tom Browne classic “Brighter Tomorrow”, recorded here in a brand new version by the Diplomats of Soul featuring Incognito and singer Imaani. It stays true to the funky electro groove of the original from Browne’s 1983 LP “Rockin’ Radio”.
As usual, there a re a lot of new discoveries here, like the French duo Sparkles featuring Ethel with a tempting “So Good” or the Ledisi-inspired Tasha Page-Lockhart, an inspirational artist and daughter of Lisa Page Brooks from the Gospel group Witness. The group Soulperfreesia is included here with a track from their “Amalgamation” album of last year and they sound like the best of what the early 80s Soul and Funk productions had to offer. A cross between Change and Kashif. Brilliant stuff.
The guys from Cool Million present a track from their forthcoming album “Sumthin’ Like This”, a great dancer with vocals by Marc Evans. Actually, the track “Dontcha Wanna Dance” reminds me of the Howard Johnson albums of the early 80s. The new album will feature classic 80s Soul voices Glenn Jones, Marc Sadane, and Gavin Christopher. Can’t wait!
Another new song comes courtesy of Tom Glide, the T-Groove Philly Soul Remix of “Soul Life” gave the compilation its title and features the soulful vocals of Shylah Vaughn from Oklahoma on a moving soul bouncer. Things get a bit housy with the Sean McCabe-produced swayer “Something About You” with infectious vocals by Jennifer Wallace. Finest Jody Watley-type dance stuff.
Incognito’s Bluey is heard again on the uptempo and uplifting “Got To Keep Moving On” by Russian singer Olga Makovetskaya which seems to come right out of the Incognito songbook. UK singer Chris Ballin, another Incognito singer, can be heard with a track that was originally meant to be for Omar – “Endlessly” has a strong and catchy Soul flavor to it with sympathetic strings.
The great Robin McKelle is represented with a sexy Opolopo Remix of “Control Yourself”, putting their distinct stamp on a track that was already very cute in its original form. And there is a welcome return of singer Marc Staggers with a track from his last album “Dream Catcher” (also reviewed on these pages).
The mellowness of the brand new Sheree Brown track “Your Love Lifts Me Higher” is unsurpassed and really goes back to her Capitol years when she was a co-writer of Patrice Rushen and released a couple of amazing records (“Straight Ahead” in 1981 and “The Music” in 1982). Singer Kenya is represented with a track from her own new “My Own Skin” album, the Stevie Wonder-penned “I Can’t Help It”, written for the Michael Jackson album “Off The Wall” and recently covered by a lot of different artists. This version here is dripping soul. Things get a little Latin with “Yellow Butterfly” by Butch & Rhonda Coleman and the collection has another highlight with a track from the forthcoming album “Vinyl Daze” by the exceptional singer Rhonda Thomas from Atlanta. Stepping along oozing class and style.
Finally, the return of Paul Johnson (remember “When Love Comes Calling”?) is celebrated with the Frankie Knuckles Soul/House mix of the intoxicating “Better Than This”. Paul really sounds better than ever on this breezy and attractive track.