Reviews from SoulTracks on Sun Music are the highly rated music releases by artists played on the 24/7 and On-Demand streams.
|The Baylor Project – The Journey
There are many kinds of journeys traveled over the 11 tracks of The Baylors’ The Journey, both explicit and implied. The most obvious is the project’s journey across a range of genres that Nicholas Payton calls Black American Music or BAM, from jazz to gospel and R&B to world, each getting center stage treatment and each expertly handled by musicians without obvious limits. And, while there is a notable absence of funk and hip hop, some of those sensibilities too are still present in the audacity and boldness of drummer Marcus Baylor’s aggressive approach to the drum, a sound in his hands that sometimes teeters on the edge of chaos, but is skillfully kept peering just over the cliff’s edge. For her part, singing in higher registers and exercising a wider palette of timbres and tones than we’ve ever heard from her in recordings, Jean Baylor is utterly unrecognizable as the former half of the ‘90s duo, Zhané, a transformation that takes the vocalist from great to outstanding. This too is part of the journey traversed, as both mature artists explore who they are now while giving a dutiful nod on the title track to whom they’d been and how far they’ve come. The Baylor Project’s The Journey is one you’ll want to pack for and join. Read more...
|Oleta Adams - Third Set
At piano bars and jazz haunts, many music lovers have had the experience at least once: It’s the one where you’ve heard a particularly talented singer contribute to a pleasant musical evening and maybe even perform an unusual rendition of a favorite standard that you now must own. Surprised that more folks haven’t heard of this amazing talent, you buy the singer’s CD after the set, eager to recapture that moment in your car or home, but for some reason while the recorded performance is all very competent, the magic is simply not there. Stubborn about it, you may play the project a few more times to see if it grows on you before it becomes an anonymous and forgotten part of your CD collection, rarely heard from again. This is essentially the experience of listening to Oleta Adam’s smooth jazz take on some modern pop classics and the Great American Songbook. Read more...
|Phil Perry - Breathless
Quality, continuity and a knack for seamless blends of soul and jazz: for decades, as both a group member (of the Montclairs) and a solo artist, Phil Perry has maintained a heady command of his gifts for soundtracks, duets and his own lauded catalogs of covers and original grooves. He's a performer who can reprise melodies of a bygone era yet keep his approach firmly in the now, which is what fans will enjoy and recognize in Perry's latest set, Breathless. Read more...
|Carmen Lundy - Code Noir (2017)
History tells us that the term “Code Noir” refers to the 18th Century Edict Concerning the Negro Slaves in Louisiana that was issued by France’s King Louis XV in March of 1724. The 54 points in the code were used to govern everything from the mandated removal of Jews from the Colony to the religious instruction and indoctrination of slaves into Catholicism, and is likely the precursor to similar laws passed in the American colonies and the post-Colonial United States during slavery and in the Jim Crow era. The southern states passed a series of laws in 1865-66 after the Civil War that had the intention of re-imposing slavery. This effort was undone by reconstruction, but was reinstituted in post 1877 in a more systematic way under a regime of Black Codes called Jim Crow.
Vocalist, composer and pianist Carmen Lundy took the term and made it the title of her latest jazz record. And Code Noir is most definitely a jazz record. Read more...
|Bell Biv DeVoe - Three Stripes (2017)
When New Edition members Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, and Ronnie DeVoe broke out on their own at the dawning of the 1990s with their self-described variety of “mentally hip-hop, smoothed out on the R&B tip with a pop feel appeal to it” music, the trio set a cutting-edge precedent for barrier-breaking radio hits in the decade that followed. Backed by the writing and production talents of Dr. Freeze and Carl Bourelly—as well as the remixing prowess of Wolf & Epic, Bell Biv DeVoe assimilated soul-tinged vocals with street-savvy raps on trend-setting hits like “Poison,” “Do Me!” and “She’s Dope!” But after selling over four million units of their debut album in the U.S. alone, the guys had a hard time maintaining the creative freshness and commercial success with subsequent releases, 1993’s Hootie Mack and 2001’s BBD.
15 years (and several New Edition reunions) later, BBD is aiming to recapture its prime-time glory with Three Stripes, a 10-song collection that hints at the variety of genres intermixed on Poison—with a slightly updated approach. Read more...
|Gregory Porter - Live in Berlin
The first time I heard Gregory Porter sing live in concert I wept. Twice. The songs were “Illusions” and “But Beautiful” from his debut album, Water. The venue was one of the smaller performance spaces at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, which is to say that the space was intimate and his amber glow voice filled every crevice of it. When he shouted on “1960 What?” and wailed on Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good” with a cavernous baritone, the soundwaves reverberated beneath the skin of every witness and was answered with thunderous applause. It was magic.
Capturing such magic in a bottle is difficult, but to the degree that the selected material and the limitations of technology allow it, this recording of Gregory Porter Live in Berlin comes close as one can get without buying a ticket. Still, buy a ticket. With the presence of a unique medium like Gregory Porter, there is still a discernible difference between what is live and is Memorex. Read more...
|The Manhattans - I Kinda Miss You - the Anthology 1973-1987
They’re often initially overlooked in retrospectives of 1970s and 80s R&B music, but then there is the "oh yeah" moment. And, in some ways, that epitomizes the essence of The Manhattans' career: understated but consistently impactful. An honest 20/20 backward view reveals that that group was one of the most popular and enduring acts of the era, continuously charting during a fifteen year stay on Columbia Records and creating an enviable catalog that still sounds great three and four decades later. It is that successful period of the group’s history that is covered in the exquisitely compiled 2-disc collection, I Kinda Miss You – The Anthology 1973-1987, newly released on Soul Music Records. Read more...
|Alicia Keys - Here
"Segregation, determination, demonstration, intergration, aggravation, humilation, obligation to our nation." The Temptations' hit, "Ball of Confusion," although released in the 70s, aptly describes of the world today. The contentious election cycle aside, issues like police brutality, racial profiling, and foreign/domestic terrorism keep people buzzing about what should happen next, and that's what Alicia Keys brings forth in her uneven, yet ambitious sixth studio release, Here.
Months ago, Alicia Keys public decided to free herself from many of the superficial restrains that she believed were wearing on her life and her art. "For awhile, I got caught behind this daily veil of feeling like I had to be perfect," she said in the September edition of Ebony magazine. "I had to be perfect when I spoke to people in interviews.....I had to watch exactly how political I got.....Then suddenly, I felt like I was a mute. .....I had put myself in a box, and that box wasn't healthy. I think now I'm just ready to be free." And that's what listeners will experience throughout Here----- a woman grappling with the state of the world and her place within it. Read more...
|Joe - #MyNameIsJoeThomas
After dozens of hits, multiple albums and decades in the music game, Joe Thomas is practically a one-man institution. Men keep his catalog on deck for getting the mood right and their ladies continue to swoon over his tender vocals and live stage shows. He's a rarity in R&B----sensual without sleaze and gangsta without the gimmicks (i.e., his vocals gracing the theme song of 50 Cent's cable drama, Power), so his longevity might make the title of his latest CD, #MyNameisJoeThomas, a puzzling choice. Perhaps he feels that his thirteenth studio release, with good reason, is finally his career's personal best. Read more...
|Kindred the Family Soul - Legacy of Love
Years into a relationship or a marriage, it happens: the dopamine has faded and the drudge of everyday life begins. Between the laundry, budgets, carpooling and voter drives, however, friendships solidify and the memories take root to anchor the relationship. And that is what R&B's reigning domestic duo, Kindred The Family Soul, focuses on within their six album, Legacy of Love.
Filled with just as much affection as their 2014 release, A Couple Friends, Legacy has a fresh infusion of energy, thanks to elements of hip-hop and vintage touches of disco-era soul, their vocal interplay made more lively with esteemed contributions from James Poyser, Vidal Davis, Steve McKie and Anthony Bell. Since Fatin and Aja Dantzler have been building their own family as long as they've been performing, listeners have come to expect the lush, lived-in "cookout-ready" type of grooves Kindred delivers, tracks encompassing all levels of unity and togetherness. Read more...