Sunday, 15 February 2009

The Café Soul All-Stars - Love Pages - 2005 - You Entertainment

This CD is essential, there’s no two ways about it. There are more quality artists involved in this project than I can shake a stick at, and all bring with them their own unique talents to collaborate in this superb album. Helping oversee this exciting project is no less than Norman Connors and Jacques Burvick, so the connoisseurs among you will have some basic idea of what to expect from this feast of talent. There is a flavour to match every taste here, and no stone has been left unturned in finding the best artists to support the talented vocalists. We have strong soul compositions, one R&B track for the kids and some very strong jazz-fusion flavours too. The first artist that really got my juices flowing was Glenn Jones with what has to be his best stepper for years and years. His inclusion is a wonderful soulful dancer called “What You Gonna Do” which is elevated from simply being very good to excellent by the use of some smashing Rhodes keyboard that jolt us straight back to Impromp2’s “You’re Gonna Love It” and beyond. Bobby Lyle and Chuck Cymone add their skills to this, and Duke Jones and Mr. C himself produce the cut. Superb!

Talking of Impromp2 leads me onto the brilliant and astronomical vocalist, Peabo Bryson. Johnny Britt wrote this classic, classy Peabo Bryson ballad and it is so typical of this man’s output. This could be straight out of his “All My Love” album, it’s really that good. The man included it on his 2007 CD, "Missing You" as well. Vesta Williams has been quiet since her essential 1998 album for I.e Records, and the Nick Martinelli penned “One More Bridge To Cross” carries on from this album very nicely. We all know and love this next Lady, and that is Maysa. Her vocal skills are out of this world, and I have always believed that her skills are best employed on the right side of the pond. Bob Baldwin and Porter Carroll, Jr have written “I’m Changing” and is as good as any of the classier songs on her last, must-have, set for Expansion. There is an excellent sax break through this and thanks go to Kim Waters for that, too. In fact, Maysa returns later for an even more essential cut called “Stay In My Heart” that has Omar Hakim on drums. Please do not overlook that track. I have already mentioned Bobby Lyle. He acts as musical support throughout this set, but shines in his own right on the essential Brazilian instrumental, “Brazilian Heat”. It does start out a bit computerised, and almost housey which was a bit of a shock, but it soon warms up and progresses into a joyful, warm belter of a summertime jazz track. At this point, I think you will already have an inkling on how essential this album is.

Well, all I have to say is had this album been a load of old rubbish up to this point the following track alone would certainly make it worth a purchase alone. I loved the late, great and sadly missed Jon Lucien, but please do not think there is any bias towards this track because of this. When I bought this CD, I think I played “To Be With You” at least SIX TIMES a day. This has to be one of the best and most essential records that this great, great talent had ever set to record. The swirling strings, and the Latin instrumentation by Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers is sheer, sheer class and is pure heaven. This timeless classic is a far superior version to the Fatback band original on Perception. Just buy this CD on the strength of this alone if nothing else. From this, then to a soulful number featuring an Old Norman Connors acolyte, Denise Stewart who joins Duke Jones. This is a quality outing for all concerned and one can tell that dear old Norman has his tight reins on the direction of this song. An odd inclusion albeit a welcome one, is “Pages” by George Benson. This phenomenal song was first released on Gerald McCauley’s own set back in the fall of 1999 and was one of the landmark songs on it. Not sure how it managed to get on here but who cares?! So, what else can I say about this album? Well, for me it is essential, a must have and definitely classy. Worthy of a purchase by anyone reading this review for any one of the tracks hitherto mentioned, let alone the KILLER “To Be With You”.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe