Friday, 20 February 2009

The Dramatics - Look Inside - 2002 - Northcoast Investments

This amazing CD from this most evergreen of classic RnB groups was released in the wet and miserable UK summer of 2002. "Look Inside" saw the Dramatics burst back onto the scene in a "dramatic" fashion!!! Sorry, it had to be said! Stalwarts L.J. Reynolds and Ron Banks spearhead a mighty and extremely hip, street assault onto your discerning lug'oles with an album of 10 songs that are all soulful, bang-up-to-date and yet classic. For aficionados of their tenure with Stax, MCA, Capitol or Volt there will be something for you - whether you are 18 or 60 years old. This was one of my favourite albums from that year and to date this is their last offering. the group have, of course, sadly lost the great Lenny Mays, and so this is his last studio work laid down for our enjoyment. Chapter 8"s Michael J. Powell has a hand on 3 KILLER ballads, "Looks Like Rain", with its sultry rain backdrop, the quality "Right In The Middle Of Heaven" and the AWESOME top-drawer ballad, "I’m So Alone" which, I must say, is - 7 years hence - still a track that sends shivers down my dooberry! Such a soulful, yearning song; L.J.'s deep, impassioned vocals and Ron’s phrasing make this a "must have" record.

A number of songs, the chunky "Look Inside" (originally penned for Lionel Richie), KILLER "Pushin’ Up On Ya" and the Zapp-ish vocoder-spiced "Baby Boo" are funky gems and are very exciting indeed. The guys" harmonies really explored here. The foray into rap on the title song and "Pushin" Up On Ya" really does work in this context, too and yes, there is an obligatory rap to some songs - such as "Pushin' Up On Ya" but you will still LOVE these songs! I cannot emphasise enough how strong these tracks are - it's rare that a set comprises of strong ballads and dancers these days so when they come along they are very much something to cherish. The sax on "What Must I Do" complemented with the sound of the sea lapping onto the shore is magical. If only more soul artists today remembered that a saxophone here or there adds to the atmosphere of their music. OK, there are but 10 tracks, but who will argue for quantity when we have quality such as this? I am so impressed, and those who love real soul, quality urban R&B (yes, such a thing can exist - rare, but it does!), whatever will love this album. No soul / R&B lover worth his salt should be without this album. Let's hope 2009 will see a strong album in this vein from these true legends.
Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

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