Monday, 16 February 2009

Gary J - Step Aside - 2004 - PPL Records

This really was a bolt out of the blue when I received this in the post back in late 2004. Although this 15 track CD is not all to my taste (the uptempo numbers do very little for me as they are too R&B for my liking) there are no less than SIX killer quiet storm cuts on here well worth the money. I seriously recommend it as this gentleman really hits the spot as far as I am concerned. Magical, haunting and thoroughly essential, the following choices are just to die for, and the fact that the set can be ordered from Amazon for a mere £8 makes this a no-risk disc at a must-have price. The quality of the CD is top-notch and vocally Gary J reminds me of a warm fusion of Surface's Bernard Jackson, Jesse Campbell, a tiny hint of Michael Jackson (think "I Can't Help It"), and even Archie Love from The Right Choice. Gary's ability to bring a shiver to my spine and goose bumps to the arms is paramount. Our first foray into sophisticated soul excellence is the meaty ballad "Satisfy You" which, musically, would not be out of place on the excellent London Jones album on Silas / MCA from 1994. It has a warm, fluid arrangement that sits peacefully in the late 80s / early 90s quality tradition. The acoustic opening for "Only You" soon meets up with a shuffling backbeat and haunting synths. Smooth, velvety and aching are the best words to describe Gary's delivery. I can hear elements of Surface as well and this has to be a great thing; Bernard Jackson definitely is fair comparison. Lovers of mid 90s quality ballads will swoon for the powerfully delivered heartache ballad, "Tell Me Why", which is a song that I particularly adore. Gary really does put himself into his writing and one gets the impression that he has lived through these songs. This is what real soul music is about, folks, is it not?

This soulful catharsis really does the business and is complemented by the able "I'm Missing You", the smooth vocals doing the business yet again. However, the KILLER for me is "Completely". I thought that I had died and gone to heaven when I heard the first minute of this song; by this time I had already hit the repeat button and started it again. As I first heard it I sat there thinking "this is beautiful - DON'T muck this one up!". I was not disappointed. The old spine had a definite shiver and boy did I go cold! This really took me by surprise, and being of a ballad disposition, I was totally overwhelmed at the sheer soulfulness, delicacy and...perfection of this song. I must have played this song hundreds of times over the past 4 years or so and still get choked up hearing it; I feel every time the same "wow!" factor of when I first heard it. Believe me, folks, there's a lot of good stuff out there, even a lot of excellent material but I take my hat off to this song. "Completely" is in a class of its own. This, Gary, is where your serious talents lie. My only complaint is that it ends too quickly - that synth and haunting arrangement needed to fade a bit longer! I am being nit picking here, though. AND, if this was not enough I was double-whammied with the KILLER "Someone Like Me". I can sit and listen to the opening 20 seconds over and over and over again. Amazing. The song has a feel of Surface a la "3 Deep", especially where vocals are concerned. I can recommend you this CD on any of these tracks, but DEFINATELY for "Completely" which I think rated as my number-one track of 2004.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe
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