Thursday, 19 February 2009

Gregory Chester - In Search Of High Love

An award-winning Broadway performer and a fantastic vocalist with an amazing 5-octave range, Chester Gregory has crafted this album over time and has lavished a lot of time, love and effort into it. Having struggled to convince major labels – as most talent does these days since the lunatics took over the asylum in the 90s – of his talent, vision and direction, Chester did the only (and by far very best thing, too!) thing and go out and do it for himself. The set is very soulful yet is very youthful in orientation. Fans of John Legend, Usher and the production style of Kanye West will soon warm to this, than, say, fans of more traditional soul music and after hearing the CD in it's entirety I am very surprised that Executives failed to see or hear what any sane person can: talent. I would say that this effort is more solid and soulful than anything Kanye West can serve up and within the songs the music is bass-heavy, programmed and contains samples BUT is intelligent and intricate in the way that Mario Winans used to be on Motown before he sold out to appeal to adolescents with P.Diddy. Listen, if you will, to the excellence of “If U Only” and you will hear more maturity than anything else. This really is an excellent cut and worthy of comparison with the recent musical offerings of, say, Brian McKnight or even the Isley Brothers. “Say It's Over” is completely in today's pocket and should be a huge R&B radio hit – sampling Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins' “This Is It” the groove appeals to me in the same way as Skalp's “Bang Bang” did (see Skalp's review here on Soulchoonz.) Now, you know I especially love ballads and this always sorts the wheat from the chaff. “Dreamin'” is just like one of the classy ballads we would have savoured from a late 90s soul set – Profyle, Sam Salter and the like and the song sounds very mellow and tasty indeed. Another downtempo jam, complete with dreamy keys, vibes and southern guitar is the excellent “High Love” which owes a lot vocally to John Legend, but musically more soulful and real. No samples or excessive beats here. A Stevie Wonder feel can be determined in the superb, bouncy, “On And On” and the number is simply joyous and has brilliant backing vocals and freaky 80s keyboards. This is not too dissimilar from cuts such as “Love, Patience & Time” and “The Hunger” from Eric BenĂ©t's recent goodie. Again, “Move On” will appeal to you if this is the case; broodier is this number and the funky George Duke-like keyboards and heavy bassline accentuate Chester's smooth and soulful vocal. The crowning glory though is the excellent “Higher And Higher” - the most soulful and straight groove on here and if this song does not get the quality dancefloors going then there is no justice in the world! I would easily place this alongside cuts such as Neo's “Smile” and Peo & Mirjam's “Tonight”. Is this a Soulchoon or what?!

Barry Towler