Thursday, 5 February 2009

Ola Onabule - The Devoured Man - Rugged Ram

Discerning soul heads know all about Ola Onabule. The UK soul man's built up a steady following over the years and, I’m told, he provided some of the entertainment at the Beckhams’ wedding (can’t verify it, I wasn’t invited). His last LP yielded one big tune ‘Soul Town’, which caused some decent ripples on the scene and though there’s no similar big grabber on this new 12 tracker, you still get some great, laid back and provocative soul with a hint of jazz. What makes it all happen, of course, is Ola’s wonderful clear and emotive voice and throughout he works with the same basic core of musicians – giving the album a unity that so many multi-producer modern soul sets lack. Musically the songs are mainly mid-tempo to ballads with the only ‘up’ moment coming with ‘Groove To The Lie’. It’s fast, but not danceable – and with a strong anti-war message I guess Ola wants us to think before grooving. The best pieces are the lazy meanders like ‘Truce Baby’ and the jazzy ‘Where The Past Goes’ For variety we get a hint of reggae on ‘Who Are You’ while on the closer, ‘Back Home’, the feeling’s simplified. I was glad the booklet printed the lyrics for me. It enabled me to follow the complex messages. Lyrically the songs are occasionally personal; sometimes political; sometimes controversial; but always interesting. Last time I reviewed an Ola Onabule set I described his sound as Will Downing meets Steely Dan… my opinion hasn’t changed.

Bill Buckley

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