Thursday, 5 February 2009

Ronnie McNeir - Ronnie Mac & Company - Jupiter - Island

Ronnie McNeir’s a big UK soul hero and there’s been a buzz on this new solo album for a while with those lucky enough to have heard it (or parts of it at least) extolling its soulful virtues. Well the good news is that the advance rumours were bob on! ‘Ronnie Mac and Company’ will quickly become one of the year’s must have albums and in a year that’s seen a lot of good stuff out there, this one will still stand out. However – a word of warning! Don’t come to this LP expecting big blockbusters or anthemic floor fillers. Ronnie’s never been about that. Rather here, you get a gentle 17 tracker (including one bonus track) of sophisticated, laid back, mature soul with more than a hint of cool jazz. Hear the flavour to best effect on the loose ‘Look At The People’. The vocal may remind you of Al Jarreau, while the multi-note piano-chords are homage to one of Ron’s big influences, jazz man Les McCann. Hear that Les McCann influence even more on the very loose and leggy ‘Don’t Need Nobody’. Elsewhere, ‘Song For My Brothers’ is almost Latin-jazz and for some reason it reminds me of Roy Ayers, while the opener ‘What Goes Around’ is a delightfully mid-paced shuffle. The title of the set indicates that Ronnie’s here working with others and of ‘The Company’ there’s no bigger name than sax star Kirk Whalum. Kirk works his proverbial socks off on the ‘I’m In the Mood’ – a cut that’s more a groove than song, featuring great vocal interplay with the Ridgeway Sisters. Kathy Lamar is another guest; She adds a sultry, spoken intro to ‘Summertime Medley’ and duets with Mr. M on ‘Ain’t It Good To Know That You’ve Got A Friend’. The other big name is fellow Four Top, Theo Peoples who helps out on the gospel-esque ‘I Really Need Your Help Father’. Fans of Ronnie will recognize the re-working of ‘Down In The Neighbourhood’… soul excellence there and so much better than ’Traitors’- the set’s weakest cut, I feel. However if you known anything about Ron’s career you’ll understand the sentiments. Equally the same people will understand why the LP closes with a personal tribute to his old mentor, Obie Benson. A poignant moment that, and one that adds to the atmosphere and, as I said, this albums all about atmosphere and feelings – no quick rush here of whatever does it for you… just sit back and enjoy.

Bill Buckley

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