Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The Unifics - Return - 2005 - Modo

The legendary Unifics - Al Johnson, Tom Fauntleroy, Charlie Lockhart and Garrett Hall bounced back into business in 2005 and this CD, and as a listening experience I really loved this album. The main thing for me with this album is that there is, whether they know it or not, a fine line to tread for classic artists creating new albums in this day and age. Some create a CD that solely appeals to their peer group. The other scenario is to jettison your old listeners and sell out to the current trend. Classic much loved artists who have been away for a while actually walk this very precarious tightrope. The Unifics cross the tightrope effortlessly and appeal both to fans of their "Court Of Love" era, and fans of quality modern independent soul. I hear something truly special in this album, and it is something I feel defines a quality piece of soul / R&B today. It is a sense of tradition. The album nods its head to the past with some tasty group harmonies that are FANTASTIC - so rare today – and although a definite group effort Al Johnson has his fingerprints all over the it. Fans of his ESSENTIAL 1998 CD, "My Heart Is An Open Book", will instantly love this album.

There are a few covers here - most don't really work but
the reworking of the Curtis Mayfield gem "Gypsy Woman" is a classy version and thoroughly enjoyable. This 13 tracker will delight from track one: the happy, positive and upbeat "I Want You To Have It" will soon wheedle its way into the grey matter but the track though that floored me completely was "Any One Can Tell You" … a brilliant, brilliant modern ballad that smacks of the golden age of sweet harmonised soul music. I hear the Stylistics and any number of classic groups within this groove. The hook and melody is almost straight from the Thom Bell school of composing, and the Unifics are a shining example of how amazing perfectly matched vocals are, and Al Johnson gives one hell of a performance and sends me straight back to his best efforts to date. From a classic soundscape we venture into a quality Y2K setting: "My One And Only" is another clear showstopper and the gorgeous instrumentation. Charlie Lockhart shares vocals with Al Johnson and their vocal interplay is simply jaw dropping. The swaying, late 80s beauty "A Lifetime And A Half" is another clear winner and overtakes any young R&B whippersnapper easily. "A Long Way To Forever" is another lovely, warm ballad and the sheer soulfulness of Charlie Lockhart’s vocals is beyond reproach. "This Night We Love" carries on the same theme and should highlight to the connoisseur and astute listeners that this CD is a gem that needs to be bought, enjoyed and cherished for today. An essential purchase for soul music lovers.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

Buy the CD