Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Val Watson - Urbal - 2004 - Thump

Val Watson, for those unfamiliar with the name, was the lead singer of Club Nouveau and a very sexy singer she is to boot. This is not what I expected, but that is not always a bad thing. Vocally, and for the most part, Val adopts a nasal vocal style of the same ilk as Larry Blackmon. This took some getting used to. In fact, in some places I am reminded of the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez from TLC. However, this manic vocal brew has warmed to me a great deal and the style suits the funkiness of the CD and I would say that if you are a fan of hard, 80s funk then you would love this CD. If not, then there are a few delicious ballads that should get the taste buds going. The real gems start for me with a cover of "Earth, Wind & Fire" which is really smooth and, in fact reminds me of the Woody Cunningham flavour from his "Universal Love" album. There are some moments of pure fun funk and Michael Cooper and Bootsy Collins add vocal support to the SUPERB bass-trembling "The Real (Do Do)". This kind of bass-heavy modern R&B funk style is something I wish we had more of this side of the 80s. I would LOVE to hear this pumped up in a Club with some proper wattage behind it. Michael adds his funky voice and Bootsy…well, is just the Bootsy we all know and love. A pure moment of bliss for my ears, especially when the Zapp-like vocoder crops up again.

Britain's very own Jane Eugene from Loose Ends pops up and adds her lovely vocals to the excellent summer vibe of "Whether U Know It" which is a personal favourite of mine, complete with the strings, violin solo and warm, warm Fender Rhodes. This is a head-nodding ballad where Val sings in her ordinary and, in my opinion, far superior voice. An excellent example too of sultry Y2K soul and possibly a tune that will be criminally overlooked if not careful. There is the rump-shaking funk of "Soul Shack", complete with funky EW&F type guitars and horns. Lovers of Steve Harvey's work with Impromp2 and The Temptations will adore this. The ESSENTIAL "Flower" features George Duke and Gerald Albright on flute and is just a phenomenal song and one of the jewels in the musical crown. The lazy, slinky jazz feel is sublime and Val's classy vocals are amazing on this. Another future in-demander. For lovers of real instrumentation head straight to the jazzy soul of "Days Like This" which features John Barnes on piano and rhodes, Michael White on drums and Gerald Albright on bass. The evergreen Patrice Rushen joins Val on the chunky plodder, "Alright" which is another one for the Impromp2 lovers out there. Gerald McCauley produces the set, alongside Val. Gerald is one of my favourite producers and has set about this style perfectly, though I do prefer his more soulful ballad-orientated approach. If you have not been aware of this producer then seek out and purchase "The McCauley Sessions" CD from 1999 if you can as it is ESSENTIAL listening. Do not overlook this album.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

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