Friday, 11 June 2010

Jonathan Butler - So Strong - 2010 - Rendezvous Records

The best album that Jonathan Butler has released since his ultra-soulful 1994 album "Head To Head", "So Strong" takes it's place as one of the strongest soulful jazz albums of 2010. In fact, it's more of a Soul set than a Jazz one! Johnathan Butler manages to impress both Soul lovers and Jazz heads in one felt swoop, and fans of a more uptempo stepping sound will adore a number of cuts here. It's great to hear contemporary uptempo soul from the states without the brain-numbing Urban trappings that we have sadly become all too punch-drunk to. The title of the CD, aptly called "So Strong" comes in three flavours, my least favourite being the harsh, mechanical "Urban AC Mix", but fans of the aforementioned stepping sound will love the mix dedicated to that wonderful style. I prefer the main mix which has strong dancefloor appeal and plenty of jazzy guitar...after all...this IS a Jonathan Butler album! Fans of a Latin-type Wes Montgomery groove should look no further than track 3, "Make Room For Me" - an instrumental that wipes the floor with lesser Smooth Jazz efforts, and has some punchy trumpet and sax courtesy of Rick Braun and Dave Koz.

"Factual" has to be one of the most wonderful and soulful records that this ultra-talented man has laid down...soulful, punchy and crammed with 80s flavours such as synths, warm keys and freestyle vocals unconstrained by Urban styles. On the strength of this gem alone I could recommend the set to you as mandatory. A great song for Summer and a track that you will be able to resurrect in 20 years time and still fully enjoy. The beauty of "Feels So Good" hits us like an Impromp2's "Summer Nights" cum Michael Jackson's "Human nature", and the vibe is perfect! Another instant hit as far as I am concerned...Jazzy Soul at it's very best! Another killer is the Eric Benét-ish ballad ""Be Here With You", a song that also has some 70s Isley Brothers melodies woven in for great effect..such a classy outing and not to be missed. "I'm Right Here" carries on this masterclass of soul-jazz unity and reminds me of what Glenn Jones was doing on his last effort, "Feels Good". "Color Green" is another top-draw attraction which has some great guitar licks and the beautifully swaying "Good Times" complete with scat does nothing but add lustre to an already essential album. The best album he has recorded in almost 20 years, "So Strong" is a mandatory purchase.

Barry Towler,
The Vibe Scribe