Thursday, 10 June 2010

Various Artists - Shades Of A Woman - 2008 - 4847 Records

This is a set that many of us - including retailers - have only just cottoned on to! This most discreet of 2008 releases threatened to slip out and sink without a trace...WHY? Thanks to the specialist retailers here in the UK for picking up on this and shame to the powers that be Stateside for keeping it quiet. The album is a showcase of vibrant, honest-to-goodness talent and all overseen by the one and only Rex Rideout. Rex, of course, is no stranger to any of us. His work with the likes of Maysa, Club 1600, Will Downing and so on and so forth is exemplary. This album will, therefore, be a sure-fire hit for those who love his work. Importantly, this is a charity release, and is in support of the Sisters Network, Inc which is the only Afro-American Breast Cancer survivors' organisation in the US, and proceeds from the sale of this CD are going to this more than worthy cause. Also noteworthy is the fact that this CD sees the best performances of some artists for YEARS.

An unknown name to me is the strong, sassy and Terry Ellis-styled singer Lauren Evans...two inclusions here to shout about, and both open and close the set. "Love, Respect And Peace" is a funky effort with plenty of attitude, strength and positivity and would not be out of place on Al Green's last set! The sexier and more essential, in my opinion, cut "Promises" is blinding in the extreme. Reminiscent of Byron Miller's recent outings, or Will Downing for that matter, this meaty affair will not disappoint. the synths here are haunting, ambient and totally superb. Talking of superb, "Much Betta" aptly sums up the quality of this Angie Stone song as opposed to the vast majority of material this Lady has recorded since leaving Vertical Hold. Gone is the crass Urban / Homegirl taint and all the fiddle-faddle that goes with it, and Rex shepherds Angie back to where she she should be, and that is making quality ADULT soul music. No heavy beats, no samples, no vocalising...simply an amazing vocal talent doing what she does best...SING...with REAL music too.

Also giving us her very best is Ledisi, fresh from her recent disappointing (to put it mildly) set for Verve with one of the best songs she has ever laid down. Co-written with Rex, "Bring It To Me" is diffused by a strong beat, warm keys and drums courtesy of Michael White. Darrell Crooks' superb guitar also laces this and in a few short minutes erases the memory of that dreadful album in one felt swoop! Lalah Hathaway (marry me, please!!!!) has not disappointed us one iota over the years and carries on with this splendid track record with the gorgeously sensuous "Looking Back" of early 80s keys will die for this, and Gary Meek's flute is to die for! ESSENTIAL! Shanice Wilson reappears after a good decade with the beautiful "Hold On", and ion this beat ballad Rex brings out the best of her voice and reminds us how amazing this talent is. Get her a record label NOW! Do I have to tell you that Maysa's "Lovin' You Is Easy" is superb? No, of course I don't - and of course it is!!! Will Downing's tribute to Barry White on "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More Baby" is OK, but is - perhaps surprisingly - overshadowed by "Can You Feel Me" which is a killer spoken word effort by the Cosby Show's very own Malcolm-Jamal Warner. Brilliant! It's sad to hear "Laid back Love" by Wayman Tisdale...knowing we have lost this Great man is a very hollow feeling, but a great track to remind us, should we need it, of what a master he was on the guitar as well as 'in the zone'. Please do not overlook this amazing album - before it disappears forever!

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe