Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Brian Culbertson - XII - GRP - 2010

XII may be this quality pianist's twelfth album...it is also his very best. I call this set remarkable, totally gratifying and without a shadow of a doubt essential. I have always rated this artist, but did find some of his later material veering towards too smooth an experience. "XII" is certainly more back on track than ever and works up a real lather with some truly memorable vocal cuts, both soulful and funky and instrumentals with real verve, passion and being heartfelt without being sugary or schmaltzy. This is no mean feat, and I can commend this CD to the house! Come on, let's kick this CD off in style with "Feelin' It". Enter Chuck brown with his guitar and some seriously funky riffs and horns courtesy of Brad Clements! Comedian and Actor Sinbad steps in on vocals and is backed up with Ray Parker Jr on guitar! Wow, what a great party track and definitely NOT one for the cobweb-laden smooth jazz fraternity! Fans of upbeat modern soul will simply gush at the SUPERB "Another Love" which sees our main man Kenny Lattimore return to form. Songs - and albums - like this really swell the heart, make the soul smile and get you in the right mood for what the day has to throw at you. Perfect!

The jubilant "It's Time", crammed with real instruments is another joyous occasion and by this time in the proceedings i was saying to myself "Yes! Brian's back with a real bang here!" fans of the amazing talent who is Brian McKnight will be over the moon with the midtempo stepping tune "Out On The Floor". check out the strings and guitar courtesy of Mission USA's Randy Bowland! Marc Nelson - you may recall his superb 1991 set "I Want You" - adds backing vocals and all conspire to make a crackin' track for the dancefloor. Following this superb effort is a first-rate instrumental that gives me chills. Brian really has a Bob James groove here and the chilled, autumnal flavour is perfect as I look out and see all the trees turning vibrant reds and yellows. This is a song I would love to have playing in my car as I cruise down through Spearfish canyon in South Dakota, or Aspen, Colorado. Simply magical, and the sort of atmospheric cut that the late, great Wayman Tisdale would have not been out of place on. I miss that man.

Even kids' artist Avant has a place on here. Vocally he is NOT a major league singer in the traditional soulful sense. However his weakness lends vulnerability to "Skies Wide Open" and it takes the talent and experience of a real artist to bring out something from nothing and so Avant gets a thumbs up for what is - so far - the only song he has laid down of any worth. Maybe hanging around with serious, adult performers may have a positive effect! Rex Rideout is responsible here, and he also steps in with another kids' artist whom I have little, Faith Evans. This isn't the best song on here, but again it's nice to see this Lady with someone who knows infinitely much more about melody, structure and form than those she ordinarily works with. Again, a welcome thing. Moving on to altogether serious shores is Earl Klugh. Such a talent and his wonderfully summery strumming makes "That's Life" a welcome continuation on this musical trip called "XII". Another legend is guitarist and vocalist Ray Parker Jr and he adds a spangly Isley Brothers flavour to "I Wanna Love You". Unlike Avant and Evans as soon as Ray lends his voice to song we instantly know who he is. Utterly brilliant. The funky, atmospheric spoken work track "I Don't Know" closes the lid and makes this CD air tight. This twelve tracker really is a return to form and easily the best this man has laid down.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe