Archive for the 'R&B' Category

Album – How Can I Make You Mine – Vel Omarr

Posted by admin on 1st June 2008

I’ve got to admit, were I in a record shop looking to pick up a new CD, the cover of this would have me running a mile. No disrespect to Vel Omarr, but this cover, which to my mind, is a little cheesy, just does not do justice to the great music contained within. Now regular readers of Indie Launchpad, are probably going to be surprised by this albums inclusion, however I’ve been a big soul fan for many years and used to be a complete nut for the old Motown classics, so when I heard one of Vel’s tracks on Lynn Parson Red Light Zone podcast, my ears pricked up a little and suddenly those memories came flooding back, which is just the kind of nudge I need to find out more.

There’s 11 tracks on the album, with 3 of those being cover songs, although none of these were immediately recognisable to me. The album opens with “How Can I Make You Mine”, and you can almost hear Barry White’s voice singing a top the airy strings. When Vel’s vocals do kick in, you can’t help but compare them to Sam Cooke, vocals that are smooth and eminently listenable. “Hurry Back Home” continues this great sound. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album and the style on the album that I feel most comfortable with. “Feels Like Love” is the track I first heard on Lynn’s podcast and at just over 5 minutes, one of the longest. It’s an interesting track that seems to go on forever. This is one of those tracks you can imagine dancing to with your partner in some tropical climate and then just leading them off to the bedroom, I can almost imagine it being used in some movie scene.

“Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day” is the first of the three covers and this is where we’re first introduced to the brass section. I’m not sure if it’s real brass, but my suspicious are that it’s not. These suspicious are further endorsed when the track ends. It’s a real shame, as this is a great track, that is pretty much spoiled by the brass. The song also has a very lame ending, which is something akin to a cabaret act. “Trouble Blues” is the second cover and as the name implies is more blues than soul. Again this is not a cover I’m familiar with, but this version has some fantastic qualities and is up there with my favorites on the album. “That’s All That Matter To Me” is again a more bluesy track and while I like what Vel’s done with it, I much prefer the more soul inspired tracks.

“Baby Please Come Home” is the final cover and while I can’t quite place it, it does sound somewhat familiar. The feel of this track, reminds me a lot of Otis Reading and I can just imagine a few keyboard embellishments here and there, as used on “Tenderness”. “Lover’s Deja Vu” didn’t really appeal to me. Again I’m not sure if the drums here are real or electronic, but there’s something that sounds very artificial about them, consequently I found myself, listening more for those and less for the song itself, which is a shame. “Stay Where You Are” has that authentic soul sound, but there’s just something about it that didn’t gel with me. This was also true of the following blues/rock track “Al’s Sugar Shack”, which just didn’t really do anything for me. I think some of this is because it stood out too much from the rest of the tracks, I also wasn’t a huge fan of the keyboards. With regard to the keyboards, the same can be said for the last track, “I Believe I’m Falling in Love”.

This is an album that starts off very strong and tends to straggle somewhat towards the end. There’s enough here to really enjoy, even though there’s some tracks that are not quite to my liking.

Conclusion : This is a nice collection of songs, especially for listening to while snuggled up with the one you love. The only minor concerns I have is at times, the brass featured on some of the tracks sounds a little too artificial and a couple of the arrangements sound like they wouldn’t be too out of water, sung by some lounge act. That aside, this is a genre of music, that doesn’t get the exposure it deserves and there are some fantastic tracks here.

Posted in Blues, R&B, Soul | No Comments »

Album – Have You Heard Things – The Spectaculars

Posted by admin on 6th December 2007

I love hearing new music that makes my ears price up and pay attention, as was the case with The Spectaculars. I say new music, which this was to my ears, but not the the music shelves, as this album came out in 2005. It is however the most recent work from the Spectaculars and I’m hoping that something new is just around the corner.

The first track is “Mista Ambrosia”, which is as an original sound as I’ve ever heard. It’s certainly a sound you could hear on the radio and recognise in the blink of an eye. A classic case of opening an album with a sheer classic in the making. “The Save” is a more conventional pop song, with some decidedly strange harmonies, which you hear around the 2 minute mark. Probably a classic case of hearing too, because I was using headphones. “You On Me” struck me as a Lenny Kravitz cover that isn’t. It’s a kind of fusion of 70’s classic rock and 90’s guitar rock.

Sometimes I complain about a band being all over the place. This is an album that while is most definitely all over the place, manages to hold it all together into one coherent package. “Dear Sexy” has soulful Wild Cherry vocals, but again they’re fused into numerous musical styles and influences, that results in a wonderfully laid back and funky track.

“Holy Hannah” again is a total departure from the tracks that precede it, but as I said before, this is a classic example of a Chaos theory album. All over the place, but at the same time very uniform in it’s excellence. “Anti-Hectic” harkens back to the 70’s in it’s feel, but has that contemporary edge, that prevents this album from being derided as a throwback also ran. Talking of throw backs, I couldn’t help but smile when I heard “Have you Heard Things”. There’s a dialog that introduces the track, and I couldn’t help but hear Barry White’s voice in my head, as opposed to the one that is on the track.

There really is too much on this album, to really give it justice in this small space. Suffice to say, it is comforting in it’s style and influences, but refreshing, in the edge that has been introduced throughout. There’s enough different styles of track to keep you interested and highly entertained.

I must give a special mention to the final track “Stone Age” which gives the hip-hop, pop feel of the majority of the album, a real infusion of 70’s super rock. Brilliant.

Conclusion : Extremely funky, with originality by the bucket. An absolute riot of an album.

Posted in Hip Hop, Pop, R&B | 1 Comment »

Album – On Fire – The Higher

Posted by admin on 2nd June 2007

The Emo genre of music, is one that’s often misrepresented in the press. It’s also one that means different things to different people. To some it’s well crafted music, with a dark lyrical edge. To others it’s all out desperation and despair. The Higher is a band that has that some what Emo feel to a few of their tracks, but it’s definitely more of the upbeat, darker lyrical edged variety.

I’ve actually sat on the album for a while. It was one of those albums that came in unsolicited and to be honest, I just had a feeling it wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. So it languished for a few weeks, until I heard my daughter playing something and asked her what it was. Sure enough it was The Higher. So I dug through my pile to give the album a spin and was pleasantly surprised.

This 12 track album has a real energy to it, without having that total overloaded, bloated feel. Sometimes I hear younger bands that have this high energy and almost relentless and overpowering feel to them. Here the band concentrates on well structured songs with a well crafted kick.

The album opens with “Insurance”, sounding at first like the Hughes Corporation’s “Rock the Boat”, or rather opens with what could be a sample, that’s used throughout the track. It’s a great track, that introduces The Higher’s sound nicely. “Guts” continues the great sound and is in fact a very radio friendly song, which I could also imagine featuring on MTV or VH1 accompanied by a creative video.

One of my favorite tracks on the album, is the oh too short “Histrionics” which has some gorgeous acoustic guitar and is just a sheer joy to listen to. Another particular favorite, which showcases another side to the band, is the wonderful “Can Anyone Really Love Young”, with a more laid back feel and great vocals.

An amazing follow up album to the bands 2005 release “Histrionics”, which I have to admit passed me by completely. Featuring a fairly wide range of musical styled, with songs that vary from the great, to amazing. There’s not a duff track on the album.

Conclusion : An incredible album, which while instantly appealing to the younger music crowd, also has a lot to offer the more discerning mature listener. Fantastic stuff.

Posted in Pop, R&B, Rock | No Comments »

Album – Half Alive – The Paul Rose Band

Posted by admin on 13th December 2005

Let me get this out of the way first. Man can this guy play. I’m not going to get into the comparisons with Hendrix, Clapton or any of the many other fantastic guitar players, but suffice to say my air guitar is totally worn out and my speakers are in need of a long rest. Yes, this is one of those albums, that really needs to be cranked up to 11 and crank it up I did.

This is sort of a semi live album, but it’s much better described on the bands website, “The CD is a half live, half studio album. Recorded at ‘Kich’ studios in Chorlsey, near Oxford, with the live tracks from the 2003 show at the ‘East Grange Loft’ in the Scottish Highlands. It has very few overdubs and is as honest a representation of the band as you’ll get”

Consisting of 9 fantastic tracks spanning 49 minutes, all featuring a faultless performance by Paul and his band, I can only say you have to hear this to believe it. The CD opens with the classic Bob Dylan song, later covered by Jimi Hendrix, All Along the Watchtower and featuring some blistering guitar work. Upon reaching track 4, Touch Wood, things get a little more laid back and it’s good to have a pause from the frenetic pace of the early part of the album. The later half of the album is much more relaxed and rounds off with a wonderful rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe.

I have to admit I’ve never heard of Paul Rose, but it’s definitely a name I will be keeping an ear out for.

Conclusion : For anyone that enjoys rock music at it’s finest and appreciates a master of his trade, then this is a must have album. There is much to love about this album, even for the casual music lover.

Posted in R&B, Rock | No Comments »