Archive for the 'Soul' Category

Album – The BDI’s – The BDI’s

Posted by admin on 2nd August 2008

With a nod to 60’s greats such as Free and the Faces, this is one of those albums, that can either console you when you’re in need of a shoulder, or fuel the inner fire, when you are pumped and ready to bitchslap the world.

While this album certainly has a very heavy 60’s flavour, there are other great influences clearly heard, like Curtis Mayfield and The Style Council, that fusion of soul and pop, with a dash of the blues.

Of the fourteen tracks, I really loved “Slow Burning”, “The Islands”, “Jingle Jangle” and “The Wrong Man”. There are a couple of tracks, that left me a bit cold, the most noticeable of these was “That’s One Driven Man”. As soon as this track began, it seemed to really stick out from the rest. The other one was “William the Conqueror”, just not my cup of tea.

A really great band, with a nice sound. There seems to be trend where more and more bands are cramming as many tracks as they can onto a CD release. The BDI’s do here, with 14 tracks and a running time of 41, which averages around 2½-3 minutes per track, another trait of many of the 60’s classics. Having an album fizz along for 14 tracks, is a task in itself and like many albums, this one could probably have felt a lot tighter with a few tracks removed.

Conclusion : A great sound coming out of the UK and a name I’ll be keeping track of.

Posted in Blues, Pop, Soul | No Comments »

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 – Okay – Jeff Caylor

Posted by admin on 4th March 2008

As soon as I heard “Almost Flew” the track that opens the album, I couldn’t help but think “If Seal were white this is what he’d sound like”. Jeff has a voice, that’s rich in tone, with real character. It’s a track I’d heard on various podcasts and was pleasantly surprised when Jeff beat me to it and got in touch. I’m always wary about an album, when the track flying round podcasts is so great, as it’s easy to be disappointed. I needn’t have worried.

“The Ballad of Jon Turner” is a fantastic track that really shows what a great voice Jeff has. It’s one of those track that flows perfectly as it’s story unfolds. I have a really irrational dislike for the track that follows, “Pain is a Megaphone”. That irrational dislike is purely the word megaphone, it just stands out as a word that jars the track for me. Pain is love, or hurt, or the burning coals beneath my feet, it most difinately is not a megaphone, unless I am on said buring coaldefinatelys.

Through the 11 tracks on this album, the music may vary, from slow to upbeat, the vocals however remain consistent. They’re tuneful, emotive and wonderfully pronounced. It’s such a joy to listen to music, where it’s easy to follow the lyrics, which helps a lot to feel some kind of connection with the music.

“Maybe Tomorrow” is another particular favorite of mine, along with “Almost Flew”, which really show Jeff’s great vocals. I wasn’t over fussed with “Standing Still”, the vocals at times had an almost voxcoder feel to them. The track musically also feels a little disjointed.

The albums rounds off with the wonderfully lilting “I Didn’t Think I’d See You Here Today”, which brings memories of another song, whose name I can’ quite remember. Mmm seems to be happening a lot lately. Maybe the excesses of the 80’s are getting to me. This is a wonderful track that ends the album nicely.

Conclusion : A wonderful talent, who deserves to gain much greater recognition. Surely a name to watch for in the future.

Posted in Acoustic, Pop, Soul | No Comments »

Album – Let Your Heart Break – The Billie Burke Estate

Posted by admin on 12th February 2008

When you put an album on, and within seconds it has you playing air piano, you know you are on to a good thing. When you come to the end of the album and realise that the last 55 minutes of music have gone through you quicker than a vindaloo, something special has occurred. This is exactly what happened with the latest release from The Billie Burke Estate (BBE). Inventive pop at it’s finest, which at times reminds me of Billy Joel, and other 70’s powerhouse AM radio friendly artists. “99 Liberty Lane” is just 4 minutes of fantastic pop, which if it were a 45 (remember those), I’d have the arm up and across for multiple plays. “I Want U” continues at the same break neck pace.

“Everybody’s Gonna Die” maybe takes a darker turn, but it’s undeniable that while the track is darker, it’s still incredible pop, which also at times reminds me of Warren Zevon. “Hold On” is also a darker, more laid back track, but it’s almost a relief, to be able to take a moment to draw breath. That being said, when you actually closely listen, it’s then you realise what a great voice, Andy Liotta, the mastermind behind BBE has. Although the style and tone is different, I’m reminded greatly of Neil Finn, Tilbrook and Difford and Paul Carrack, who to me are masters of their craft and I put Andy right up their with them. I’m purposefully not trying to disseminate each individual track as to be frank, there’s little point. Maybe “Perky Muscle Girl” is a little bit of a throw away track, but it’s still enjoyable nonetheless.

It’s funny, given the break neck speed of the first few songs on the album, the last 5 tracks are more mellow and relaxed. That being said the flow from one, to next is effortless. In “Skin” I can hear remnants of Dean Friedman, especially with his track “Lucky Stars”. The opening on “Dreams Come True” also has a recurring piano segment, which sounds just like the beginning of another 70’s classic, but I just can’t think which one it is and it’s been driving me crazy.

“Let Your Heart Break” closes the album and what a way to sign off. It’s an amazing track, weighing in at nearly 6 minutes. The first 2 and a half minutes are just the most wondrous atmospheric build up and from there on the track really comes together, also featuring some great, almost Beach Boysesque harmonies. Suffice to say, I think you can guess at my conclusion.

Conclusion : 2008 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for independent artists. The Billie Burke Estate has set a benchmark for other artists to measure themselves against. Absolute power pop at it’s finest. If you love inventive, well crafted, upbeat pop, this is a no-brainer purchase. Flippin’ marvellous.

Posted in Pop, Rock, Soul | No Comments »

Album – Songs of Want and Loss – Lionel Neykov

Posted by admin on 28th January 2008

  • Band / Artist : Lionel NeykovmySpace
  • Genre : Acoustic / Soul
  • Sample Track Download : N/A
  • Buy CD : CD Baby
  • Buy Digital Download : iTunes
  • Rating : 8.5 out of 10

It’s no surprise given the strong Eastern European overtones of Lionel’s surname, that this 9 track offering has a similar, strong flavour, that at times enhances Lionel’s voice, and at other time totally falls away to leave a voice that whilst not the most melodious, has a realness that is both charming and heartwarming. I have to admit though, listening to a track here and there on various podcasts, I was pretty much on the fence. Lionel has a very distinctive voice, but I had a nagging sense that it may not hold up for an entire album. I’m glad to say though, my previous fears, were totally unfounded.

The album opens with “I Need You” which starts, predictably enough, with soothing acoustic guitar, but it’s when you hear Lionel’s voice for the first time, that your aural senses are almost stopped in their tracks. When the mandolin / balalyka is introduced, the track takes on a real seasoned veteran feel, which is surprising, seeing as Lionel only picked up a guitar for the first time 7 years ago. “Hey Ruth” is another track that really stands out and has also been featured on a few podcasts and was indeed the first track I heard of Lionel’s. “Freeze My Senses” is a very interesting track, which at times feels like it’s should be performed in a Broadway production, maybe that’s accidental as Lionel is currently living in New York city.

“In the Sunshine” was a track I really enjoyed, but I couldn’t help feeling that it needed a bit more Summer injected into it. It’s hard to explain exactly what I mean, but it’s nearly there but not quite. Still great though. The album rounds off with “Brother’s Again” and with this song, I noticed that the Eastern European feel, whilst still present, is not as strong as towards the latter half of the album. This had me in conflict with myself, as it’s that earlier sound that grabbed my attention, but this final song is a cracker. Oh well, I’ve got the best of both worlds.

As a debut release, this is very striking, especially considering Lionel has only been playing the guitar for 7 years. It has some rough edges, but I think had these been smoothed out, this would be a very sterile sounding album. This is certainly one artists I’m very excited about and look forward to seeing how he follows up this release.

Conclusion : A great find and an artist that deserves some major recognition. It’s only early days in his recording career and also in his playing career, but I can well see exciting things ahead.

Posted in Acoustic, Soul | No Comments »

EP – The Soul of Bubbles and Cheesecake – Bubbles and Cheesecake

Posted by admin on 9th January 2008

I’ve seen a few combinations in my time, like apple pie and ice cream, beer and whiskey, even jellied eels and mash, all very complimentary. At the other end of the spectrum you have chalk and cheese and now Bubbles and Cheesecake. It’s unusual that two distinctly different things blend together so nicely, but that’s exactly the case here. Bubbles and Cheese cake are Allee Willis, a Grammy winning composer, also responsible for Earth, Wind and Fire’s, “Sepetember” and the Friends TV show theme, and Holly Palmer, formerly with Gnarls Barkley’s live and who’s also worked with David Bowie, Dr Dre and Michael BublĂ©. As you can see quite distinctly different characters, which is also distinctly apparent when you hear them sing. Allee has a much more, how can I put this, weathered voice and Holly has the more chirpy, poppy voice. When they’re put together, it’s works amazingly well.

First track on the EP is “It’s a Woman Thang”, girl power for those on the wrong side of Spice Girl mania, or rather the right side, depending how you look at it. It was one of those tracks that when I first heard it, I could really sense something, which was ever apparent when I found myself humming the song later in the day. It’s a really strange song, as it’s very catchy, but never really seems to go any where. The second track on this 4 track EP, is “I Confess”. Their sound runs consistantly through the EP. “I Confess” differs from the first track in that it has a distinct break towards the middle, which breaks the track up nicely. “Girl in Lust” is for me the highlight track of the EP, even though the title may be misconstrued somewhat, it really is a beautiful track. It’s a real sleeper too, being the third track, as you’d expect the best song to be first and for many that will be the case, but for me, this track harkens back to the late 60’s and 70’s soul girl groups. The final track “Cryin Lovin Leavin” really rounds things off nicely. I have to admit, I’m not overly keen on Allee’s vocals and couldn’t imagine listening to a solo work in a similar vein, but they do provide a nice contrast to Holly’s voice and here they work exceedingly well.

Conclusion : A really interesting release, which I’m hoping leads to a full album release, because I would love to see how their sound develops. For me though this EP is worth buying alone for Girls in Lust”, with the other tracks being great support.

Posted in Pop, Soul | No Comments »

EP – Bitter Suite – Amy LaCour

Posted by admin on 27th September 2007

Soulful and sweet, is probably best how to describe the voice of Amy LaCour. There’s also a hint of something a bit deeper, something a bit darker. This EP reminds me a bit of Alicia Keys, without all the vocal gymnastics.

Opening with the title track, well title track of sorts, as the spelling is different, “Bittersweet”. Not sure if this is intended or an oversight, but I can’t help mull it over, each time I put the CD on. The Alicia Keys sounds is more evident on “One Man’s Stone”, but more for the piano accompaniment, than the vocals. It’s probably my favourite track on this 5 track EP.

“I’m the One”, has a fairly sombre mood, but though the music is downbeat, the vocals soar like a bird. “Fools Road” feels like a more complete song and I start hearing hints of Aretha Franklyn, bold and confidence abounding. The final track is “Fall”, which really seals things nicely and brings the EP to a nice close.

Throughout the EP, Amy’s voice is strong and sweet, but I can’t help but feel, there lies a diva beneath. I’d love to hear Amy really let loose, just to see what it would sound like.

Conclusion : A real relaxing EP and one that fulfills that 5pm need for something to unwind to.

Posted in Alternative, Pop, Soul | No Comments »

Album – Tenebrae – Mike Mangione

Posted by admin on 25th September 2007

A real folksy, soul sound, with just a hint of the blues, is probably how I’d best describe this offering from Milwaukee based Mike Mangione. The opening track “Waiting for No One”, has that kick back and relaxed style, very reminiscent of the Commodores, “Easy”, which is a great way to open an album and certainly made my ears prick up, when I first heard it. “It’s Me Not You” develops things further, introducing a delicate balance of strings, which I think are either cello or fiddle, or perhaps both. Laid over the music, is a voice of earthy charm, with a hint of bluesy roughness, think a more Joe Cocker than BB King, but not quite so harsh.

The more I listened to the album, the more I kept coming back to the track “The Killing Floor”. At a tad over 6 minutes, it’s one of 3 lengthy tracks on the album, but it really engages and is probably the quickest 6 minutes you are going to encounter in a while. Many times, especially recently I’ve mentioned albums, that lack that killer track, but here it’s almost the total opposite. Every track has Mike’s hallmark firmly placed on them, but they all have that certain something, and more exciting, that something is different on nearly every track.

“You Don’t Wanna Leave” has a sound that conjours memories of Dire Straits in the 80’s, more album track, than single, but that’s not to say it doesn’t hold up as a great song. After all, I tend to find, many of a bands best songs tend to be album only tracks, as opposed to singles.

Picking killer tracks, proved relatively easy for this album. The opener, “Waiting for No One” is definitely up there and also “Great Divide” and “A Requiem For The Trash: Damnatio Memoriae”.

As the album reaches the end with “Mama, Be Not Afraid”, I can’t help feeling that there’s rockier side of Mike, waiting to be unleashed. I can just imagine his vocals, blasting with some wailing electric guitar. Don’t get me wrong, I love this album, but would love to maybe hear something else with a bit of a kick.

Conclusion : A phenomenally great album, from an artist I’m sure is going to go far.

Posted in Acoustic, Folk Rock, Soul | No Comments »

Album – New Tricks – Nica Brooke

Posted by admin on 20th August 2007

I love it when an artist gets in contact and asks to be considered for review. Actually with the advent of mySpace this usually isn’t quite the way it happens. Many people ask to be added to the Indie Launchpad friends list, but I’m actually pretty strict in only allowing people and companies that I have a special relationship with, or bands/artists that have been reviewed. When Nica asked to be submitted to the Indie Launchpad friends list, I checked out her mySpace music and asked her if she’d like to submit her EP for review.

As is sometimes the way, something throws a spanner in the works and while I had a review in the bag for the EP, Nica held the EP back from release, instead to release it as an 11 track album. This however doesn’t happen overnight. Indeed from the submission of the original EP, to the release of this review of the album, I think nearly a year has passed. When it comes to good music though, as was the case with the EP, I’m like a like an elephant that never forgets. I’d drop Nica the occasional email just to check in and then finally she told me the album was ready, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Nica has that wonderful bluesy, almost bohemian sound that is just a sheer joy to listen to. Of the eleven tracks on the album, there is something quite different on each, while sharing that common vibe. I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve stated my love for some female artists and that’s the music I’m talking about here. One of the things that clinches it for me, is an artists ability to caress the soul. Yes I know that sounds unbelievable poncy, but I can’t really define it any better than that. When I listen to Nica’s voice, it’s almost like she’s singing to an audience of one, me. It’s not just the vocals however, it’s the whole package of music and vocals.

Opening with the old standard “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, it’s surely never sounded so good and so sassy. The production of this and the majority of the album has that real 40’s feel, but with a tinge of modern day magic. This is every evident in the second track “Get Back”. My favorite track on the EP is “Head in the Sand”, with that wondrous hypnotic drum beat. It’s funny, this tracks reminds me of one of those Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road to…: movies, where some siren is trying to seduce them with a song. Terrific stuff.

“Old Dog, New Tricks”, has a more jazz flavor and is my least favorite track, but let me put that into context. It’s like asking Bill Gates, which is the least favorite car in his garage. You know they’re all going to be brilliant cars in their own right. The EP rounds off with the tranquil and mysterious “Transitioning”, with some wonderful Flute accompaniment, I think it is.

Conclusion : Yes very good. OK maybe I restrained my self too much there. Absolutely fantastic is more like it. Certainly up there as one of my top 3 female vocalists, so far this year.

Posted in Alternative, Jazz, Soul | No Comments »