Believe it or not, to receive a daily supply of the music that you love from all over the world through your letter box has its disadvantages. This debut album from the AllStars for example has been sitting in a large pile of CD's waiting to be reviewed since early September but it took the perseverance of both the group and their promoter to find its way to the top of the pile. It is of course virtually criminal of me to neglect an album of this quality for such a long time but I am sure that you understand the pressures that I am under!
For a long time London was the centre of 'blue-eyed soul' and raw soulful jazz, and the AllStars are born out of that mold. Formed in 2004, they are the cream of Europe's session musicians with the added talent of amongst many AWB's Hamish Stuart, soul diva Jocelyn Brown and legendary jazz guitarist Jim Mullen. The class is evident across the board from the production through to the playing and the tunes themselves, which are all easily accessible in a pop/soul manner that moves easily into jazzier fields on most tracks, gospel on a few others and even (on the album's least appealing track) reggae. Starting strongly with the brass heavy, Summery 'Sometimes' the vocals of Mary Pearce lay down the standards of what is to follow.
Hamish Stuart has given us some wonderful soulful solo albums since his days with the Average White Band and his style is ALL over this set -- and not just as producer. With 'Remedy' he takes the lead vocally and immediately you are taken back to 'Atlantic Avenue' days with some smooth guitar work from Jim Mullen. But the album's standout for me is 'Star,' which conjures up the whole project in one track. First, you have the soulful baritone vocals of Cuttie Williams, where every word can be clearly understood and phrased perfectly in order to explain the songwriter's message; then you have the musicians playing real instruments properly, culminating in yet another superb guitar solo in Wes Montgomery mode from Jim Mullen ,and finally the tune itself, which starts off ias a slowful chugger and builds into a latinesque brass romp. Wonderful!
Overall, the album sets out to create a happy vibe and 'Beautiful Day' and Jocelyn Brown's title track 'All about the music' lead the way in this respect. However, as mature musicians, they also tackle issues that concern us all and the thought provoking lyrics of 'Time will Tell' are a perfect end to a very strong debut album from the AllStars. So strong that it will feature in my 'best' of 2007 -- or shall I make that 2008? Delays for whatever reason can sometimes work in one's favour!
A JL Review.