Like many future aspiring soul singers, James Aldridge spent his youth listening to the great jazz vocalists of the 40s and 50s. From Sarah Vaughn to Billie Holiday to Nat King Cole, the house of his childhood was filled with classic American music played by his parents. As a teenager, he graduated to the soul sounds of Gladys Knight, James Brown and Aretha Franklin, and began to develop his voice as a soul music interpreter. He used his self-taught skills to perform locally at wedding and private parties. As an adult he became a regular in the Boston club scene, ultimately opening for Patti LaBelle in Hyannis.
After years on this circuit, in 2000 he released his first album, Close Your Eyes, an elegant urban adult contemporary album produced and co-written by Lester Goodwine (who deserves great credit for helping put it together). Goodwine's production is right on for Aldridge's smooth baritone, which shines especially on "Don't Let Me Go" and on"Leora," a great cut that is the album's highlight and is worthy of attention. Close Your Eyes has had good success in the European soul scene, but is still growing in the U.S. -- it's a rare breed of modern album that both hits the UAC market musically and has lyrical depth to it.
While Aldridge claims to be influenced most by James Ingram and Michael McDonald (I might be inclined to use O.C. Smith as a reference), his voice is distinctive and clear. And while the music has an Old School feel to it, Aldridge does not feel tied to a single musical style. "It was my intention (to release an urban adult contemporary album). Regarding a younger audience, I always have them in mind and will always try to incorporate new musical elements into our material. Yet our main concern is to make great music, and not just appeal commercially, for great music will be appreciated the world over if you put the work into it." And he clearly put the work into Close Your Eyes.
A newcomer worth checking out.
By Chris Rizik