Chances are that you've heard Juewett Bostick several times over the course of his 25 year career -- you just didn't know it. He has worked as a guitarist, songwriter or producer for a virtual "who's who" of popular soul artists, including the Temptations, Johnny Gill, Sister Sledge and a number of others. He has also been a longtime protege of master producer Norman Connors, and worked on Connors' three most recent albums, including 1999's brilliant "Eternity." So after years of patiently helping others, Bostick decided it was time to make his own statement, in the form of the new CD It's Not So Easy.
It's Not So Easy is a clear evolution from Bostick's work with Connors (who co-produces here) and it has the feel of a Connors project, though a little funkier. Leading off with the Chaka Khan-like uptempo cut, "Precious Love," the album moves from funky dance cuts to midtempo swing to smooth jazz seamlessly. And while the album's notable cast of singers (Jean Carn, Denise Stewart and Ali Ollie Woodson) has received the most attention, the instrumental cuts (especially "Elsi N' Me" and "Kelli's Theme") are wonderful displays of Bostick's guitar work and shouldn't be overlooked.
The disc's most infectious vocal number is a slick cover of the standard "You Go To My Head," with Denise Stewart handling the vocals. It is a breezy cut that takes a unique approach to a song that has been covered dozens of times in a heavier, big band fashion. Equally impressive is "You Need Love," a midtempo number that Bostick has wanted to record for a half decade, now brought to life with the help of ubiquitous guest vocalist Ali Ollie Woodson.
It's Not So Easy is a solid Urban Adult Contemporary/Smooth Jazz disc in its own right; but what sets it apart from other quality Soul albums that have been released this year is the approach that Bostick has taken to provide a deeper appreciation for the underlying music. He hasn't just released a standard CD for a home or car stereo. He has included a CD-ROM that works tremendously in augmenting the experience and making the project more meaningful. The CD-ROM includes bonus liner notes as well as interviews about each song with Bostick and his fellow musicians and singers. The discussion of the origin of each song, how it was chosen for the disc, the nuances of the arrangements, and the experiences they had in the recording process are fascinating. Interestingly, they also change how you listen to the songs and provide more appreciation for the decisions that were made in the production of the disc. For instance, on the CD-ROM Denise Stewart displays four different singing styles she attempted when approaching the cover of "You Go To My Head," all based on her expectations of the arrangement that Bostick would use. He and she ultimately created a mild island beat to the song, resulting in a finished product and vocal style far better and more natural than the alternatives.
So it is easy to recommend It's Not So Easy as a great listen. Perhaps equally importantly, it is a glimpse at the power of technology to enhance and deepen the musical experience, well beyond that to which Soul Music fans are accustomed.
By Chris Rizik