MINI REVIEWS - Elliott Yamin, Joyo Velarde, ChinahBlac, Naomi Shelton, K.D. Brosia, Down to the Bone and Eddie Sea Unleashes (2009)


cornfed picL. Michael Gipson's Mini Reviews 
May 2009 

This is SoulTracks Music Editor L. Michael's Gipson's take on several new CD releases which didn't get the full treatment by us but which are nonetheless of interest to SoulTrackers. You can click on the CD covers to check them out. 


cornfed picL. Michael Gipson's Mini Reviews 
May 2009 

This is SoulTracks Music Editor L. Michael's Gipson's take on several new CD releases which didn't get the full treatment by us but which are nonetheless of interest to SoulTrackers. You can click on the CD covers to check them out. 


Elliott Yamin - Fight For Love
It's funny. I wanted Yamin to become more his own singer than he was on a debut that overly relied on his vocal influences from the 70s soul legends of yore. Now I have a sophomore disc that vocally is uniquely his own, only it's not on a particularly unique project. Yamin delivers polished pop with solid, if nondescript vocals on predictable songs that fail to move me a single inch. These diluted R&B songs are utterly forgettable calculus meant to make Yamin a middle of the road, but bankable pop act. A-list producers have nearly smoothed out any rasp or gravel in his tone, so that it's cleanly palatable to young and old alike, only its inoffensive soullessness should be unpalatable to anyone who actually liked this A.I. act before he ironically had a shot at commercial stardom. Can you go back to culturally appropriating and innocently offending, pretty please? Notable songs: "Cold Heart," "This Step Alone" and "You Say." Vocals: 2.5 stars  Lyrics: 2 stars   Music: 2.5 stars   Production: 2.5 stars   SoulTracks Call: Mildly Recommended

ChinahBlac - ChinahBlac...Introducing Eugenia Shata
Known best for her background and arrangement work with Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, Chinahblac at last steps out of the Bag Lady's large shadow. After one listen, we're grateful Chinahblac is claiming some much deserved sun. An accomplished vocal stylist with distinct jazz and blues phrasing, after several years of working with Badu, Chinahblac does have traces of the star resonating on her sinewy pipes. Yet, Chinahblac's tremendous voice and material is darker and more grittily down to earth than the otherworldly Badu, like listening to Badu sing early Tweet. The pained relationship focused lyrics are direct and arranged to highlight the singer's irresistible creativity on several live recorded tracks. Occasionally it's the production here that is the soft spot on this hard as nails debut, with Daniel Jones, Aaron "Freedom" Lyles and Chinahblac herself too often mixing down the artist's most piercing moments. It's an issue we suspect will be handled on the many future recordings we yearn to hear from the courageous lady who finally let it go, let it go, let it go-to become her own shining star.  Notable songs: "Get Away," "Woe," "Your Will" and "Keep Your Word." Vocals: 4 stars  Lyrics: 4 stars  Music: 3 stars  Production: 2.5 stars   SoulTracks Call: Highly Recommended 

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens -What Have You Done My Brother?
This sage Alabama church mother has a blues story to tell, and with musical director Cliff Driver, organist Jimmy Hill and members of the now legendary Dap Kings' attending this story's birth, it's an inspiring one. Shelton (formerly billed as Naomi Davis) has long been a fixture of the club scene-from NYC to Birmingham-without ever losing one ounce of the church-infused religion in her act, but also without ever releasing a full album. Thanks to Daptones Records (and that special someone upstairs) all that is about to change. After decades of grinding with a church fan and a righteous smile, Shelton and The Gospel Queens (Edna Johnson, Bobbie Gant, and Cynthia Langston) are getting the chance to share a revived, but authentic portal into yesteryear's Southern roots music. Quiet rage tinges its blues; unshakeable faith lifts its gospel; and simple honesty caress the soul of an album whose title speaks to all three genres blessed here by these humble messengers. Notable songs: "Am I Asking Too Much?," "Trouble In My Way," "What Have You Done " and "By Your Side." Vocals: 3 stars   Lyrics: 4 stars   Music: 3 stars   Production: 3.5 stars   SoulTracks Call: Highly Recommended

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Moon CityEddie Sea Unleashes - Moon City
Wrapped in an occasionally ill-fitting satin sheet, Eddie "Sea" Caldwell's single-producer compilation project hotly blows with just enough humidity to make it sticky baby-making music for the grown n' sexy. Lightly funky with sound underground vocalists and righteous lyrics, the compilation starts and ends well enough with seductive, if routine fair, but unexpectedly unravels at the center when it tries for overly self-conscious experimentation. Iesha Sturdivant, Shauntia Toussaint and Golden Child overreach for the exotic on "Sunrise in Bangkok," "Diamonds," and "Edge of Night," respectively, each with vaguely East Asian influences and electronic guitar riffs flowering dark soundscapes. Sadly, plodding pacing and muddled lyricism undermines these efforts. Still, Golden Child (a Glenn Lewis doppleganger), Aaron Sledge, Shauntia Toussaint and Rio a.k.a. Swolts deserve honorable mentions for conjuring coolly embraceable performances on the album's more refreshing summer breeezes. Notable songs: "India," "Sister," "Soul Searcher" and "Underwater Paradse." Vocals: 2.5 stars   Lyrics: 2 stars   Music: 3 stars   Production: 3 stars   SoulTracks Call: Recommended

Down To The Bone - Future Boogie
Keep your party hearty with this roaring groovefest. On its 6th trip, this acid jazz band knows just how to liven up your cocktail shindig with a brass section that can awaken even the dullest senses. Producer/composer DJ Stuart Wade's music has lost none of its fire, despite trading out a few members of the ever rotating UK "kings of jazz groove." Neil Angilley, Tony Remy, Julian Crampton, Phil Nelson, Richard Sadler, James Knight, Tim Stuart, Pablo Mendelssohn, and Neil Burditt ably realize Stuart's inspired vision (Stuart's a non-musician who hums and dictates the material he "hears" to other musicians). Vibraphonist Roy Ayers and a transcendent Hil St. Soul make dynamic appearances on this mostly instrumental project, but its Stuart's raw band members who really grind these grooves down to the gristle. Notable songs: "The Brighter Side," "In The Pocket" and "Smash and Grab." Vocals: 3 stars  Lyrics: 3 stars   Music: 4 stars   Production: 4 stars   SoulTracks Call: Highly Recommended

K.D. BROSIA: \"Love Is. . .\"K.D. Brosia - Love Is...
I'm a sucka for a good "boy group" voice, even when it's sported by a soloist. K.D. Brosia has just enough of that 90s lead voice (a dap of sandpaper timbre and melisma aplenty) to keep my head bobbing, and just enough intelligence to layer singer/producer James Glasco's undeniable backgrounds in three- and four-part harmonies to keep you engaged. The interplay between Brosia's soaring lead and Glasco's pitch-perfect support alone makes Osulande's gorgeously produced "Bye Bye" worth your coins. After a competitive visit by Stokely Williams of Mint Condition on the funky-if a pinch dated-"Love A Woman (Right)," one gets the feeling that Brosia's best work is in collaboration with singers who vocally push him to bring the pain. On "Stressin' Me" and "Love Is," respective producers Craig Cooper and Glaso spare Brosia my recommendation for Brosia to convene a trio or quartet, by proving the singer can be a formidable soloist with the right tune. The Love Is...EP is just a few more top notch songs from making Brosia a vocal heartthrob, all by himself.  Notable songs: "Love Is," "Bye Bye" and "Love A Woman (Right)." Vocals: 3 stars  Lyrics: 3 stars   Music: 2.5 stars   Production: 2.5 stars   SoulTracks Call: Recommended      

Joyo Velarde - Joyo Velarde EP
When one looks at the fun, flirty pics of the Manila-born Joyo Velarde the last thing one expects to hear on this digital-only EP is a moody, sultry siren, but Velarde voice is mahogany embers on wax. Surrounding her fluttery vibrato with polished jazzy soul grooves throughout most of her project is a sound, if occasionally too safe production decision by artist/husband Lyrics Born, whether alone or when joined by Jumbo and Asa Taccone. Not knocking Lyric Born's evident skill on the somber cuts, but Velarde possesses a rare versatile instrument that can flourish in almost any kind of atmospheric setting, from electronica to straight ahead jazz-and kill. To not give her a chance to flex more of her range would be criminal. She demonstrates that versatility on the Bobby Digital produced "I Need You Boy" a tie-dye ska cut that couldn't have been more different from Asa Taccone's finger-popping, roller skate jam, "Take You Home." When Velarde's must-have full-length Love and Understanding drops later this November, let's hope this compelling teaser is deceptively hiding music as complex and diverse as the lovely Joyo's underestimated appearance. Vocals: 3 stars   Lyrics: 2.5 stars   Music: 2.5 stars   Production: 3 stars   SoulTracks Call: Highly Recommended 


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