Silk - Always and Forever (2006)

Silk
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Even true lovers of the soul music of the 70s and 80s are reaching the point of being officially tired of soul "covers" albums.  More than two dozen albums recreating classic soul songs have been released in the past two years by artists ranging from Jeffrey Osborne to Patti LaBelle to Hall & Oates, and they show no sign of slowing down.  Some, like recent releases by Natalie Cole and Glenn Jones, have been absolutely inspired.  Others have had the feeling of quickly recorded pieces designed to cash in without little creative thought.  Silk's new soul covers album, Always and Forever, falls somewhere in the middle.  You have to give the quartet credit for mixing on one album such disparate songs as Prince's "Adore" and the Blue Magic classic "Sideshow."  But a covers album only works to the extent that it provides something superior or at least notably different from the original versions, and that's where Always and Forever

Even true lovers of the soul music of the 70s and 80s are reaching the point of being officially tired of soul "covers" albums.  More than two dozen albums recreating classic soul songs have been released in the past two years by artists ranging from Jeffrey Osborne to Patti LaBelle to Hall & Oates, and they show no sign of slowing down.  Some, like recent releases by Natalie Cole and Glenn Jones, have been absolutely inspired.  Others have had the feeling of quickly recorded pieces designed to cash in without little creative thought.  Silk's new soul covers album, Always and Forever, falls somewhere in the middle.  You have to give the quartet credit for mixing on one album such disparate songs as Prince's "Adore" and the Blue Magic classic "Sideshow."  But a covers album only works to the extent that it provides something superior or at least notably different from the original versions, and that's where Always and Forever falls short.

It only takes a few bars of Silk's take on Switch's "There'll Never Be" or Quincy Jones' "The Secret Garden" to be assured that these guys can still sing.  Their harmonies are as exquisite as ever, and as a group they work every song just fine.  The problem arises largely in the production, which sounds low budget and overly programmed while attempting to re-create, note-for-note, the original versions of the songs.  So a song like "Sideshow," which originally benefited from classically lush Philadelphia production, here has a foundation of electronic keyboards that cheapen the overall recording and leave the song a pale version of the Blue Magic classic.  And the group's unassuming lead vocals, which were always sufficient on their own new material, here have trouble when compared to original performances by such singers Howard Hewett, Michael Jackson and James Ingram. 

For better or worse, each new covers album has to be compared to the Time-Life compilations being peddled on TV, and the new versions need to "bring it" to distinguish themselves.  And while Silk the group is extremely talented (and is deserving of releasing new, original work), Always and Forever simply doesn't differentiate itself sufficiently to make soul fans choose it over the well-worn classic versions on which this album is based.

CR

 
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