Cool Million - Sumthin' Like This (2015)

Cool Million
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On 2008’s Going Out Tonight, the German-Danish production duo of Cool Million brought back the effortlessly sophisticated grooves of early-1980s R&B dance classics with a modern-day polish. Featuring both newcomers and established (yet often overlooked) vocalists, CM gave inherently soulful artists an outlet to share their fresh melodies and lyrics alongside organic synth-funk grooves boasting both substance and style. This tight fit was solidified in 2010 with the follow-up album, Back for More. Timeless talents such as Eugene Wilde, Meli’sa Morgan, and Leroy Burgess strutted their stuff on wickedly catchy concoctions that simultaneously evoked the celestial mood of an era gone by and captured new listeners with a boldly pure, feel-good approach to uptempo soul.

On 2008’s Going Out Tonight, the German-Danish production duo of Cool Million brought back the effortlessly sophisticated grooves of early-1980s R&B dance classics with a modern-day polish. Featuring both newcomers and established (yet often overlooked) vocalists, CM gave inherently soulful artists an outlet to share their fresh melodies and lyrics alongside organic synth-funk grooves boasting both substance and style. This tight fit was solidified in 2010 with the follow-up album, Back for More. Timeless talents such as Eugene Wilde, Meli’sa Morgan, and Leroy Burgess strutted their stuff on wickedly catchy concoctions that simultaneously evoked the celestial mood of an era gone by and captured new listeners with a boldly pure, feel-good approach to uptempo soul.

Maintaining consistency without becoming redundant is no easy feat when it comes to making music that is, at its core, rooted in nostalgia. Therein lies the unique wit and efficacy of Cool Million. After 2012’s III came and went surprisingly quickly, CM went back to the drawing board to emerge with Sumthin' Like This, a crisp new collection of no less than 15 tunes that enviably merge venerable vocal and hook structures with a savvy contemporary underlining in lyrical nuances and arrangement flourishes. On the straight-up old-school side, there’s the ebullient “Tonight” featuring Glenn Jones. “In this fast-paced world in which we live/Sometimes it seems the hustle never gives,” Jones croons with aplomb as the beat charges straight ahead with zesty horn touches and fun guitar licks. “Now I just wanna make it like it used to be/When love was so good and we were so free.” One would be hard-pressed not to wish for the same when getting lost in the ambience of the tune.

Contrastingly, Janine Johnson evokes a Jennifer Hudson-esque swagger on the down-and-funky “Do You Right,” a snazzy romp filled with alluring phrasing and an assertive bass pattern. Somewhere in between the throwback of “Tonight” and the hipness of “Do You Right” falls the seamless “Give It Up,” this album’s entry by diva-in-residence Laura Jackson (who’s appeared on every Cool Million album to date and provides backing vocals on most of this CD’s cuts). Here, her sultry pipes are in their usual fabulous form as she glides with a rich alto stance over a smoothly enticing jam geared by magnetic keys. “When it burns inside you know you’ll make it,” she coaxes on the inspiring number, then advising, “If you choose to have an attitude, it doesn’t suit your groove/You’ve got to give it up.” It’s a resounding message for the ages, delivered in a fashion that will appeal to anyone with any sense of aesthetics.

Cool Million and company also exercise their chops on several notably mellower selections. “Type of Woman,” a breezy stepper graced by the understated tenor finesse of Taylor Pace, infuses jazzy elements into a funk-laced, midtempo strut. Meanwhile, Michael Jeffries, much revered for his work with Tower of Power and Jeff Lorber, makes a most welcome appearance on the delightful “Summer Breeze” (not to be confused with the Seals and Crofts song). Re-emerging from Jeffries’ peer group after a long absence from the spotlight, founding Atlantic Starr drummer and vocalist Porter Carroll shines brightly on the highly kinetic “Say Ohh.” An irresistible chorus, glistening synth work, and a cohesive rap interlude are but a few of the key ingredients in this jumpin’ entry that marvelously encapsulates Cool Million’s musical mission.

Literally exemplifying the generational gap that CM continues to bridge with its output, the sharp and spiffy “No Ordinary Music,” spotlighting Farina Miss, tells the tale of youngsters discovering their parents’ favorite music via LP boxes in the attic—and jamming together as a result. “Everyone loves music and everybody wants to share,” she proclaims. With humor, she then narrates the taboo of touching the elders’ rare pieces of wax out of curiosity—and the fear of being punished for doing so. This appreciation for the greats, however, is ultimately rewarded with one big listening party. Summoning a similarly party-happy vibe, soulful house stalwart Marc Evans issues a dancing invitation to a romantic prospect on the aptly titled lead single, “Dontcha Wanna Dance.” Adding extra umph to the track’s celebratory throwback nature, Evans cleverly works in a refrain from Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” that sounds as good as new.

With Sumthin' Like This, the Cool Million collective solidifies why fans of so many genres and periods of popular music are drawn to a tight, melodic boogie joint whenever it strikes. Eschewing any fancy gimmicks that would take away from the authenticity of such a sound for the sake of making it momentarily trendier, the artists, producers, and writers involved ultimately showcase what makes this style of groove so hip in the first place: artistic integrity. Highly recommended.

by Justin Kantor

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Click Here to Listen to "Sumthin Like This"

 
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