Various Artists - Smooth Winter Soul (2014)

Various Artists
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Smooth Winter Soul, the latest compilation from Tom Glide and TGee records, picks up where his summertime compilation – Sweet Summer Soul – left off. The project covers the gamut of sounds listeners like to experience when the cold and snow take most of the action indoors. Things tend to slow down in the winter, and while Smooth Winter Soul covers genres and sub genres ranging from steppers to world to jazz swing, each track retains a laid back, musical comfort food feel.

Smooth Winter Soul, the latest compilation from Tom Glide and TGee records, picks up where his summertime compilation – Sweet Summer Soul – left off. The project covers the gamut of sounds listeners like to experience when the cold and snow take most of the action indoors. Things tend to slow down in the winter, and while Smooth Winter Soul covers genres and sub genres ranging from steppers to world to jazz swing, each track retains a laid back, musical comfort food feel.

The stylistic differences between Smooth Winter Soul and its summertime counterpart are encapsulated in “Soul Life,” the one cut that can be found on both. The summer version has a block party feel with an arrangement featuring hand claps, percussion and horns. That track is primarily an instrumental with vocalist Shylah Vaughn adding some improvised lyrics, while the Smooth Winter Soul version is more lyrical, intimate and slowed down, and is ideally suited for situations when the listeners might want to apply a little body heat to keep each other warm.

Smooth Winter Soul is slower, but also more sensual while being no less divergent in the styles represented. “Baby” by Ples Jones and featuring the vocals of Louise Brown, is a seductive jam that has the atmosphere of one of the bedroom songs that Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced for Janet Jackson. Al Castellana’s “Lucky Man” finds the lead vocalist combining his high tenor with an instrumental arrangement that would fit nicely on 1970s era quiet storm radio.

Rachel Marie’s neo-soul infused “First Love” is one of the album’s standouts, featuring her passionate vocals that capture the bitterness of the tune’s narrative about her giving the business to a cavalier lover who turned her initial wade into the waters of love into a swim with the sharks. “Woman” is on the opposite side of the spectrum from “First Love” from a thematic standpoint; this mid-tempo funky number is a self-confident anthem that celebrates a woman’s ability to do it all.

“Is This Love” combines a lush, jazz arrangement with Alan Scaffardi’s swinging, Sinatra styled baritone, while “Daisy” is a breezy, mid-tempo tune featuring 1960s doo-wop harmonies and Georgie B’s vocals deftly handling a narrative about a man’s struggles with his un-acted upon desire to take his friendship with Daisy of the title to the next level.

The diversity of vocals and vocal styles stand as the distinguishing feature of Smooth Winter Soul, and that is a big reason why this compilation - that checks in at a hefty 16 tracks - maintains a steady, relaxed groove that avoids becoming a rut. It is a natural and very enjoyable companion to its Summer cousin.  Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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