Various Artists - Soul Independence: Liberated (2012)

Various Artists
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It’s only been a few months since the debut collection from Soul Independence, and by jove they have returned with the second volume of unsigned independent artists; this time subtitled Liberated.  16 tracks are presented to us for our listening pleasure, and given how good the previous album was I came to the table with high expectations. 

It’s only been a few months since the debut collection from Soul Independence, and by jove they have returned with the second volume of unsigned independent artists; this time subtitled Liberated.  16 tracks are presented to us for our listening pleasure, and given how good the previous album was I came to the table with high expectations. 

Kendra Cash’s “Smile” opens the album in a strong fashion.  It radiates warmth and positive energy, and definitely puts you in a good mood.  Live instruments in a soulful jazz union with Kendra’s vocal make you instantly picture a warm sunny day and smiling faces.  A short but polished track, this can easily be put on a jazz or adult r&b radio station in full confidence that it will be played and highly requested.  The mood is continued - in slightly different variations but nonetheless pleasant and radio friendly ways - with tracks like “Be Your Baby” by Honey Larochelle, “Mr Lost” by Opaz featuring Cartier Fraser and “Stay Gone” by Melodie Nicholson,. 

After these first four tracks on this album, the tempo and overall vibe changes, and not necessarily always for the best.  First we get the introduction of male vocalists, the first being Slakah the Beatchild on “The Cure,” singing in a style quite similar to Robin Thicke .  But on the next cut we move from love being the cure or being brave enough to talk about all the feelings a guy has a for a woman, to Noel Gourdin’s straight up sex anthem, “Sex In the City.”  It begins a portion of the compilation that includes by both songs with huge potential and some with frankly none.  The Gourdin hit is in the former category along with “In Love” by Soulfruit, a slow and slightly jazzy track, with one of the vocalists sounding so much like D’Angelo -- what the group lack in production they make up for in good soulful vocal talent (think back to some of the good male vocal groups of the mid 90s).  On the other hand, “Serious Drug” had me running to the internet to make sure it was not an internet hoax track (it wasn’t).  The track opens with an infectious Latin sample that is real slow, sensuous and sounding like it’s from the streets of Havana Cuba, before breaking into a falsetto vocal warning about the dangers of cocaine (including the naming of singers and celebrities who have fallen to the lure of the drug).  I am sure for some listeners the vocal of Anthony Mills may sound good, but it had me grimacing. 

Other highlights of this album include Syleena Johnson’s version of “The Makings of You,” which is “close but not quite” as sumptuous as the seminal original version.  D Reed’s “One Chance” once again shows how seamlessly a gospel track can sit on a collection like this.  And “Say U Really Luv Me, Baby,” a gentle mid tempo track by Smoke E Digglera, highlights a lesser known talent out there. 

As with many indie compilations, Liberated would have benefitted from more live instrumentation and more uptempo songs.  The disc certainly includes a handful of gems, but overall the collection is not as strong as its lauded predecessor. However, Liberated succeeds in continuing the Soul Independence mission of introducing soul music fans to talent they may not otherwise discover, and it provides enough to make us want the gang at Soul Independence to go back into the lab and work on future compilations, continuing to refine their promising model.  Mildly recommended.


By Ricardito

 

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