Soul Eclectic, the sophomore release from sultry soul singer Sophia Darcell, has been described as "one of the sexiest yet socially conscious albums you will ever hear." While I always caution against hype that approaches the pretentious this CD certainly possesses, to one extent or another, elements of both these attributes and is a huge change of direction from her 2001 debut Love = Pain. It's a shift placing her firmly in the area of vocal smooth jazz that in some quarters is referred to as urban jazz but which I feel is better described as smooth R & B. Comparisons with Sade are cheap and easy but the music leans toward many influences with the end product being very much all Sophia's own work. She is joined in her soulful endeavor by Eric Escanes and Marcello Falconi on guitars, Dave Gabbillet on drums and Kenneth Williams on bass to produce what has been compared elsewhere to a sexy wall of sound.
Ultra tight throughout, the album hits its stride early with the mid tempo slow burner â€˜Charades'. It's one of several tunes that demonstrate the panache Darcell has for drawing the listener into her soul drenched web and her ability to allow a song to build. Right there with it is the first radio single â€˜7 Seas', the smoky â€˜Ceyrah' and perhaps best of all in this respect â€˜Senor Alvarez'. It gets in your head and won't go away.
â€˜Make Up Your Mind', with its heartfelt message of desperate love, is both big and soulful while very much in the same mold is â€˜Someday Someone'. It's a number that manages to be catchy earthy and compelling all at the same time. Talking of compelling, the genuinely Sade-esque beat of â€˜Who's It Gonna Be' is hard to get past but Darcell shows she can turn it down too. The sweet melody of â€˜His Sweet Face' shocks the listener with its dark message and her one true attempt at a ballad, the simply constructed â€˜Crazy Alone', is evocative of a ballsy Norah Jones and all the better for it. â€˜Thru The Desert' sparkles with jazzy grooves and is the most urbanly influenced track on the album but within a collection brim full of stand outs the Soul Tracks killer cut is â€˜They Love Like That'. This genuine slice of smooth R & B is anchored by a compelling mid tempo beat and tailor made for smooth jazz radio.
Set affront the ultra cool backdrop of sizzling hot Miami, energized by four dapper, groove-oriented musicians from all corners of the world and brought to life by the smooth soul tones of Sophia Darcell, Soul Eclectic is a wonderful addition to the genre.
Contributed by Denis Poole, www.smoothjazztherapy.com