Okay, I'm having a pretty typical day. I open my mail and there is a new CD called The Return of Real Soul Music by The Chapter, a group I had never heard of. Intrigued by the provocative title, I pop it into my player. The first thing to come out of my speaker is the beginning of a fairly standard sounding rap song, "The Intro." Oh God not another one of these, I think. With the volume of music I receive each week, I get pretty tired of how the term "soul" is misused by artists whose unimaginative, predictable, by-the-numbers product is about anything but Soul. But then I started listening to the lyrics of "The Intro." Rather than talking about pimpin or posing, this was a song about great Soul Music forbearers, from Stevie Wonder to Anita Baker, and about the need for real Soul Music in the African American community. Sure, it is a bit presumptuous for The Chapter to label itself as the heir to these great artists, but I'm willing to listen some more.
What follows that auspicious beginning is an enjoyable, extremely well performed disc of funk, jazz and, yes, a lot of Soul. Sounding less like Stevie and Anita than early 80s funk groups such as Cameo and ConFunkShun, Florida-based The Chapter - Patricia Whitfield, Adrian Morris, Slater Thorpe, Darius "Doc D" Baker, Taurus Thunderstorm Lovely and Michael Ferguson - is a self contained band that bridges the funky sounds of the 80s with a gritty, jazzy modern edge that works very well.
The songs (all written by the group) on the Chapter's debut album, The Return of Real Soul Music, are uniformly strong and engaging. From the funky "Fall In Love" and "Climbing Up the Walls" to the ballads "Wife" and "So Real" and the jazzy "Crossing the Line" and "Derrty Jazz," the disc makes for a great listening front to back. Best of all are "Thinking About The Way" and "Better Days," a great slice of southern soul that singers Morris and Thorpe absolutely nail. The album's occasional rap interludes bog things down a bit, ranging from the self-important ("Black on Black Rhyme") to the simplistic ("Book of Life"), but the music around them is absolutely top notch and memorable.
The Return of Soul Music should be a breakout album for this very talented independent group and will hopefully be picked up by a major label for international distribution. It is more than simply a vanity project by a local Florida band; this is a disc that deserves to be heard.
By Chris Rizik