Various Artists - Soul Independence

Various Artists
Various Artists Soul Independence.jpg
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A compilation has arrived on the block, filled with choice tracks from independent and unsigned artists.  I will admit that I am sometimes a little cautious about compilations claiming to be ‘soul’ music but which are, in actuality, actually watered down “urban” music, with 80% of the songs talking about various sexual fantasies, or how the ex is going to rot in hell for their cheating ways.  The rest is usually about spending lots of money in a club and reciting as many designer brands etc. Despite the slight trepidation, I popped on my stereo headphones and gave Soul Independence a try, and the result was very good. 

The blurb attached to the album states that SI Records is passionate about music and has spent months selecting the artists to include on the compilation, which gave me some assurance that thought had gone into the process. The album consists of 17 soulful songs, many of which are quite radio worthy. 

A compilation has arrived on the block, filled with choice tracks from independent and unsigned artists.  I will admit that I am sometimes a little cautious about compilations claiming to be ‘soul’ music but which are, in actuality, actually watered down “urban” music, with 80% of the songs talking about various sexual fantasies, or how the ex is going to rot in hell for their cheating ways.  The rest is usually about spending lots of money in a club and reciting as many designer brands etc. Despite the slight trepidation, I popped on my stereo headphones and gave Soul Independence a try, and the result was very good. 

The blurb attached to the album states that SI Records is passionate about music and has spent months selecting the artists to include on the compilation, which gave me some assurance that thought had gone into the process. The album consists of 17 soulful songs, many of which are quite radio worthy. 

Monique Thomas opens the album with an uplifting, gospel track entitled “Daughter Shine,” empowering women to do the best they can, and not be downhearted by life’s trials.  This gospel track along with two others, “Fly Away” and “See You,” fit very easily into the compilation, and do not detract from the overall mood of the album.  The latter samples the loop from Monica’s hit “So Gone,” giving a little edge to a track about God’s reassurance that he sees us all the time so we need not be afraid. D Reed’s vocals are quite pleasant, and somewhat similar to those of gospel superstar J Moss. The opposite of church praises are the bedroom enticing tracks such “Cologne” by Melodie Nicholson, where she commands her lover to smother her with his love fragrance, as “No one else has you on, our sex has its own fragrance”.  Over a slow and gentle beat, there is nothing salacious or over the top in how the song is presented; just a gentle tease.  The production is also clear enough to be able to imagine the song being performed at a live event. 

Although there is very little live instrumentation on the album, one of the merits of the disc is that most of the tracks are not overly produced, or full of auto-tune and vocoders. Where samples are used it is very subtle, and they match the vibe of the song.  An example of this is Mic Fields' “Slow Down,” which uses the bassline of Tarika Blues’ “Dreamflower” and background harmonies of Erykah Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know.”  The gentle bassline takes the sting out of his explanation as to why he had to abruptly end the relationship with girl he thought was the love of his life; a true example of letting a lady down easy.  There is an honesty in his music and lyric, which is somewhat refreshing when compared to other songs flooding the radio airwaves these days. 

Other tracks that are worth mentioning include Mike Winans’ “You Deserve A Break,” “All I Want” by Darrius, “Mr Mahogany” by LaRae Starr,  and the light and airy vocals of Hannah Francis on “Let Me Love You”.  My standout track was a slow and sensual song by Charlene; I had this on repeat for a long time.  A soulful groove, gentle strings, and a lady telling a guy she is the woman for him and how loving him will be like second nature. This song was better than a cup of hot chocolate by a warm fire.  I don’t know too much but Charlene, but she is definitely an artist I will be keeping an eye out for in the future. 

Like all compilations there are some songs here which are growers (I do use that term loosely), and some songs which had me reaching for the forward button faster than you can imagine.  That said, as an overall package Soul Independence is a solid compilation of independent artists singing soulful music.   I really liked how religious and secular themed music were able to blend together without me feeling I was being preached at or about to burn hell for listening to people singing about “relations.”  Some live instrumentation would have been great, as would some jazz, or even a little funk.  However that would all have been a bonus, because essentially this album is a pretty good snapshot of today's independent soulful music, and a good introduction to some talented new artists.  Recommended.

By Ricardito

 

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