I could imagine sitting in a record company office with the thankful assignment of seeking songs for compilations performed by the future of independent soul music.
My favorite part about this seemingly glorious task would be furthering the marketing of undiscovered or unknown talent – for the benefit of an international audience at that. Now getting off my fairy tale mountain, I am somewhat naive in how much thought and research any record company invests to produce an interesting and memorable package. In an industry that sometimes drowns the public with useless compilations and retread greatest hits packages, there are a few companies whose honest affection for music reflects their high marketing qualities. Sweet Soul Records’ stellar reputation with their Soul Over the Race and the Soul Lights series starring homegrown talent interpreting soul classics has lifted them to a high-rated compilation class of their own. Thanks to their steady track record, the Japan-based label is now afforded the opportunity to choose from a bigger artist pool. World Soul Collective Vol. 1 launches a series centering on voices and musicians who have recently impacted the independent global urban music world outside of Japan.
World Soul Collective Vol. 1 serves up a generous helping of R&B, funk, hip-hop, disco, jazz, classic and neo-soul by artists who are signed to Sweet Soul for the Japanese market. On the modern side, Nik West, whose can throw down some melodic and meaty bass guitar licks, thrives on the warm neo-soulish, “Who’s In the Mirror.” Solburst dabbles in a bit of hip-hop mixed with what this Mexico-based duo dubs “guerro” (Mexican for white) soul on the tantalizing, “Natural High:” “Let's not confuse infatuation with duration.” Another duo, Chicago’s Innosphere featuring Kenny Keys & Nina Rae, packs throbbing grooves with Rae’s creamy jazz-tinged vocals on “Gotta Be Me.”
Australian native and New York resident Orly gracefully balances classic soul and pop on “This Time.” Weeland & The Urban Soul Collective’s “2 of a Kind” generates that raw, sixties Daptones Record sound. The Curtis Mayfield-esque, “The Best is Yet to Come” by French producer/multi-instrumentalist Mr. President, provides an engrossing retro style video with disco dancing and car chases right out of Blaxploitation movies. “Food for Thought” by Song attempts to capture that sophisticated soul feel, and features Guru in one of his last performances. Unfortunately, his chilling jazz-timed rap gets lost within the below average hooks. Dilouya’s over-layered soundtrack to “Over the Sun” tends to overshadow Omar’s brilliant homage to another soul icon, Marvin Gaye. For the funk enthusiasts, Spain’s Venue Connection holds it down with “So Divine.”
In a slight change of pace from the soul-drenched grooves, “Morning Glow” by Holland’s Ntjam Rosie basks in a soothing Latin jazz stew. Sacha Vee from New Zealander drops some blues savvy on “Trouble,” set to roots reggae rhythms.
Mild warts and all, Sweet Soul Records delivers very compelling tracks for World Soul Collective Vol. I. And as it continues expanding its catalog for Japanese distribution, Sweet Soul just as consistently builds the appetites of soul music fans for more courses of its delectable soulful menu. Recommended.
By Peggy Oliver