For many this album was the cool soundtrack to the late 80's and with good reason. Launched at a time of cheesy chart domination by messer's Stock, Aitken and Waterman, this album has certainly dated less than anything that was produced from that stable. As soon as I recall the initial crackle when the needle hits the record quickly followed by Caron Wheelers succulent vocals with a the full bass line kicking in, I am instantly transported back to the magic of those warm summer days from my youth, the recording onto cassette to play in the car, windows down (no posh aircon in those days!). At the time especially in London thanks to the Pirate stations of the day, through which I discovered Soul II Soul in the 1st place, it felt that almost every car and home, every open window had this playing out of it.
I will concede that at times this albums tight budget origins are apparent, and it is a little rough around the edges. The inclusion of a fairly average live rap track, the tracks African dance and Dance sharing the same backing track, and yes some Chic orchestral samples are blatantly used, but the strong appeal remains and that sparse honest nature is part of the appeal. Free of over production and complex techniques, this was the moment when British Soul and what became R&B found its first true voice and confidence. From this point forward, there wasn't an R&B, Acid Jazz, Garage or a British soul act that didn't in some way owe Soul II Soul a debt or two.
This album definitely deserves its place amongst what can be called classic albums. The fact that 20 years on we are still writing about it says a great deal about this albums appeal. Sometimes a classic album is not necessarily the best of its genre but the most significant or a benchmark by which others are judged. Other British soul artists may have released technically superior records or achieved longer lasting success, but Soul II Soul where those that lead the way in opening the door, and for many of us formed an indelible musical postcard in the soundtrack of our lives, and for that without reservation, 5 stars are given.