The one who could arguably be the maestro of the Smooth Jazz genre these days is back and not only that but finally, Paul Hardcastle does a major turn and goes down a very experimental road with new sounds, new keyboard effects and new styles that almost completely leave his more New Age-like older albums behind. Could this perhaps be the beginning of a new Hardcastle? Perhaps or perhaps not but one things for certain, "Hardcastle 4" is a welcome new turn in Paul's music. I was very pleasantly surprised at the new sounds that dominate this new album of his.
A major new surprise however is his daughter Maxine taking the vocal podium this time around on three tracks on this CD. While they do sometimes have a bit of a adolescent lyrical tone to them, the three tracks "Smooth Jazz is Bumpin", "Was It Love" and "Where Are You Now" are awesome with a Capital A! "Smooth Jazz is Bumpin" is a wonderful and awesome song with Maxine as vocalist and for a teenager, she can SING! I never thought I could say this for an under-20 year old singer but Maxine has finally done it! Britney, Janet, Christina, Take note of this! While it's too early to tell, I could say that "Smooth Jazz Is Bumpin" is one of the most innovative smooth jazz anthems that I've heard in years! "Was It Love" is another wonderful groovy song that is a future Hardcastle classic!
Even on the non-vocal tracks, Paul Hardcastle 4 is a big departure from his 2002 "Hardcastle 3". "Serene" and "Freefall" are examples of a wonderful departure from his trademark sound and less of the New Age sounds of songs like "Zen Warrior" or "First Light" from the third Hardcastle outing. Some of the New Age sounds are occasionally heard on this album. If you're familiar with "Jazzmasters 4" you will notice that track 8, "Eastern Winds" is a reworking and perhaps a replacement of "Voice of The Angels". The songs begin with the familiar growling voices in the beginning. But "Eastern Winds" to me anyways is much superior and longer than the latter. "Voice of The Angels" sometimes suffers from being way too short at just over 3 minutes but "Eastern Winds" is longer and allows for more enjoyment of the track. Overall, this is arguably my favorite non-vocal track on this entire album. The song has a beautiful, twilight mood and a beautiful melody backed by the wonderful rhythm. The `final' track "Journey Of The Lost Tribes" is the most un-Hardcastle like song that Paul has ever composed and the greatest departure from his older music. The song has a strong tribal atmosphere and almost evokes images of going through a tropical jungle on a misty afternoon.
That said this album, like a previous reviewer said, does get stymied by being a little on the short side. Sometimes the tracks fade out too soon just as I'm enjoying them and it gives a sense of a plateau but still overall, this album is just wonderful and makes me wonder of this is the dawning of a new Paul Hardcastle! If you were expecting more of the same New Age sound of his old stuff, THINK AGAIN! If you were looking for another "First Light", or another "The Only One", or even another "Joker's Wild (Smooth Jazz Mix)" THINK AGAIN! This is a new sound altogether! For those who were yearning for something new altogether and tired of his trademark sound, you are going to love this CD! I guarantee it! Highly recommended!