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Soul Love 2014 - Soul Lives!,
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This review is from: Reel People Present: Soul Love 2014 (Audio CD)
For many Soul music fans the name 'Reel People' is regarded as an immediate indication of quality, with the label issuing a number of quality driven 12" remixes which often seek to fuse a house driven sensibility with R&B and soulful vocals. The release of 'Soul Love 2014' sees the issuing of a compilation boldly designed, '[...] about moving forward; about distinguishing itself from the overload of compilations treading the same old soul cliches'. The question is, does 'Soul Love 2014' manage such a feat?
In the first instance let it be noted that the compilation has been issued across a number of formats, with significant changes seen between the CD album (14 tracks), the digital download (24 unmixed tracks and a DJ Spinna mix), a single album download (without the DJ Spinna mix) and, to frustrate vinyl fans, two limited edition vinyl sampler 7" singles of tracks from the album issued for the 2014 Record Store Day (19/04/2014). For this review I will concentrate on the 24 track unmixed digital download, making suitable adjustments where necessary.
The album opens with 'Treat You' by Omar (Featuring Caron Wheeler), taken from his most recent album. Fans of Omar will immediately recognise this as having been one of the strongest tracks from that set, featuring two of the the UK's most established soul stars. 'Liquid Love' by Chris Turner opens strongly in the manner of Marvin Gaye style scat vocals over a Jazz influenced intro, before the bass enters to produce a strong groove. This is a track issued in a least two versions, one featuring the production input of The Stuyvesants, the other (included here) by Steve Mckie and Chris Turner. 'Money' by Lady is a lovely little song featuring the vocals of Nicole Monique Wray, who sings sweetly over a 1960s inspired bright and soft soul groove, of the type particularly popular with Radio 2 and the commercial sensibilities of the 'Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show'. 'Summertime Anthem' features Eric Roberson (Featuring Chubb Rock) delivering, as ever, a solid performance in a song likely to appeal to listeners of a certain age, especially given the references made by Rock in his rap. 'Take Off The Blues' by The Foreign Exchange originally appeared in 2008 on the album 'Leave It All Behind', tellingly it does not sound out of place here.
'Spotlight' is a highlight, featuring the vocals of Tony Momrelle, whilst 'Don't Give It Up' by AAries (sisters Ayana and Ayinke Hipps) is (subjectively) one of the instant 'stand out' tunes to be found here, the type of track that invades your musical consciousness and then refuses to leave). 'You Got That Magic' by Chaz Shepherd is delivered by a man clearly influenced by the earlier male soul greats, happy to sing over a relatively sparse musical accompaniment. 'Love Galore' by Debra Debs fits within the style that emerged in the mid 1990s, whilst 'We Are On The Move' Zo! (Featuring Eric Roberson) was an immediate favourite with modern soul fans, offering an 80s styled dancer which opens up wonderfully towards the end. Other highlights include 'Colour Of Love' by The Layabouts, featuring a suitably soulful delivery by Portia Monique. If you like this make sure you buy the album 'Future Retro'. In a similar vein the track 'The Party After' by the South African band Muzart is featured here in an edited version of the 'Reel People Remix'. The only criticism here is that the edit negates the space required to allow the song to develop and expand, and listeners are strongly urged to seek out the extended mix.
So. Do you buy?
There is no doubting the fact that as a compilation it manages to 'stick to the brief', delivering 24 tracks which prove that soul music is still being made, new music entirely aware and comfortable with the fantastic tradition from which it stems. The production production values heard across all are generally good, with a a particular emphasis on melding soul, the groove and melody. The vocal performances are all fine, with no trace of the unnecessary vocal histrionics that pervades much commercially driven R&B and Soul music. In musical terms this is undoubtedly and deservedly likely to feature in many 'end of year' nomination lists for the best Soul / R&B compilation for 2014.
But. The decisions regarding the marketing of this compilation mean that in order to own the entire unmixed release the purchaser must choose the digital release - which may, or may not, come packaged with the DJ Spinna mix. The CD release features only 14 tracks and, to add insult to injury, has been issued in a single cardboard sleeve with very little else included - yet is being widely sold at a premium price higher than the digital release. At the time of writing the album has not been issued on vinyl, although this may change in the future. This type of operation is becoming increasingly common and may well be motivated by considerations of cost, but for those wanting to own a 'tangible' product this is a poor deal indeed. To make matters worse the CD does not appear to be playable universally in all CD players - perhaps hinting at cost cutting in CD sourcing or manufacturing too.
So. The musical compilation is a very easy 8.5/10, but please be aware of the issues surrounding this release.