A nostalgic listen of swinging soulful tunes.
Mike Diver 2010
If the name’s familiar, but you can’t put any faces to it, fret not as the same thing happened here until a little ‘net searching pulled up answers. Perhaps Real Love will ring some bells? It’s here again, a new version closing out this new 11-track album, but the track originally surfaced in 1991, when Drizabone (Driza Bone at the time) were without their Soul Family but nevertheless scored a hit, the song peaking at 16 in the UK chart. Subsequent releases didn’t fare quite so well, but now original member Billy Freeman returns with a collection rich with commercial potential.
Freeman knows a thing or two about encouraging his audience to move to a (gentle) beat – remixes back in the 90s included a fine-indeed re-working of Shanice’s I Love Your Smile, a UK number two – and he brings the same qualities he exhibited back when to the fore on All the Way. If the whole thing feels a little retro, tapping as it does into veins of inspiration previously mined by the likes of Jamiroquai and The Brand New Heavies, then that’s because the point is to recall said era, when acid-jazz and funk and soul collided to great effect. On their 1994 album Conspiracy Driza Bone used a selection of contributing vocalists; here, Freeman calls upon the talents of five, but the principle two are Anneka Johnson and Nataya. Both are clearly capable of leading releases of their own, should future opportunities present themselves following this hook-up.
Never Gonna Stop the Groove sets a consistent tone, both in title and sound – soulful vocals, playful percussion and fat bass are ingredients always likely to combine for a winning end product, and sure enough the constituent pieces, while fairly rudimentary if isolated, are bound with accomplished pizzazz. I Fell Apart has found its share of fans amongst radio playlisters, and it’s easy to hear why – a gently swaying intro breaks to reveal the kind of silken-toned vocal that surely can only come from a mouth within which butter wouldn’t melt. The lyrics might be schmaltzy, but with sharp strings punching through the medium-tempo backing there’s an authentic doo-wop feel to proceedings that makes for a very appealing listen.
Nothing here is challenging, and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle in the creativity/credibility stakes to modern twists on the traditional soul formula offered by the likes of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. But if it’s nostalgia you’re after, for a time when chilled sounds were served with a soulful kick rather than washed-out electronic layers, this should definitely be topping your must-buy list.