Reel People show exactly how versatile the soul genre can be with this accomplished...
Jack Smith 2003
Reel People are officially comprised of Papa Records boss Oli Lazarus, engineer Tom Davidson and Restless Soulster Mike Patto. A sneaky peek at the liner notes of their debut LP reveals, however, that this is no three-man party.
Guest producers DJ Spinna, Phil Asher, Afronaught and Seiji leap immediately off the page, pretty much guaranteeing a dope selection of beats. Live musicians like Kiwi sax-man Nathan Haines and Neville Malcolm (Horace Andy, Marlena Shaw) are equally as promising. And the choice of featured vocalists - Vanessa Freeman, Krim, Peter Nelson and Dyanna Fearon amongst others seems considered to say the least.
So what does all this mean musically? Well, "Cant Stop" - the first single to be released from Second Guess - prompted comparisons to acid-jazz stalwarts The Brand New Heavies. Though meant as a compliment, any mention of acid-jazz will doubtless scare some people away, so the first thing to point out is that it shouldn't: the soi-disant acid-jazz movement on a whole may have been a terrible, stinky thing at times, but there were some good bits too - and let's face it, BNH were one of the better ones.
In any case, "Can't Stop" along with other tracks on this album such as "Second Guess" and "Light" - revisits that older ground in a cool and phuturistic way, toughening up the sounds and creating a punchier mood that compliments the accomplished musicianship. There are noodles, yes, but nothing that would make Herbie Hancock look twice.
Around these uptempo, floor-bound jazz-outs are scattered a wealth of less euphoric songs that range confidently between sultry, rim-shot soul ("Back 2 Base"), punchy hip hop (the Spinna-produced "Positive Over Negative" and "Steppin'") and some great mid-tempo cuts (like "Washing Away").
Despite Dyanna Fearon (if her surname sounds familiar, it should: she's the niece of Galaxy star Phil Fearon) appearing on no less than five tracks, she sounds surprisingly non-ubiquitous. This is thanks to the inherent diversity of the adventure overall.
Soul music is of course the common thread, but Reel People ultimately show here how versatile that genre can be. On "Feel Free" Peter Nelson waxes spiritual over a sweet reggae beat. On the unashamedly soppy "Butterflies", Fearon wrestles with a whooshing African b-line. On "Positive Over Negative", Miami rapper Dynas lets it all hang out over a deep Spinna riddim.
Not exactly The Brand New Heavies at all then, but fantastic all the same.