SINGLE REVIEW: Soulsville by Happy Curmudgeons

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Happy Curmudgeons are a rock/pop band with shades of folk, blues and country hailing from Bloomfield Hills in Michigan. Their debut album and musical journey to get there has had a lengthy gestation period.

In the 1980’s singer/songwriter and guitarist Dave Hamilton was in a band called the Angel-Headed Hipsters and met none other than Velvet Underground legend Lou Reed who told him he was a great songwriter and to stick at it. Many years later the band were formed with Jeff Warner on guitar and Amy Dixon-Lavery on additional vocals. Recently, I gave a stellar review to their album, Meant To Be, which you can read here.

This track, Soulsville, is taken from that album and makes an apposite choice as a single release. It’s an upbeat rock track based around an instantly infectious bluesy guitar riff, which starts out the song. Backed by the excellent rhythm section of Rick Beamon on drums and Takashi Iio on bass, the band hit a strong groove before Dave Hamilton’s assured and authentic vocals complete the sonic picture, his vocal delivery lying halfway between Neil Young and Lou Reed.

The song was originally inspired by seeing the Grateful Dead perform in Chicago and it’s essentially a love letter to that city’s vibrant music scene, the Soulsville in question, as captured by the opening lines: “There’s a place that I know, somewhere to go…I like to hang around….downtown is the place.”. The spirited energy of the music perfectly mirrors the lyrical subject matter with Beamon and Iio interlocking with Hamilton’s crunchy chords and driving riffage.

The second verse depicts the Chicago strip where all the music happens: “See it move with style, the strip’s for miles….lights the night on fire….”. After this the music really explodes with a colourful burst of saxophone played by guest musician Jeff Tabaloff. His mellifluous sax playing adds to the soulful musical vibrancy and he’s allowed free rein with an extended solo that showcases his skills. This leads into a succinct guitar solo before the final verse rounds off the track nicely.

Overall, this is an excellent single release from Happy Curmudgeons that highlights the strength of Dave Hamilton’s songwriting and the synergistic musicianship of his gifted band members. It’s old school rock ‘n roll but with a refreshing energy and vibe that is missing from so much of today’s synthetic chart music. For anyone searching for new music that’s authentic, catchy and colourful look no further than Soulsville.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: A Broken Beast by William Ben Brooks

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http://www.WilliamBenBrooks.com

William Ben Brooks is a singer and songwriter originally from southern Oklahoma and now based in Brooklyn, New York. His music is a blend of folk, rock, blues and country, essentially Americana, though also tinged with touches of soul and gospel.

His music has appeared on prime time shows like How I Met Your Mother and The Late Show with David Letterman, along with several film credits, numerous accolades and awards for his songwriting.

This album, A Broken Beast, consists of 14 songs and features a stellar cast of Grammy and Emmy award winning musicians including Catherine Russell (David Bowie, Steely Dan), Janie Barnett (Linda Rondstadt, Rickie Lee Jones), Ms. Nicki Richards (Madonna), multi-Emmy winner Robbie Kondor (Eric Clapton, Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel) and Jon Gordon (Suzanne Vega, Madonna) on guitars and bass, amongst others.

The album gets off to a strong start with the five minute upbeat rock of And I Heard. Starting with earthy, country tinged lead guitar it breaks out into a strident rock groove with a biting guitar riff. Breaking down to strummed acoustic guitar for the verse, William’s warm and charismatic vocals take centre stage. His vocal style is both edgy and easy on the ear, delivered with passion and conviction, lying halfway between Bob Dylan and Neil Young.

Musically, it is furthered enriched by warm organ and a cluster of gospel-tinged female backing harmonies on the hook, “I won’t know…”. Lyrically, it’s about the possibility of a relationship with a potential femme fatale as captured by the evocative, Cohen-esque opening lines: “And I heard that you were wild like an unleashed feral child, with all your lovers stacked and piled…”.

Blindside shows the more Cat Stevens folk-influenced side to his songwriting. Over delicately picked acoustic guitar, Brooks delivers an enigmatic lyric that offers glimpses into a dark emotional situation: “How could you bring us to this place? And not even show your face…”.

As the song progresses it builds into a powerfully epic rock track augmented by cellos playing in a taut, rhythmic fashion as well as more soulful female backing vocals. The contrasting dynamics between the different sections is highly effective and it’s another excellent piece of work.

Remedy displays his more bluesy side, built around a simple, strutting groove, smoky clavinet and subtle guitars. It’s one of the album’s most instant and catchy songs with its infectious title hook and easy to relate to lyrics, devoted to a special someone who makes it all worthwhile: “I can hit the wall, I can take the fall, I can bear it all cause I love you…”. A fun and funky track that could really open some doors, commercially speaking.

You and Me is slightly different once again, this one rooted in a country sound and style. It brings back the organ and sharp lead guitar lines of the first track and features and great call and response vocal section with his ever present female backing singers, who are an integral part of his signature sound. The title hook is memorable once more and it’s well crafted as always.

The Beauty Of It All is another fine showcase for his compositional skills, this one a tender and poignant piano ballad featuring an emotive and affecting vocal performance from Brooks. It’s about choosing to find beauty in all the lows as well as the highs in a romantic relationship: “I recall every trip and fall, every bliss, large and small, every twist and turn, every soothe and burn but I choose to see the beauty of it all….”.

Sweet, Safe and Sound continues in a similar vein, this one recalling Bruce Springsteen in its vocal delivery and powerful poetic imagery: “Either it’s love or its hate, maybe it’s God or it’s fate, it’s all just a gift or a curse, it’s the front or the back of the hearse”.

Seventh track It Is What It Is stands out as a real highlight, an upbeat Addicted To Love-style rocker where his band cook up an incredible energy. William’s vocals combine with his backing singers on the chorus to great effect and the guitar solo is exquisitely crafted. It’s about truly enjoying the moment you’re experiencing and the joyous vibe of the music mirrors this sentiment perfectly.

Worst Case Scenario Number 139 is one of the lighter hearted songs on the album, bringing to mind the playful tone of Randy Newman. It features some great barrelhouse piano and bluesy bursts of harmonica. Too Many Fields takes us back into the realms of folk, with a Stairway to Heaven-style intro. It’s perhaps the heaviest song lyrically, portraying the horror of both slavery and war: “Beaten down by the sun and whip…..buried deep in the trench and the smoke”. A very affecting and poignant track that shows his considerable artistic range.

Saved Me for Last is another that plucks at the heartstrings, a delicate piano ballad with an intimate vocal performance. It finds him in a dark place after a relationship has ended badly: “Just confusion with no conclusion to this hell you threw me in….”

Too Soon is my personal favourite on the album, a fast paced rocker driven by a fearsome guitar riff, courtesy of Jon Gordon (who also contributes bass). It’s a duet of sorts, featuring some fantastic call and response sections with Catherine Russell, whose soulful high register tone provides the perfect counterpoint to Brook’s earthy delivery. A storming track.

We Ain’t Going Anywhere is very much in keeping with his signature style, a mid-paced folk-tinged rock song, though lyrically it is something of an outsider anthem for anyone who is regarded as a little different: “Well, we know you pray that we just go away cause you don’t like what we do or say….”. The vocal arrangement is particularly strong on this one, with a memorable title hook.

In This Room is a haunting acoustic folk ballad based on a descending chord sequence. It was co-written with the best selling author Julia Cameron, who wrote The Artist’s Way. It’s a beautifully crafted song that captures the essence of deep and transformative moments in life: “Dreams change hands here forever, lips are sealed here forever, hearts are broken open here forever….”.

The album closes with another moving ballad, Lisa’s Lullaby, that feels like an outpouring of emotion and love for the person in question. The backing harmonies are positively angelic. The final verse conveys the depth of his emotion and need to provide comfort: “And if you should find yourself frightened from the monsters that all of us fear, I will fill your ears with love songs till we both know the coast is clear…”. The way he sings the final words (“Please…just listen to me”) is a powerful and poignant way to complete the album’s emotional journey.

Overall, A Broken Beast is an album that captures William Ben Brooks at the height of his artistic powers. Equally adept at writing and performing both gritty rock tracks and the gentlest of acoustic ballads, his songs run the gamut of life’s vicissitudes and one comes away with a new perspective on what it means to be human. And that, ultimately, is the measure of art and an artist. Highly recommended.

 

VERDICT = 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Bittersweet by Mason Roberts

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Mason Roberts is a singer and songwriter currently based in Kalamazoo, MI. His music is essentially emotive pop in the style of James Blunt but with an electronica/EDM aspect to his sound, akin to James Blake. As a vocalist, he has been compared to Josh Groban and Michael Bublé, amongst others. He has released several EPs before this one including Big City, Naturally and Come Home Tonight along with the recent singles 2 Close, Open Wide and Emotionless.

This EP, Bittersweet, consists of four tracks and begins strongly with the title track. Starting with a haunting acoustic guitar melody, Mason’s highly distinctive vocal style emerges along with a simple but effective beat which then develops into a more intricate EDM rhythm. Mason gives an affecting, memorable vocal performance often near the top of his considerable range. The contrast between the delicate melodies and more strident beat makes for a very effective dichotomy.

It’s on the second track though where Mason truly gets to shine vocally. Shattered begins in a similarly understated way to Bittersweet, similar in style to an artist like Sam Smith, then starts to build to an epic chorus where Mason’s rich vibrato comes to the fore. The power of the vocals is matched by the strength of the vocal melody and the combined effect is breathtaking, especially the extended high note on the line “Make me whole again…”.

Burn maintains his signature sound of EDM-infused pop, this one even featuring a snare roll and riser before the chorus. Once again, the vocals excel and the “Let me go” hook sticks fast in the memory. The balance between well crafted songwriting and a slick modern arrangement/production style is very skilfully managed, making it cutting edge whilst having strong traditional elements.

The final track is an acoustic version of Bittersweet and the intimacy of this version allows the beauty of the vocal melody and lyrics to make more impact. It will be up to listeners to decide which version they prefer, but both have their merits.

Overall, this is a very strong EP from a singer songwriter blessed with an exceptional voice. The standard of the songwriting matches the quality of the vocals and the infusion of EDM elements gives it a decidedly modern appeal. It’s surely only a matter of time before the world catches on to the brilliant talent of Mason Roberts and perhaps this is the EP that kicks down the door.

 

VERDICT= 9.1 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

 

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Achmelvich 1 by Fake Teak

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https://www.facebook.com/faketeak/

Fake Teak are a four-piece alternative rock band based in London. The group was originally the musical brainchild of lead vocalist and bass player Andrew Wyld, evolving eventually into a range of musicians with eclectic styles and tastes. They belong to a rich lineage of left field, alternative artists and you can hear the influence of groups like Roxy Music, The Teardrop Explodes, Talking Heads and Sparks, along with more modern influences like Hot Chip, Vampire Weekend and LCD Soundsystem. I gave a very positive review to their eponymous debut album which you can read here.

The genesis of this EP, Achmelvich 1, is based on a band ritual where every summer they spend a week in the Highlands of Scotland, which affords the seclusion and lack of distractions to concentrate on their music. This EP is the first fruit of their labours, with more EPs to follow.

This one consists of three tracks each written by a different member of the group. The first song on the EP is Panel Beater, written and sung by guitarist Alastair Nicholls. The key elements of the Fake Teak signature style are in place; Andrea Adriano’s alt. disco drumming interlocking with Andrew Wyld’s pumping bassline and taut, angular but melodic guitar lines mingling with Jo Wyld’s vintage synths.

Perhaps what is different on this EP is a more serious lyrical approach after the playfulness and dry humour that often characterised their debut album. It’s about those who are determined to defy the aging process and rectify what they see as imperfections: “You could not accept something used, you saw rust and wanted to make it gleam like new… but the character was removed…”.

It’s the sort of highly relevant subject that you never hear anyone write about in the mainstream and it’s dealt with sensitively through the use of metaphor, the catchy chorus running, “Panel beater, put the mallet down, you want a pristine body but it’s nowhere to be found…”. It’s a very well crafted song and perfectly executed in terms of arrangement and production.

The second song, Prufrock, is equally serious and thought provoking in its content, this one partly inspired by the classic T.S. Eliot poem The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock. Written and sung by Jo Wyld, it’s a very poignant description of a man who buries his emotions and leads a lonely life as the result. Beginning with a solemn snare roll pattern, the lyrics depict a self-inflicted miserable existence: “He buttons up his shirt and buttons up his heart, ready to face a day that’s the same as all the others….”.

The melancholy, sparse musical backdrop perfectly mirrors the emotional isolation portrayed and actually manages to be more moving than the poem it was based on, achieving an Eleanor Rigby-level of poignancy by the end. Fans of that poem will note the lines quoted and seamlessly incorporated into the narrative.

The following Carousel maintains the musically minimalist approach, this one written by drummer/producer Andrea Adriano. It’s based around a haunting keyboard melody and an understated vocal lead, the verses bringing to mind the desolate synth-based soundscapes of Joy Division’s Closer or David Bowie’s Low.

On the choruses the music becomes more expansive and Jo Wyld joins in on vocals, providing an effective dynamic. The lyrics are once again contemplative, trying to make sense of life’s journey, as captured succinctly in the quietly powerful chorus: “Try to keep my toes to the ground as we go around, surely there is an axis to be found as we go around….”.

Overall, this is another highly accomplished release from one of Britain’s little known musical gems. This EP sees them progressing to a more serious place lyrically, with three very intelligent and different perspectives on the human condition. Having all members creatively contributing and performing vocals gives them a varied sound, yet every song is unmistakably Fake Teak. Highly recommended, once again.

 

VERDICT: 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

 

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E.P. REVIEW: Bodhi by Apollo Soul

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Apollo Soul is the artistic moniker of Taylor Doerfler, a singer/songwriter, rapper, mix engineer and producer from Buffalo, NY. Having previously collaborated with other artists and producers, he made the decision in 2018 to set out on his own path. Since that decision he has been very prolific, releasing Scattered Thoughts Vol. 1 then the albums Reborn, Apologies, Roses and 2019’s XCIV.

This EP, Bodhi, consists of four tracks. The EP opens with the hard hitting Xo, which starts with a delicate guitar figure before Apollo Soul’s compelling vocals and lyrical narrative grab your attention. He depicts someone in the throes of drug addiction with stark yet poetic imagery: “She got that ice in the mouth like a diamond veneer…“. From here the track develops into a cutting edge EDM track which showcases his skills as both singer and rapper, proving equally adept at both.

On My Grind is more upbeat, an anthemic EDM/rap track with an instantly memorable chorus: “I’ve been on my grind, trying to define this winding road inside my mind“. It features some incendiary fast flowing rapping on the verses that give the music an exhilarating feel and on this one in particular he sets out his stall as an extremely eloquent rapper with a breathtaking delivery. Combined with the poppy hook, it adds up to perfect material for a single.

Same Old You is again based on a recurring guitar line, a simple bedrock for Apollo to lay down some more rapid fire rhymes. It has another “reality check” vibe to the lyrics, as summed up succinctly by the title hook: “You got the same city with the same friends…you got the same problems as the old you“. Once again, with its radio friendly sound and catchy hook, it would make a good choice as a single.

Purple Rain is not a cover of the Prince classic but another entertaining ode to the hedonistic side of life: “Last night I woke up on the pavement“. This one is driven by crunchy, funky guitar which works with the infectious beat and the EDM sound of the rest of the track. Although the tone is decidedly upbeat once again, Apollo Soul doesn’t shy away from the dark side of excess: “What you hate most you come and do again“. A very fine way to finish.

Overall, this is a brilliant EP that maintains a high degree of lyrical and musical quality across the four tracks. Apollo Soul has honed his skills as singer, rapper, writer and producer to perfection and most importantly his music is completely fitting with the current zeitgeist. With material as good as this, I can see him being hailed as the next Mackelmore and hopefully he achieves similar success.

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Journey Home by Monica Ortiz

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https://www.facebook.com/monicaortizmusic/

Monica Ortiz is a country/pop/adult contemporary singer and songwriter. Ever since she was a child she’s had a very strong relationship with music and felt the desire to express herself creatively from an early age. This debut album Journey Home, which consists of nine songs, is the end result of her musical journey so far and features a number of collaborators and guest performances. She has co-written several songs with Charlie Lowell from Jars of Clay and there’s vocal contributions from Matthew Koziol and the McCrary sisters.

The album starts with the poignant piano ballad The Woman I Became. It acts as a fine showcase for Monica’s crystalline vocals and emotive, inspiring songwriting approach. It’s a style that was known in the 1970’s as “confessional”, where full and open expression of feelings was paramount. The opening lines paint a touching picture of parental love: “When I was little you said it would be hard, you sat me down and warned me of future scars….”.

Monica’s delicate and sensitive vocal performance in a high register perfectly expresses the lyrics that depict the difficult process of growing up, of a girl growing into a woman and standing on her own two feet. Aside from a fine piano arrangement, the song features strings which add to the emotional effect, especially on the moving and memorable chorus. A very strong opening song and one co-written with Charlie Lowell.

The second track Burn Out is a mid-paced country-tinged pop song written by Matt Odmark from Jars of Clay and Heather Bond. Monica very much makes it her own, delivering another fine performance that brought to mind Shania Twain’s country ballads. The musicianship and production is absolutely flawless with slick backing harmonies augmenting Monica’s lead vocal.

The following Pigtails, which is similar style musically and lyrically, is a plea to a partner to allow her to fully be herself and not try to control her, (“Just let me dance to my music, let me drum to my song”) a subject that many will be able to relate to. It features some lovely instrumental touches from the strummed acoustic guitar to some tasteful, creamy sounding slide guitar interspersed throughout. Once again, the backing harmonies enrich the vocals at various points to great effect.

On My Side is altogether different, an upbeat pop track with a reggae-tinged rhythm and a vocal from Monica in the highest part of her considerable range, bringing to mind Cyndi Lauper or Kate Bush circa Wuthering Heights. The melody is instantly infectious with the funky guitar adding to the catchiness. The beat is mostly in half time but cleverly switches to straight 4/4 and the whole arrangement is full of rhythmic invention. That’s something the discerning listener will enjoy, but this song’s huge commercial appeal is in its addictive lead melody. A definite contender as a single release.

Bring Me Home is a return to the emotive piano ballad style of the opening song. It’s on this kind of song that Monica gets to excel as a singer, and here she gives an enchanting performance. Lyrically, it’s about needing someone to show emotional support.

This Time is a little different, this one a country pop song that opens with a fine fiddle part. It’s a duet performed with Matthew Koziol and Matthew takes the lead on the opening verse. Monica joins in on the excellent chorus, their contrasting voices blending and complementing each other perfectly. She then takes the second verse giving a nice ‘yin yang’ vibe to the song, and lyrically it’s a positive affirmation about giving a relationship another go.

The Mirror is both a melancholy country ballad and an empowering, uplifting anthem. It’s about a woman who has reached the end of her tether while in an unhappy relationship and decides to leave, as captured succinctly in the superb singalong chorus: “She can’t take it anymore, her suitcase sitting by the door….she won’t back down”. Another potential single.

Let Me Be There is more emotionally straightforward and musically a toe-tapping country rock song that has an authentic, roots vibe. This song is actually a cover version of an Olivia Newton John which was originally released on an album in 1973. It’s traditional country at its finest, featuring a sweet lyric about wanting to be in someone’s life. The subtle low male vocals on the chorus are a nice touch as is the rich Hammond organ which adds to the instrumental texture.

The album closes aptly with one final piano ballad where Monica once again gets to shine, vocally. Backed by plaintive piano and evocative strings, she is eventually joined by the gospel-tinged vocals of the McCrary Sisters whose contribution lends the song an uplifting, highly spiritual quality. Lyrically, it’s particularly moving, about losing a loved one: “A forced goodbye when heaven can’t wait….”. It’s a fitting end to an album that, as the title implies, takes the listener on an emotional journey.

Overall, this is a very fine collection of country pop songs that allow Monica Ortiz to showcase her skills as both singer and songwriter. Her different collaborators bring variety yet there’s also a sense of cohesion and musical unity. With a flawlessly produced sound and several potential singles, Monica Ortiz has everything it takes to break through to the big time.

 

VERDICT= 8.8 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Strange Dreams by Charles Robinson

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Charles Robinson is a recording artist, composer, pianist and alto saxophone player based in Texas. He was exposed to a wide array of musical styles and genres in his youth and this eclectic range of influences is reflected in his music. Just some of his artistic inspirations include John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Prince, Chick Corea, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix, amongst many others.

After attending Alcorn State University where he studied piano/saxophone and marched with the world renowned Sounds of Dynamite marching band, he went on to serve in the military as well as serve as musical director for several religious organizations. He released his debut album , The Golden Ratio, in 2018.

This album, Strange Dreams, consists of thirteen instrumental tracks. It starts out with the intense Bel, which is driven by a brooding, circular bassline that draws you in and underpins the whole track. The drums start out as very jazzy before breaking out into an insistent full beat, over which Charles runs riot with his virtuosic, smoky Rhodes playing. Aside from this is a subtle use of synths, which adds to the atmosphere and subtle mystical vibe. The style is certainly heavily jazz-influenced but Charles explores various kinds of jazz fusion across the course of the album, and this is a great opener.

The second track Supermoon is more traditionally jazz with another recurring bass figure, this one on double bass. The atmospheric synths linger in the background and  there are no drums, allowing Charles to weave an intoxicating spell with some superb piano playing that covers the length of the keyboard. His mellifluous flair is not to be underestimated, with not only his skill but the way he always structures his playing in a melodious fashion, never just virtuosity for its own sake.

The following In Your Face! is a return to the electric piano-led sound of the first track and again features a moody, repeating bass motif, though only in certain sections as it gets more expansive in others. The most surprising aspect of the track is the crisp, funky breakbeat that Charles might find hip hop artists want to sample. Aside from some more wonderful echo-drenched Rhodes, there are brief passages of flute (or at least a convincing flute-sounding synth!) which adds to the instrumental texture. One of the album highlights for me.

Soul Dance takes us somewhere else, this one built upon a bed of infectious, exotic world music percussion which cooks up a tasty groove, full of nuance and intricacies. Again, Charles mesmerizes you with some blissed out electric piano work. The surprises keep on coming with Elysian Fields, which is essentially a drum and bass track set at a rapid tempo. The busy drums and bass, along with pulsing EDM style synths, is contrasted with the mellow jazz piano playing and the dichotomy creates an effective tension. The bassline is particularly good on this one.

Turbulence is one the album’s epics at nearly six minutes long, this one based around a simple but effective beat and driven by low-end Stevie Wonder-style synth that is allowed time to grow and breathe, musically. Heaven’s Gate is even more laid back, built on a hypnotic, tranquil groove. As you can tell from the titles and alluded to earlier, there’s a strong mystical, spiritual vibe to his music which is something he shares with one of his musical heroes, John Coltrane. The music throughout has a transcendent quality that takes the listener to some far out places, and this aptly named track is no exception.

Soul Moon Trap is one of the album’s finest moments with a gorgeous piano melody that Herbie Hancock would have been proud of. A pulsing, ostinato bassline holds it together over a slinky bossa nova beat. Robinson’s piano playing here is exceptional. Mercury Retrograde stands out for its complex, angular electronic rhythm full of triplets and syncopations and some more fine piano work.

Parachute is wild, a frenetic rollercoaster ride of a track featuring a hugely infectious beat and bassline which provides the bedrock for some extraordinary piano and synth combinations. This is a remarkable fusion of jazz, soul and hip hop like nothing else you’ll have heard.

The Journey is one of the most unusual tracks and finds Robinson at his most mystical sounding. It’s one of the epics at a shade under six minutes and as the title suggests, takes the listener on an expansive sonic journey. Some sections sound relatively conventional but there’s some strikingly unexpected chord changes that make you feel you’re floating in the ether.

Next comes the title track and again the title is apposite. Robinson conjures up a mesmerising soundscape with a cavernous, powerful beat allied to a loping, understated bassline. A swirl of synths weave in and out, along with some more stellar passages on the piano.

The closing Morning Light (For Hendrix) is a lovely way to finish. As the title obviously suggests, it’s dedicated to the genius of Jimi Hendrix. Set to a lilting, low key groove Robinson takes a back seat and provides supporting Rhodes, allowing his guest guitarist to let rip with some versatile and inventive electric jazz guitar. Listen out for the passage where the guitar and bass play a complicated line in tandem, simply stunning musicianship and it ends things on a high note, literally.

Overall, this is a fascinating jazz fusion odyssey by a versatile, highly imaginative musician and composer. Taking jazz and fusing it successfully with soul, hip hop and rock is no mean feat and Charles Robinson performs this balancing act with some style. Completely at ease on his primary instruments, he also balances his considerable virtuosity with melodic craft so that it never descends into jazz noodling. There’s not a dud track on the whole album and Strange Dreams deserves to be recognised as jazz fusion of the highest quality.

 

VERDICT = 9.1 out of 10           

Alex Faulkner

 

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