The past few years have seen a resurgence of soul and R&B. We’ve seen bands good (Sharon Jones & the Dap-Tones), bad (the Pipettes) and even confused (Amy Winehouse). We’ve even had the reemergence of a couple of legends – Al Green & Solomon Burke – to remind us how it’s done right.
Just when I was starting to get a hangover (pun intended), two albums captivated my attention.
ROCKFERRY, by DUFFY
It’s been a real treat watching Duffy conquer the charts and airwaves, first in the UK and now in the US. Her Rockferry is a delightful breath of fresh air, lush and melodic, charming and intoxicating. as charming as it is and intoxicating. You’ve no doubt heard Mercy by now, the stirring groove the introduces her luxurious voice. Yet that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Rockferry is bursting with extravagant 1960’s-style pop arrangements, all constructed to showcase the angelic and silky
That’s a fine introduction to the treasures within. Rockferry is bursting with extravagant 1960’s-style pop arrangements, all constructed to showcase Duffy’s luxurious voice. “Warwick Avenue” starts as a quiet ballad but is builds into an opulent string-enriched conclusion as Duffy defiantly sings, “You think you’re loving but you don’t love me, I want to be free.” Album closer “Distant Dreamer” blends qualities reminiscent of the Drifter’s “There Goes My Baby” with an ornate string-laden chorus that channels ABBA. Syrup & Honey, a slow burning blues-based ballad, is perhaps the best showcase for her voice. Backed primarily by a restrained solo electric guitar, Duffy’s rich vibrato provides the extra burst of emotion as she pleads to her lover to “spend your time on me.”
ROLL WITH YOU, by ELI “PAPERBOY” REED & THE TRUE LOVES
Imagine your glee upon finding a stack of old R&B 45s hidden in your attic or basement. Maybe Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” is on top, along with Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World”/Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of my Tears” and Otis Redding’s “Mr. Pitiful.” You’ll feel the same sensation when you hear Roll With You, the latest release from Eli “Paperboy” Reed & the True Loves.
All you have to do is see titles like “Doin’ the Boom Boom” and you know you’re in for something special/to know that these guys take their R&B seriously. Then when you hear the music you’ll know that these 20-somethings from Boston have captured the greatest of R&B sounds in a bottle.
“Take My Love With You” is about as potent a song as you’ll hear this year. The bobbing beat of the baritone sax and the interplay between the various horns and guitar is downright dazzling. The horns also light up “The Satisfier” with a smokin’ groove.
And that leads back to the Paperboy. Although he shines on ballads with a style reminiscent of Sam Cooke, you know that he really loves is to let loose with soul shouters in the vein of Otis Redding or any number of Mississippi juke joint legends.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.