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James Day – Song, Soul & Spirit

Posted by April Galenzoski on 2017/07/31

I admit to a deep affection and affinity for the classic soul sound. Whether it originated and emanated from Detroit, Memphis, Philadelphia, Chicago or any other R'n'B musical epicentre, the names behind it are indelibly inscribed in the annals of music. While much of today's version of R’n’B music can be described as an evolution of the pioneer sounds, not much of it captures or articulates the essence of its predecessor.

However, what is a more direct link to the past is the neo soul sound that is increasingly popular in R’n’B and jazz circles. Add to the list the name James Day to artists and groups whose music and passion directly co-relates to the rhythmic vibe of yesterday, on his new album Song, Soul, & Spirit. Day's sophomore album carries over from his smash debut Repertoire, and to say he gets a little helping hand along the way would be a major understatement. The songwriter and producer is joined by the remarkable and revered talent of Tony Terry, Glenn Jones, Grammy winner Lalah Hathaway, Paula Cole, Trina Broussard, Cheryl ‘Pepsii’ Riley, among others, and in addition to contemporary jazz stars Lin Rountree, U-Nam, Walter Beasley, and newcomers Groove LTD. This collaborative and cool consortium of talent adds up to a unique, refreshing, and positive mix of songs with a visit to old skool class.

Speak Love begins the experience of Song, Soul & Spirit featuring Jones, U-Nam, and Rountree and initiates the positive elements of the album, speaking a universal message of co-operation and acceptance and what can be reaped if we embrace peace. Battlegrounds begins with military drum beat, but quickly transitions into a smooth and gentle melody on this inspirational social anthem, accompanied by the riveting voice of Cheryl Riley and an impactful gospel style choir that brings brilliant ambience to the message.

Renowned soul vocalist Tine Broussard steals the mic on It’s All Divine (Boogie Back Mix) with her unrelenting and highly polished smoothness over rhythmic divinity and striking saxophone solo by Joe Cunningham, and amplified by the guitar of U-Nam and backup vocals of Tim Owen. Love Is My Bible is a fast paced track with a definitive Motown-era vibe. The baritone sax has energetic punch, and the lead vocals are backed up by the soulful synchronicity and the trifecta talent of Audrey Wheeler-Downing, Sandra St. Victor, and Karen Bernod, the beloved and revered background vocalists of Chaka Khan. Groove LTD (the collaboration of U-Nam and wife Shannon Kennedy) joins in the party on the throwback track. In a very tender spot on the album, 5 time Grammy winner Lalah Hathaway lends her stirring voice on Dreamland, written and sung from a parental point of view in a sweet lullaby style and praising the gift of child rearing.

Song, Soul & Spirit is creative, imaginative and all around visually conceptual with Day and his enormously talented and carefully chosen supporting cast. It’s thought provoking, yet not esoteric, and as he explained when asked just what the work embodies. Says Day, “This album is my SOUL expressed in SONG about universal spiritual principals”.

What I extract from the album is the message of peace, togetherness, love and understanding, underscored with finely written, performed, and produced neo soul groove. The world could use more of that, and the musical world could use more of the messengers that are James Day and company.

Reviewed by Stu Berketo
On-Air Host


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