Category: Album Reviews

There are three things that come to mind as I reach for the keyboard to review this or any other project involving the wonderfully gifted Luther Vandross. The first is the sense of privilege attached to doing it – a sense of doing something not many people get the opportunity to do, yet at the same time knowing that there isn’t really that much you can say that’s new to his many legions of fans the world over. The second thing that comes to mind is the sense of duty to do ‘a proper job’ of it and not get into unlimited, unabashed gushing and praise singing, bordering on the realm of hero-worship. However, since I’m also firmly of the belief in giving credit where credit is due, the final thought that comes to mind is that it would be ok to gush unapologetically where such gushing praise is required and….well….not do very much else, really! Plus, I would not be the first to tread that particular path.

There were two other poignant issues at hand at the time of writing this piece, which also added to the sense of occasion, for this writer at least. The first of those was that for all the influence and love that Luther had generated throughout his immense career, this was his first ever live album release. The second, which ties in with the first somewhat, is that he was on the road to recovery from an illness, a decapitating stroke suffered in 2003, following which his record label and family saw fit to put together this project for posterity and to commemorate his gradual recovery. In many respects, for this writer, there is always that sense of companionship inherent in every listen, at once as if Luther never fell ill, but also as if he had given this project to his fans and to the world, to keep them fulfilled until he could return to full fitness and perform once again.

OK, let the gushing praise commence! Where does one start exactly? The beginning would probably be a good place. The project kicks off with the evergreen “Never Too Much”, a song on which you’re made to feel welcome, as if listening to a friend and not just any old song! Luther is welcoming you to the party! You’re made to feel nothing is ‘ever too much’ to do for you. This is followed by oh-so-melodic “Here And Now”. Majestic is the word that comes to mind on the first and every subsequent listen – from Luther himself to his seasoned backing vocalists. The tone is set and you know you’re in for the ride of your life. The trend continues on “Take You Out” – what I deem to be the perfect Valentine’s song, lyrically and in tone. Something else strikes you at this point. There are not the usual ‘live album’ gimmicks here, no shortened tracks to quicken the pace and get through the set with minimal damage done. What you get are the songs themselves and in extended format. Cue his immaculate rendition of “Love Won’t Let Me Wait”, immediately followed by “Superstar”, all 13 minutes+ of it and one of many crowd-favourites, featuring an inspired mid-session piano solo by long-time musical director Nat Adderley Jr.

Every band member is on fire on this project and there’s no let up in pace and quality! “Stop To Love” is followed by the beautiful “If Only For One Night”. Stevie’s evergreen “Creepin” is at once memorable for his backing singers’ 19-straight mentions of the word ‘creep’. They pass every test Luther throws at them in flying colours! Nothing seems ‘ever too much’ for this classy bunch of performers. On almost every song, you get the impression of an artist at the height of his powers – the Michelangelo of ‘Sophistisoul’. Truly a timeless artist with a timeless sound and a timeless voice. One of the most influential of his generation. The list goes on. I’m sure you get the picture. Nothing you haven’t heard before.

Have I started gushing yet? If so, there’s only one reason for it. That’s because I am witnessing a “pure celebration” on this album. Luther himself leads that celebration and that is what makes the experience unique. Masterful performances, song after song and that’s the order of the night. It is a pure celebration of the human voice and it’s one that goes beyond lyrics. I hear that celebration within every note. The impression is that he not only knows the notes and utters them, but that he also respects them, cares for them and hopes that you do the same in hearing and experiencing the different pictures and landscapes he paints with them. A true artist in his element.

And still more quality to come. “I’d Rather” features more vocal acrobatics and outstanding harmonies in background singing that just leaves you speechless! It’s followed closely by another crowd-favourite “A House Is Not A Home” on which Luther again excels with another rousing performance. What’s new? The album closes out with a joyous version of the original Change hit “The Glow Of Love”, a song on which the listener can actually hear the happiness in the singers’ voices and you want to get up and start dancing. It’s a joyous farewell of “till we meet again” proportions and it’s obvious that the audience share that sentiment. As the song comes to an end and the audience joins in, you can’t help feeling they’re “…enraptured in the glow of loooove”. And how true.

I once read an article about Frankie Beverly of Maze falling badly ill after a seminal performance in London many years ago. You get that impression on this project too – as if Luther will probably need a holiday afterwards, such is his total input into every song, every note, right to the very last note of every song! You find yourself at once smiling and shaking your head in wonderful amazement – as if an angel had taken on flesh and started to sing! Then you begin to understand those who insist that for them, listening to music is a spiritual, life-affirming experience! At moments like these, you come close to understanding what they mean exactly. And that will be one of Luther’s legacies to soul music and to the world. In truth, an album every man, woman and child on the planet should own and undoubtedly worthy of a place in every music collection.

Now, if you don’t already possess this album, what are you waiting for?


Re-Introducing Stokley!

Stokley Williams is a super talented and critically acclaimed vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and all-round musician, who specialises in versatile and meticulously crafted vocal stylings. As the former front man of the seminal RnB group, Mint Condition, and now a solo artist, Stokley does not disappoint on his first solo album titled “Introducing Stokley”, which was released in 2016. Boasting a successful career spanning over three decades and several critically acclaimed albums with Mint Condition, this artist never misses a beat with his smooth vocals and versatile delivery. “Introducing Stokley” is rich full of evergreen romantic ballads harking back to the halcyon era of the soulful 70’s, as well as dynamic and funky uptempo jams that would light up any modern dancefloor.

More recently, 2021 brought us his eagerly awaited second album titled: “Sankofa”, which came on the heels of a relatively quiet period of activity due to the global Covid lockdown – a period during which Stokley was able to share part of the creative process of curating the album with a few privileged fans and friends via his Twitch TV online channel. There, his profile reads simply: “Drum beater, Vocal slinger & Sonic healer. Not DJin’ but MeJayin’ music from around the world and around the way. A place to chill, heal and virtual fellowship. Colorful sonic therapy for the everyday grind. All I love & wanna share. Welcome, Enjoy.”

His Twitch channel experience is truly one of virtual musical fellowship as described, and as experienced first hand during the global lockdown. “Sankofa” as the end result, further demonstrates his growth as an artist while featuring several impressive guest performers including the rapper Wale (Café), H.E.R. (Rush), Shakespeare! (Clouds), Snoop Dogg (Vibrant) and The Bonfyre (Cascade).

To sample some of that good musical experience and fellowship, you can find Stokley here:

D Black Messiah……


It’s all about the voice. The voice and vocal rendition itself becomes the lyric! It’s taken me about fourteen days to really work it out for myself, even though I received some inspiration some days ago from one of the many reviews I read on Facebook about Black Messiah, which was written by one of his fellow artists. I think it was Cleveland Watkiss (but I forget now and it doesn’t really matter). Whoever it was explained that the sometimes fruitless efforts by some to decipher every sound or word that he utters is placing an emphasis on the wrong thing. Some have complained that he needs to demonstrate better diction, but they miss the point completely. I thought that before today, but I really get it now. And I have done that without once feeling the need to pore over the many lyric sheets that are doing the rounds on Facebook and other social media. It’s all about what he is doing with his voice! The polyrythmic and layered soundwaves that the listener experiences aurally through D’s voice become the lyric itself! Trying in vain and failing to always hear the specific words and making instant sense of them is the wrong emphasis to place on the experience!

So with that in mind, just this morning I heard Ain’t That Easy, 1000 Deaths, The Charade and Sugar Daddy in an even different light from the past two weeks…and that was a welcome surprise, even for someone who prides himself on “getting it” from day one. It brought my enjoyment of the album to a whole new level that I did not think possible even two or three days ago! It also allowed me to hear the voice of Kendra Foster even more clearly on The Charade. More clearly than I had listened for it in the preceding weeks…and that is the joy of the musical experience. I for one am glad that a few artists like D are doing this to us, making us work that little bit more and dig that little bit deeper than the rest of the music industry conglomerate would generally like the masses to do.

I once wrote a paper (during completion of a postgraduate degree) on Communication Theory and one of the interesting components of the paper was the relationship between all of the elements that constitute the process of communication from giver to receiver. I wrote about the communication experience that takes place with the use of the talking drum in the African experience. The talking drum being the medium through which the messages are processed and communicated. The different tones and rises and falls of the pitch are the vibrations that hit the ears and soul of the listener and through which meaning is conveyed. In D’s case, on some of his songs, his voice becomes the lyric itself. The celebration of his vocal rendition. Like listening on two different levels…because there are those many songs where you also hear the words themselves that more clearly. It all makes for a richer musically enjoyable experience. I also wrote on someone’s Facebook page only yesterday that Anthony Hamilton and Angie Stone will have to bring their A-game to the next world tour with D, because he harmonises so superbly on practically all of his vocal runs. It is just such a beautiful thing to experience and one that they no doubt enjoy. They’ve already been there and done that with him – and they will simply have to do it again – if they are to measure up to the task at hand.

Born with an unusual name that is eclipsed only by her talent, Yewande (pronounced Yay-wán-day) has been recognized as one of the most sought after independent artists in the world. When she first burst onto the music scene in 2004, her socially charged brand of Alternative  Soul won over a legion of fans and critics alike. The release of her debut EP “Evolution” (Lotus Records, 2005) quickly led to appearances on MTV, BET and a coveted debut at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Performances with the likes of the Black Eyed Peas, Enrique Iglesias, Maroon 5 and Sean Paul followed soon after as she earned countless international songwriting awards, headlined concerts from the college circuit to Europe and Africa, and walked red carpets with the “who’s who of Hollywood”. But in a business that thrives upon conformity, Yewande began to question whether she would ever fulfill her greatest dream through the music industry — to change the world. And the music simply  stopped.


During a nearly 5 year hiatus from the recording industry, not only did Yewande pursue her dream, she ignited a one woman movement across the globe and she’s back to tell us stories of that journey on her highly anticipated recording, “Rebirth” (Phoenix Records/Lotus Records, Summer 2010). Her messages still unapologetically speak truths about issues that many artists shy away from — poverty, war, race, love — and with powerhouse vocals that harken back to the days of Tina Turner and Pat Benatar, she’ll make you a believer! Much like her progressive contemporaries – Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Seal, Kina, Black Eyed Peas, Outkast – Yewande’s music continues to defy genres. “Life is colored with so many emotions — joy, loss, struggle, triumph,” she explains. “My music is simply a reflection of that raw human thing we all share! It’s not about Black emotion, not White emotion, Homosexual or Heterosexual…I want to write music that touches everyone!” One part storyteller, two parts kick ass live music backed by Angie Stone’s band, Soultron, the angst of Rock, a dash of Hip-Hop and a whole lot of Soul, “Rebirth” is a welcomed departure from formula driven artistry that so often trumps innovation. Her bold, new sound reflects the journey of a lioness who’s been patiently waiting to capture her prey. The target is aimed squarely at your heart and based on early response, will undoubtedly land in heavy rotation on your mP3.


The world has come to know Yewande as far more than a singer-songwriter but an award-winning lecturer and passionate humanitarian. While touring the U. S. college circuit, Yewande began to observe an alarming trend among students. After nearly every concert, she was overwhelmed with questions about identity, discrimination, violence and other deeply personal issues they seemed eager to reveal. Why her? “I guess somehow they thought I’d be more empathetic because of the topics I sing about. They just needed someone to tell them things would get better.” In 2005, Yewande responded to this urgent outpouring by launching a series of programs ( that promote tolerance, leadership and social justice. Today, her programs (“Best Diversity Event”, “Best Solo Artist”, “Top 20 Campus Programs”, “Top 10 Hot New Acts”) have reached over 40,000 students across the globe. And with the upcoming launch of her Change Rocks Youth Ambassadors student activism project and college tour, disciples of the MTV generation are beginning to harness their own power to change the world. When this University of Sheffield (Sheffield, UK) Ethnomusicology grad student isn’t rocking the stage or addressing lecture
halls, her humanitarian organization ( is furthering the dreams of some of the world’s most vulnerable children. While headlining the Lake of Stars Festival in Malawi, Africa in 2006, Yewande began teaching AIDS orphans in the local villages where she witnessed miraculous transformations using music to teach AIDS prevention and sustainable skills. Today, participants from Africa to the Americas are beating the odds one song at a time. Recognized as an honorary United States Cultural Ambassador for her commitment to music and social change, listeners may wonder what inspires this artist turned lecturer and activist. Is it her love for music or simply the destiny of a little girl with a dream? A legion of fans already know that it is likely Yewande’s Yoruba birth name, which means “reincarnation of mother”, that foretold her story long before this journey even began. They’re just glad she’s back to give them what they’ve been waiting to hear.

Hello good people, I’m going to have to throw away my objective reviewer’s hat for the next half hour or so, as I once again bask in the soulful glow of this wonderful album that was released back in 2005 – and you’re going to have to forgive me for doing so! I’m going to allow myself the luxury of waxing lyrical like never before, first because I love this project for all the right reasons and second because the music is that good and deserves glowing praise.

Metropolis! Metropolis! Metropolis! What a beautiful album!

The brainchild and debut release of super-producer Dee Majek, former CEO of Mapp Records USA and a good personal friend of yours truly, “The Voyage” is exactly what is says – a true voyage back to the good old days of quality soul and R&B music from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, but with a very contemporary twist. It’s the album you would have expected Eric Benet to release as a follow-up to “A Day In The Life”. It is choc-full of grooves, dance-floor jams, beautiful mid-tempo burners, without a single filler track in sight, out of the 19 or so tracks that make up the album. Unlike a lot of sets that tend to fold after about 6 or 7 songs, the very high quality of the music is maintained throughout. A rare feat these days on the R&B music scene!

The timing of release of such a good album could not have been better for the group at the time, as Metropolis could have stepped into a large vacuum created by the absence of quality male soul “groups”, except for a few exceptions like Mint Condition, Boyz II Men and perhaps Jermaine Dupri protégés, Jagged Edge. There are so many tracks to choose from, and selecting a personal favourite becomes a nigh-on impossible task. But if my hand was twisted, I’d have to list ‘Soul Train’, ‘Lovin’ You’, ‘Drunk Love’, ‘Found You’ and the list goes on. The pace is slowed down a tad towards the end, as the album closes off nicely with the Marvin-influenced ‘Time Of Your Life’, the chilled ballad ‘Watching You’ and the 80’s sounding ‘Be My Girl’. Without question, one of the classic forgotten R&B albums of the year 2005.

Now, if this album has no pride of place in your collection so far, do yourself a favour and hunt it down!