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CD Review: Café Soul All-Stars – Love pages
By Francesco Emmanuel - 01/18/2007 - 12:17 PM EST

Artist: Café Soul All
Album: Stars - Love pages
CD Review: I have in my CD player something you don’t hear everyday, or at least, if something like this did exist, it wouldn’t be picked up and praised by the media (the media is far too busy focusing on some teenage pop sensation that won’t last five years on the scene!)

What I have is a compilation album entitled Love Pages, and it is by a group of seasoned Jazz/R&B musicians, singers/songwriters and recording artists who call themselves Café Soul All-Stars. And this record is definitely about the stars, it’s a stellar production, filled with well-crafted songs and highlighted by the very best in the music biz.

The story behind Love Pages dates back to the New Orleans ‘Essence Music Festival’ in 2000. Clarence Smith, founder of Essence Magazine and CEO of YOU Entertainment enlisted musician/producer and friend, Duke Jones to recruit a band from the festival to play on a cruise ship being chartered from New Orleans to Mexico. After listening back to the nightly sessions both Smith and Jones decided that this music must be published. Duke Jones, who has been a staple in many classic R & B bands from the 70’s onwards, was given the task of assembling a line up that would bring life to this vision. And Duke certainly got the perfect line-up indeed.

Featuring George Benson, Peabo Bryson, Glenn Jones, Vesta, Maysa, Christopher Williams, Jon Lucien and Roy Ayers to name just a few, this record fills the void of what’s been missing for years, a great Soul/Jazz/R&B album. The list of great session players who comprise the All-Stars include Duke Jones – Trumpet, Chris Albert – trumpet, Bobby Lyle – keyboards, Kaspar Galli – guitar, Steve Williams – drums, Rene McLean – sax and Alex Blake – bass.

Duke also enlisted long-time friend and fellow musician/producer Norman Connors to help steer this ship to its proper course.

The group was given the name Café Soul, because in most cultures, a café is a destination point that allows diverse people to come together, relax and immerse themselves in music, without fear of conforming to commercial stereotypes or restrictions.

Check out the groove and infectious sax and horn lines on the instrumental ‘Get up on it’, (which was recorded live, second day at sea, Gulf of Mexico, July 2000) it just keeps on getting funkier and funkier. Peabo Bryson sings a rather sad song about a lost love in ‘Don’t make me cry’. Vesta sings with guts and soul in ‘One more Bridge to cross’. Maysa certainly has a great range in her singing, soaring to amazing heights that blend naturally with the musical twists of ‘I’m Changing’. ‘Urban Jungle’ has a great sax solo featuring Kenny Garrett on alto sax, look out for Roy Ayers’ work on vibes as well here. Jon Lucien has a great depth to his voice, and sings the song ‘To be with you’ with suave and finesse. George Benson closes off the album with ‘Pages’, a steady groove of a song with reflective lyrics and a bittersweet melody.

This is an album definitely geared towards R&B lovers, those who know good music when they hear it. It is full of groove, melody, smooth vocal harmonies and superb horn lines. It is something that has been lacking at the forefront of music charts these last ten years or so, an album filled with great music, performed by music professionals. Hopefully with its release, we can begin to see more albums of this caliber rise up the charts.

Love Pages was executive produced by Clarence O. Smith, alongside with album producers Duke Jones and Norman Connors.

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