Alex Wilson - ”Salsa Con Soul"

Tagged with: Cuban Fusion Latin American Salsa Alex Wilson Salsa Con Soul World Music Aquilla Fearon Naomi Phillips Elpidio Caicedo Glyn Phillips CD Review

 “Salsa Con Soul” - Alex Wilson (AWCD6; 2008)

"There’s no doubt about it, Alex Wilson has delivered an album of absolute dancefloor dynamite!"

Like a racehorse out of the gate this album leaps from the decks and delivers to the final furlong! From the first stabs and the “You’re fine, you’re fine” you know that R& B latino is not just alive, but kicking some serious butt on the dancefloors and soundsystems of the UK! Honestly, British latin bands have been quietly working away at this glorious fusion of music styles for some years now, but right at the front of the pack is Alex Wilson - without a shadow of a doubt. I might be blowing our own trumpet here, but as far as I’m concerned the rest of the world can start queuing now, because THIS is where it’s all happening!

The rhythm section of Alex Wilson on piano, Javier Fioramonti on bass, Emeris Solis on congas, Dave Pattman on timbales, bongo and hand-percussion just grab you by the …um…waist, and don’t let go at all to the closing bars of the album. As for the horns (Steve Dawson and Annette Brown on trumpets and Trevor Mires and Alistair White on trombones), there are so many good points that I can only say that collectively they’re tighter than a duck’s backside (and that’s water-tight!).

"Like a good moña this album carries on turning up the heat, piling up the pressure until you can’t take any more"

And it just seems to get better as it goes along - like a good moña this album carries on turning up the heat, piling up the pressure until you can’t take any more (although the truth is I didn’t want it to stop and just keep flipping it back to the start).

You’re Fine - one of those tracks that just screams “Get on the dancefloor!!” from the opening stabs. Sung in English (like 7 of the 10 tracks on this album.) by the wonderful Aquilla Fearon (who performed the vocals on their hit “Ain’t Nobody” from the previous album “Inglaterra”) it leaves you in no doubt that this album is going to supply some serious dance moments in the salsa clubs of the world.

Sabroson - Colombian vocalist Elpidio Caicedo is on fire on this dance floor-filler that just burns away at your head and feet; absolute salsa fever! Loving the cumbia insert too ¡Güepaaa!. It’s got one of those montuno sections that just sweeps you up and rocks you all the way; lovely piano solo too from Alex - su salsa tiene su sabrosura, sí Señor. ¡Sabrosón!

Rhythm & Life - This is the first of the long-waited-for salsa -gospel mixes. And it fires on all cylinders! With a tight instrumental salsa introduction (underpinned by Nicky Brown’s organ that hints at what’s to come), the vibe subtly changes as the gospel arrangements and gorgeous harmonies come in . . . mmmmm! And then there’s Naomi Phillips with her chocolately-rich voice - what else can I say? This tune really gets under your skin (loving that trumpet too!). Lift your hands in praise indeed!

Antonio is the only instrumental on the album and shows you what a totally in-tune rhythm section can deliver. Some people tend to skip tracks without vocals (especially DJs), but please don’t! Delivered at the kind of pace we would expect from someone like Wayne Gorbea, it’s one of those sexy, dirty, grindy, winey-winey, slow-burners with a hypnotic piano vamp, garnished with some great solos from Emeris Solis on congas and Dave Pattman on timbales. But for me it’s Alex’s solo - fingers light as a butterfly but absolutely smoking - straight into a seriously heavy piano vamp to underpin those cuero solos. Sabor! (¡y como!).

Mi Buenaventura is dedicated to one of my musical heroes Peregoyo (of Peregoyo y su Combo Vacana); but here it is given the Wilson salsa treatment (but watch out for the sneaky currulao insert) with Elpidio’s vocals sounding luxuriantly costeño and those oh-so-Colombian sounding stabs and 6/8 moñas from the horns. Drives me loco!

Stronger - a gloriously romantic ‘kutch-up-to-your-girlfriend’ kind of tune. Yeah I know it’s a gospel tune really, but the arrangement is so sensual you just know how it’s going to come across on the dancefloor . . . Beautiful vocals from Naomi Phillips float over almost Brazilian sounding backing vocals at just the right rhythm and pace that allows you to cuddle up to your other half and smoooooooooch them (whilst still dancing of course). Honestly if you’re looking for some loving tonight ask the DJ to put it on and dedicate it to that one you‘ve had your eye on for the last few weeks . . .

This Time - I luuuurve slower tunes! And yes you can dance to them - it can be more difficult but ultimately more rewarding than yet-another too-too-fast salsa. And this is another absolutely hypnotising offering - check out the charanga violins and syncopated horn figures - with vocals from Aquilla Fearon over a guajira-style tune. A glorious celebration of being in love, over a dutty, dutty, DUTTY groove.

Let’s Stay Together - This is one of those trademark Alex Wilson R&B latino tracks that just ooooooozes SOUL. It gave me goosebumps from the opening lines. There are certain songs that are almost sacrosanct and Al Green’s recordings fall into this category for me; however vocalist Naomi Phillips does the honours on this tune (inspired by Tina Turner’s version) and produces some exquisite moments! The lush orchestration is matched by Naomi’s husky, yet velvety, vocals that go from a deep ripple marbled into the essence of the tune to a nightingale soaring above the band, at times achieving an electrically-charged edge reminiscent of La India’s finest!

Memories - and it just carries on getting better! The track starts with a nice full salsa orquesta sound, but then a deceptively light but rich voice just slips over the band and takes it somewhere else completely. Wayne Ellington’s vocals invite the obvious comparison with Stevie Wonder, but let’s face it we ALL love Stevie! Works a treat for me (really enjoyed the falsetto also - and some tasty timbale work from Dave Pattman); what’s more it’s one of those that’s equally relaxing to listen to at home, but both refreshing and uplifting on the dancefloor. There are about three or four very obvious floor-fillers on this album, but you’d be foolish to ignore this one. An uplifting, jazzy soulful salsa. Loving it.

Rio de Janeiro Blue - Closing the album another slice of heaven! Aquilla really does this one justice (a cover of a Randy Crawford track); it positively glows with the soul vibe that permeates the album like a rum-soaked cake. A jazzy organ sets the tone with Aquilla Fearon’s vocalisation reminding me a little of Atlanta Rhythm Section’s version of “Spooky”. But then she starts to take it elsewhere - and you know you’re along for the ride - over some beautifully understated backing vocals. Really enjoyed the trombone solo from Alistair White as well, but could have been twice as long for my tastes. Oh well, next time... and can I just shout out to the backing vocalists on the album as a whole - Phebe Edwards, Samantha White, Paul Lee, Alfonso de Jesus and Nicky Brown - yet another class addition to this album.

So would I recommend this? What do you think?

Glyn Phillips