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Oct 26th

Soul Symphony bona fide goods, proof of Sounds musical longevity

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Seems just about every time you turn around there's another next-big-thing in the music business. And most, on arrival, don't stick around long. They flash in the pan and that, basically, is all she wrote. Seems just about every time you turn around there's another next-big-thing in the music business. And most, on arrival, don't stick around long. They flash in the pan and that, basically, is all she wrote. The fatal common flaw: major labels habitually hype an act half to death, spending a ton on promotion to get the artist(s) debut album off the ground and in your CD player -- then don't invest a dime to ensure first-rate songs for subsequent releases.

Word to the wise (i.e. sensible aspirants): come with bonafide goods and keep stepping out on the proverbial good foot. Point in case, Sounds of Blackness rise to, and profoundly sustain, prominence by being fodder for the music industry's chew-'em-up-and-spit-'em-out dream-machine. This enduring entity not only has remained successful since it's 1990 recording debut The Evolution of Gospel -Perspective/A&M, but, to this day, definitively prevails and, for good measure, is accredited with having revived the gospel music genre. Sounds of Blackness' time-trusted backbone is the powerful performance of strong material. We're talking three Grammy Awards, two Billboard chart-topping singles ("Optimistic", "Hold On") and a 1995 Soul Train Music Award.

Their newest, Soul Symphony (Sound Of Blackness Records) slams like a sledgehammer ringing on steel. Be your taste inspired gospel, original rhythm-and-blues, scatting jazz, greasy fatback sounds or anything in-between (a taste of Hip Hop included), Soul Symphony has you covered better than hot blankets on a cold night. Produced by founder/director Gary Hines, Billy Steele and Levi Seacer, except for Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" and Allen Toussaint's "Yes We Can Can" all the songs are written by members of Sounds of Blackness

The album's first single "Don't You Ever Give Up" has scorched past Billboard's and Radio & Records Top 30 charts. Composed by Steele and Seacer, blood-hounds and radar won't find a better melding of melody and chords to lyrics this side of famed Motown team Holland, Dozier and Holland. Crystal-clear, refreshingly emotive vocalists Steele, Yulanda Lunn and Darius Ewing take you back to what it was like before computer-enhanced vocals. These aural magicians break bad -- strong and sweet -- straight from the diaphragm.

Seacer, Hines, F. Darnell Davis, Andrea Tribitt got together and came up with "Heaven On Earth", thump-bumping testament to the power of personal peace on which Lunn truly raises a joyful, uplifting noise. "Trouble Is My Home" brings serious, Chicago-style blues bad as the worst luck you ever had. It's one of them sorrowful songs that just won't leave you alone. And which you just can't wait to hear again.

Few balladeers of the genre have with more heart-wrenching immediacy than does Terrence Frierson. There's Larry Williams doing "That's My Girl", Buddy Miles wailing on "Sunny" and pretty much every song Luther Allison ever sang. Frierson's evocative delivery of Seacer and Robert Ashmun's compelling lament takes everyone within earshot all the way down home. The man sings so good it's almost scary. It by no means sells the Pointer Sisters short to admit Sounds Of Blackness does "Yes We Can Can" to a fine turn. Grits don't cook on a griddle any better than ace vocalists Carrie Harrington and company work out on this ragtime jaunt. "Tears In Heaven," the Eric Clapton-Will Jennings staple gets classic treatment. Featured guest Ron Winans joins Ewing and Harrington in a disquietingly effective cover of Clapton's memorial to his son's tragic death. Suffice to say this is one CD you're going to pick up: either on your own or after you
 

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