Giant Step

Every time I hear grumblings about the death of Giant Steps, they keep popping up. All R&B fans who feel abandoned by corporate soul should rejoice at this latest resurrection. We poor fools who haven’t quite reconciled ourselves to the replacement of Al Green with Jagged Edge need a champion, and this label’s willing to be our paladin. The sword and shield of soul could not be in better hands.

Soulsessions is an international neo-soul hybrid, a brilliant mixture of sounds that all fit under the R&B umbrella without being homogenized. Like the early funksters, everybody has their own unique style that contains a whole lotta soul.

Ultra Nat=E8 kicks off the compilation with the sublime “Twisted” (and all I thought she was was a bubble gum dance diva — I stand corrected). Atlanta’s Donnie (India.Arie used to open for him) sheds his Donny Hathaway incantations to deliver the sanguine “Our New National Anthem.” Joe Clausell provides a nice, subtle d&b remix of Herbie Hancock and Chaka Khan’s “The Essence,” which ends in an exhaustive, Brazil beat percussion jam. N’Dambi sounds like a female D’Angelo (or is that Prince?) on “Call Me.” Jody Watley coos a dreamy seduction on “Saturday Night Experience.” The ubiquitous Koop/Terry Callier “In A Heartbeat” shows up here — and for good reason, it’s a great song. Imani Uzuri is simply a powerhouse to listen for. Atlanta’s Seek (Big up, Billy!) glides in with “Ever After.” Nickodemus & Osiris bring in Si*Se’s Carol C. for the exquisite “Mariposa.” And Shawn Lee ends the disc with an airy groove, “Happiness.”

It’s hard to say if any of these names or styles will ever hit the mainstream. You’d have to ask Tommy Mattola about that. And, if you’re an R&B fan, you’ll have to ask yourself why you don’t have this disc. Because you need it.

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