Quantic / Alice Russell / Quantic & His Combo Bárbaro

Look Around the Corner

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On paper, it's an amazing idea: get British retro-soul diva Alice Russell into the studio with her compatriot and fellow legend of old-school grooves Quantic, and see what happens. To some degree, the results are delightfully predictable: Quantic is great at putting together vintage funk and Latin musical concepts and recording them in such a way that you have to double-check to make sure the tracks weren't laid down 40 years ago. And at its best, this album draws on classic sounds and arrangements but creates something new and wonderful with them. The horns (and flute) on "Magdalena" perfectly complement Russell's powerful voice, "Travelling Song" is a gorgeous piece of minor-key soul, and "I'd Cry" is a similarly lovely romantic plea in a Latin-soul style. When the album isn't at its best, though, it falls prey to the temptation of sonic verisimilitude, as if what made 1960s soul music great was the fact that drums tended to be poorly miked ("Look Around the Corner") and pianos not always perfectly tuned ("I'll Keep My Light in My Window"). More serious, though, is the fundamental artistic mismatch that gradually becomes clear: Russell's powerhouse voice is not used to best advantage on the lightly dancing Latin-soul grooves that are Quantic's strength, and so on a number of tracks it sounds as if she's a racehorse being kept to a trot. That's not enough to keep this from being a very good album, but it prevents it from being a great one.

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