Family Vision Care

Careful

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Family Vision Care is the curiously awful name of the duo of American-born soul singer Gary Harrison and German producer and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Berghaus, whose second album Careful is an impressive achievement that many critics and fans would consider conceptually doomed from the beginning. On their MySpace page and elsewhere, Harrison and Berghaus make it clear that their primary musical inspiration is the Style Council, Paul Weller's 1983-1990 experiment in fusing political themes to Northern soul music. (They've even been known to cover the Style Council hit "My Ever Changing Moods" in concert.) However, many fans of both the Jam and Weller's subsequent solo work consider the Style Council years an abomination, a rather unfair blanket condemnation that overlooks the many genuinely fine pop-soul hits and jazzy stylistic experiments that Weller and his musical partner Mick Talbot got up to in that underrated band. So despite the big stumbling block Family Vision Care have placed before themselves in the eyes of the too school for school types, Careful stands or falls on how well it stands up to its inspirations. And much like the Style Council themselves, it's a pretty hit or miss affair, but the high points are high indeed. The album throws a fake-out at the very beginning, with a rather weak hip-hop-influenced remix of "Silent Souls," a song that appears as a far superior soul-jazz groove later on the album. There's also simply no need for a cover of Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music," that's way too faithful to the original. But instrumentals like the vibes-heavy "Footprint" and the self-explanatory "Ingo's Funk," a salute to the organ-driven grooves Talbot brought to the Style Council party, are pretty boss. The heart of the album, however, is in the several songs featuring Harrison's fine Curtis Mayfield-inspired vocals, and they range from entirely adequate to genuinely great, with the brief acoustic ballad "Doo Wop Girl," the impassioned soul of the title track and the swirling, shimmering pop of "Dancing with Marvin" particularly standing out. Taken song for song, Careful is actually better at being the Style Council than a couple of the later Style Council records were!

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