Popular soul crooner Charles Wilson follows up his successful Delmark label CD If Hearts Were Nickels with this first effort for Severn Records, showcasing his smooth-as-glass voice with a big band and strings. More commercially oriented but retaining a retro style, Wilson sounds like the seasoned veteran he is, with the horns adding class to the proceedings while the strings tastefully avoid dominating the backdrop, all arranged by the legendary Willie Henderson. As the nephew of Little Milton, Wilson cannot help but sound very much like him, but also is a parallel to many other Stax, Motown, and Philly soul singers of yesteryear. If you are a fan of Joe Tex, Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, or his hero Tyrone Davis, you'll easily enjoy Wilson. Young Monster Mike Welch adds his expertise on the electric guitar, as does the versatile keyboardist Benjie Porecki, and bass guitarist/songwriter Steve Gomes. Wilson does not write any of these tunes, but taps from a wide array of songsmiths well-known in and out of traditional rhythm & blues. Denise LaSalle's tribute to Milton, "Somebody's Tears," is the closest track to pure, downhearted blues with Porecki's organ setting the reflective pace, the title track is rendered in a vexed, wah-wah Mayfield/Superfly style, and "I Don't Want to Take a Chance" really brings home the time capsule retro sound of Davis à la his huge hit "Turn Back the Hands of Time." Gomes contributes three songs; the much slower soul tune "Someone Must Have Taught You," the funkiest track "Put Something into It," with a typical bassline à la the Eddie Harris soul-jazz icon "Listen Here," and the upbeat "I Want to Shout About It," elevated in pace and hope by Wilson's confident singing and the instrumental complement. It might be surprising for Bob Marley fans to hear a version of "Is This Love?," but it always made for a more pure soul tune than reggae, as rendered here in a bluesier vein. With a certain level of sophistication and a refined approach more interested in basics than shouting out, Charles Wilson delivers a learned, professional approach to contemporary R&B. It's a easily accessible style, always firmly grounded in tried-and-true proven formulas that brought the music to the world in the first place.
Troubled Child Review
by Michael G. Nastos