Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Smoove & Turrell: Sitting On Top Of The World

Smoove & Turrell PHOTO: Ian West
Smoove & Turrell PHOTO: Ian West Smoove & Turrell PHOTO: Ian West Smoove & Turrell PHOTO: Ian West Smoove & Turrell PHOTO: Ian West

Last year, Gordie funk and soul heroes Smoove & Turrell celebrated 10-years of giving the people exactly what they want, releasing their outstanding Jalapeno Records catalogue "best of" complication, "Solid Brass". Not tempted to sit back and bask in their vast array of previously glories, the dynamic duo and their fellow fine-tune making cohorts return this month with yet another set of well crafted musical must-haves which in-turn, sees the band evolve the Smoove & Turrell sound yet again. New album "Stratus Bleu", now there's a title not to be sniffed at, gives off a distantly 90's dance-influenced odour with more than a hint of Chicago house strings and pads, mixed with the uber-chilled joss stick filled electronica and vibe of Ibiza's while isle. That said, it's an album which still retains the band's original identity via John Turrell's world-class soul-drenched vocal and Steven "Smoove" Moore's unmistakable on-point production.

As I write this "Stratus Bleu" is already snowballing down a steep slope of appreciation, gathering exceptional social media comment at an unstoppable rate and gathering even more momentum from their ever devoted following, tastemakers and trendsetters alike. You would never guess from their chirpy exterior if they were at all worried about the risks taken on this album, instead, you are met with an endearing confidence, a refreshing desire to entertain and a very welcome down-to-earth view which ground the pair perfectly - in this day and age of manufactured and regurgitated style and sound, it's great to see a band who were prepared to dig in for the long-haul from the start, stick to their guns with authentic material and not be bothered one iota about trend. Today, Smoove & Turrell are a band with a real identity who their fans both relate to and appreciate in equal measure. O and not forgetting, they can also bang out a tune! I was lucky enough to catch-up with both Smoove and Turrell recently via a COVID-19 lockdown resulting Zoom call and with the new album, 3 single releases and of course, keyboard surfing bandmate Mike Porter on the agenda so you can imagine, there was plenty to talk about!

But, before I elaborate on what we spoke about, I just wanted to mention the band's impressive list of long players we have been graced with since their incarnation in 2009 when they released their now freshly re-released "Antique Soul" album. Fans from not just the UK but from all over Europe, including France, Holland and Germany will know the Smoove & Turrell catalogue/soundtrack to their lives this last decade o-so-well but for those who may be not aware, I would advise you to go in search of the lot and wrap your ears around each and every one of them. The band's 6 studio albums, in 11 years, are the already mentioned "Antique Soul" plus "Eccentric Audio" (2011), "Broken Toys" (2014), "Crown Posada", "Mount Pleasant" (2018) and today's "Stratos Bleu".

Onto my interview and for the sake of continuity, my first question has to be regarding their album's moniker, "Stratos Bleu”, as they reply in unison, "it's always a double-barrelled name!" As you notice above, such are the diverse album names, you couldn't run a book on guessing any of their names before they are announced, unless maybe you were recently in Amsterdam, as Turrell recalls the nucleus of the thinking behind both album name and it's contents "we were thinking about going more dance… it wasn't dance now, it's dance when we were young. Our era of finding Detroit house or finding that Chicago house sound or disco…you know, when you get the buzz when you were about 19/18 and you walk into a club and a French house tune comes on and blows your fucking mind! It was all about that era, a time when you're pinching your dad's aftershave when you go out so you're more of a man so you can get into the clubs." Remembering the band's trip, Turrell continues " I was talking to one of my best friends who lives in Amsterdam now, he was the top guy at Spotify, Johnny Foster, and I said to him, your dad used to wear Blue Stratos all the time didn't he and Johnny was pissing himself laughing…. So I went across to Amsterdam and I had bought him, his brother and his mate a bottle of Blue Stratos. It's like, 12 quid a bottle. That night we got mortal (doesn't sound like the band! Lol), after the gig we went out and we got absolutely stinking but no matter where we were we were splashing the Blue Stratos on before we went into the bar and anyone from the street that was coming into the bar, had to splash the Blue Stratos on if they wanted to come in! There was like a cloud of Blue Stratos - a Blue Stratosphere! [laughing] From that night we started joking about it all the time and we started watching the TV adverts for Blue Stratos and how cool the guys were and that's what the artworks all about".

Talking of album artwork, John's brother Jimmy Turrell is the undeniably talented graphic artist who is responsible for the "Stratos Bleu” album cover with its '80s pop art influence mixed with the machismo of the, often moustached, '70s model type hunks who pepper (spice up! Lol) the cover, the record's centre and the inside of the gatefold album. It's certainly one of this year's more distinct covers and is bang-on the album's "Blue Stratos/Stratos Bleu" remit, as Turrell gives us the lowdown on the latest eye-catching Smoove & Turrell artwork "it's Jimmy, he's a genius! He's worked with the Chemical Brothers, he's worked with Beck, he's worked with The Prodigy…" Smoove gives more details on imagery "it was all about his outrageous hair really, that's what it was. The rest of the album has got that sort of hairdressers, Y-fronts, horrible tashes and hairy chests…when men were men! [laughs]

The album “Stratos Bleu” and latest single “This Time” are both out Jalapeno Records.

Also, look out for remix announcements from Ashley Beadle, Steve Cobby (Fila Brazillia), Steve Cocky, Hot Toddy (Crazy P), Smalley and disco’s finest, Ray Mang.

You can read more from B&S Editor Lee Tyler's exclusive cover interview with Smoove & Turell, including more on latest album "Stratos Bleu", the hattrick of single releases already taken from this release and the talented twosome's unified respect for fellow founding band member, key playing showman, Mike Porter. All in the latest issue of Blues & Soul magazine - click the 'BUY NOW' link below to order straight from the B&S shop or read on for high street retailer details...

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