Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

FULL FLAVA: FLAVA-FULL SOUL

Rob Derbyshire (Full Flava)
Rob Derbyshire (Full Flava)

'Music Is Our Way Of Life', the aptly-titled third album from Birmingham`s Full Flava, sees the Midlands-based production unit lovingly revisiting the heyday of soul and disco via some excellent new treatments of dancefloor classics.

Ranging from international smashes-of-the-day like Earth, Wind & Fire`s 'September' and Change`s 'The Glow Of Love, to more obscure 80's floor-fillers like Jenny Burton`s 'Bad Habit' or Sharon Brown`s 'I Specialize In Love'. Indeed, the combination of Rob Derbyshire`s sterling production work with a highly-impressive line-up of female vocalists from both sides of the Atlantic (ranging from globally-acclaimed Chicago divas Ce Ce Peniston and Chantay Savage to such seasoned UK soulstresses as Beverlei Brown, Donna Gardier and Joy Rose) creates a consistently-uplifting 11-track modern soul room delight. As Full Flava`s soft-spoken man-behind-the-boards - the aforementioned Mr. Derbyshire - explains to `B&S` from his home studio.

âThe idea basically started with me coming across some of those old tracks, thinking they still sounded great and that it would be nice to re-record them with a more modern treatmentâ, begins Rob in mild West-Midlands tones: âThe most important thing for me personally was not to lose the original feel, which was really good. So - with recording techniques having developed sonically since the originals were made - the main idea was to try and keep all the really good elements of those old records, while at the same time giving them more of a modern-day punch. So with each individual track we sorta broke down the original, worked out all the parts that were going on - guitar/bass/piano - and then started to reconstruct it from there while looking for areas where we could add, say, a bit more oomph to the bass-drum and more overall tightness to the sound. Which actually turned out to be very educational. Because you not only start to realise why certain elements worked so well then, but also why they still work well now.â

Meanwhile, in terms of the album`s many guest singers, Rob understandably refuses to name any particular favourite: âEach individual vocalist has a different feel, and they all bring something completely different to the tableâ, he insists: âI do think, personality-wise, the Americans do open up a little bit more and put more performance into their singing. Like with Chantay (Savage) you get a lot of light and shade, a real sense of drama and intensity. While Ce Ce (Peniston) just has that real feelgood, spiritual sound in her voice. But then, on the other hand, I also feel the English girls can add subtleties that are sometimes a bit overlooked by the Americans. Beverlei (Brown), for example, has that beautiful, sweet tone and a lovely way of phrasing; while Donna Gardier has a very unique-sounding voice, which to me is very UK, very `London-soul`. So vocally, while there may be slight differences in the approach, you do ultimately get good things from both sides of The Atlantic.â

With Rob having started playing keyboards professionally at 17, he later went on to tour with Edwin Starr for the 12 years leading up to said soul legend`s death in 2003. Which is when his writing/production work took over full-time: âI used to do a lot of co-writing with a chap called Westley Jones, who used to write for Beverley Knightâ, he reflects: âAnd, when it came to a point where there were several songs we hadn`t found homes for, we actually got some vocalists in and started recording them ourselves - which eventually became the first Full Flava album ('Chinese Whispers'). Then, with Westley dipping out of the equation to do other things, for the second album ('Colour Of My Soul') I ended up co-writing and co-producing with a chap called Solomon Mullings. But, with Solomon also going off to do other stuff, production-wise this latest album ended up being mainly all me! And so far the response has been amazing! We`re already in the Top 20 R&B download chart in most European countries. And, with the initial signs being so exciting, this time - if the demand is there and depending on the singers` availability - we might even go out and perform live!â

The single 'Too Much Too Late feat Dee Johnson' is released June 11. The album 'Music Is Our Way Of Life' is out now, both through Dome.
Words PETE LEWIS

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