Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Quantic & Alice Russell with the Combo Barbaro : Look Around The Corner

Quantic & Alice Russell with the Combo Barbaro: Look Around The Corner



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UK release date 02.04.2012

Things that make you go mmmmmm.................Tiramisu, spring flowers, rainbows, Man Utd winning trophies, the smell of bed linen fresh off the washing line, children laughing, sunsets over the sea, hot soup on a winter’s day, photographs of lost loved ones, a surprise windfall when there are bills to pay, hugs, kisses, a bit of the other ……………………………………..Quantic and Alice Russell.

The Brit’ pair is responsible for some beautiful music, together and as individual artists. They are responsible for one of the best tracks I have heard in light years: “Look Around The Corner.” The title track of their new CD and the first single, creating a huge stir on the global airwaves. Essential listening. Breath-taking. My track of this year so far.

It is lush. It is retro. It is sexy. It oozes charm and sophistication. Soul with a capital 'S,' and a very chilled out vibe. It harks back to the days of The 5th Dimension and the musical Hair. The production is to die for. Alice’s voice is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. She’s the Baileys Häagen-Dazs of singers! Totally mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. (There I go again!)

This amazing track is the without doubt the very best cut on the whole 14-track album. That is not to say the rest is not worth a listen, because it is all classy, classy stuff. But the title track is exceptional and a real work of art. They made a rod for their own back there, and set the bar very high. It is an epic.

The first full collaborative album from musical soul mates Quantic and Alice Russell, recorded over a four year period, with Alice’s vocals done in two separate sessions in that four-year window. Alice taking two trips to Columbia, where Quantic aka Will Holland, has lived and worked at his studio there since 2007.

The tracks feature Quantic's amazing Combo Barbaro, the core band. We get lashings of Alice Russell's soulful, dreamy vocals and Quantic's production genius - providing big string sections, spine-tingling harmonies, and indelible hooks. Music to melt, to inspire and to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.The record features Alice’s regular London-based strings guru, who joined them in Colombia. That air fare was a great investment, trust me.

Quantic and Alice Russell infuse a Latin undertone with soul, rather like the soul records made in Miami and New York in the '70s. Chicago's Chess label was a key influence on the production aesthetic, and a mutual love of Minnie Riperton infected the vocal side of things.

It opens with the wonderful title track, then “Here Again,” which to me is a bit of a mess. The backing vocals seem to clash somewhat with Alice’s lead, making it an uneasy listen, and the whole track seems a bit too busy. No flow. No hook. A let down after the glorious first track.

But “Travelling Song” makes amends, with a Bacharach-David “Walk On By” vibe. It’s lovely. Alice delivers a sweet black soul vocal, putting me in mind of early Aretha. There are lush strings and a clever distorted violin solo. “Magdalena” gives us a dose of Latino meets Motown meets Carole King.

The soul classic “I’ll Keep My Light In The Window,” again shows Alice at her very best on what is one of her favourite songs. It makes me wonder if she is an influence on the great Beverley Knight. There are two instrumentals on the CD; "Una Tarde In Mariquita" and "Road To Islay." There's a taste of Buena Vista Social Club with a classy soul vocal on top, with "Boogaloo 33"; a strong song.

"Travelling Song" and "Similau" see the duo reinterpret a classic English folk song and one from the West Indies. There’s a modern take on seventies soul ballads in "I'd Cry", with a sultry Imelda May pained vocal delivery.

A wee tease of just 17 seconds of “Look Around The Corner (Reprise)” to close, a stunning slice of gospel from Alice, who has me in wonderland for this entire album. But none more so than the title track. Addictive, and destined for many compilation albums and “Top 10” lists at the end of the year. 

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