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Issue 1093

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Review

Stone Paxton: In The Key Of... Love (Prodigee Records)

Stone Paxton: In The Key Of... Love (Prodigee Records)

8

7.7

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UK release date 11.02.2019

You may not know the name but the chances are that you know some of Stone Paxton’s music. After starting out with vocal group TRE in the late eighties he went on to become a prolific songwriter/producer/remixer creating hits for the likes of Britney Spears, 702, Kurupt, Silk, BlackStreet, Janet Jackson, Brandy, Marva King and Cee-Lo Green among many others.

"In The Key Of... Love" is part of Stone Paxton's trilogy of albums which follow the period of being part of the Stone City Band and Allen McNeil’s Troop Reloaded project. And therein lies a tiny clue as to the feel of this album. Paxton, free of the shackles of being tied to a major company and recording on his own Prodigee label, has come up with a set that embraces 80s Funk, 90s R&B and a smattering of the neo-soul sounds he has been making for the past twenty years.

And what a fine album it is, deservedly flying high in the UK Soul chart. Unlike many contemporary artists who have tried to tap into retro styles, Stone’s music is as authentic as can be because it’s the music he’s been making all along. Do not be fooled into thinking that this is a rehash of tired old groove though. This album is fresh, bang on the money for 2019, but with an appreciative look back at music from a different era.

Forgetting the intro and a short interlude there are ten songs on offer, without a filler to be found. The general ambience throughout is relaxed with slow jams and mellow grooves to the fore. But Paxton lays down some funky Boogie too. Listen to "Steppin’" and you hear a tune that Slave would be proud of if they were still recording while ‘Feel The Groove’ compels you to, well, feel the groove.

Perhaps the most immediate cut is the joyfully upbeat "I Don’t Think She’s Gone" with its fabulous bubbling bass line and funky guitar licks. It seems as if this track is being earmarked as an upcoming UK single release and if that’s the case it’s a wise move. "Tu M’Aimes" and "The Only Man" are both killer slow jams, the former delighting with its tinkling keys and the interplay between the strings and the Norman Harris-style guitar licks. The latter is arguably the most soulful tune on the set, captivating from the very start with the soaring strings.

"Karma" has that classic mid-90s mid-tempo R&B vibe while "Baby Girl", "O’ Baby", "Blaque Coffee" and "Flower" are all strong neo-soul grooves that grow with every listen. "In The Key Of... Love" is an album filled with positive messages at a time when positivity is seemingly in short supply. During the spoken intro to the album Stone claims that melody and spirituality are as powerful as politics. This album goes a long way towards proving his point.
Words DUNCAN PAYNE

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