Artist: Nathalie Matthews
CD Name: Self-Titled
Artist Site: Nathalie Matthews
Nathalie Matthews is poised to take up the throne of Celine Dionne, as another Canadian from Quebec who earned her chops at a young age to eventually become a backup singer for Dionne. “No Mystery” is delivered with a breathless smooth jazz Love Boat-style seduction. I am not going to reference Titanic - oh wait I just did! It would be a better suited description as these songs are more about love lost than gained. And yes, Matthews does speak French and you will hear it on songs like “Juste Toi” which is actually a French version of Chaka Khan’s, “Ain’t Nobody.” It’s delivered as a way cool French rap, with occasional breaks into English.
The two most radio-ready songs on this album are “Totaled My Heart” and “Trippin Over You.” Both include a rap section so this is definitely stuff you’d be hearing alongside Rhiannon and Mary J. Blige on the radio. “My Boo” and “Talk To Me” reminded me of some of Paula Abdul’s albums with a very “Straight Up Now” feel! That old school vibe continues on “Free” and “Why Ya Playin’” with production that recalled En Vogue.
Composition-wise most of the songs are fast paced; the lyrical delivery is double time because the songs have a lot of story to cover in their three minute space. “Givin It My All” has some guitar and live sounding percussion which is a nice shift from the overall sound of the album. I felt the most successful songs here were not the hip hop songs, but the pop and soul ballads. “Don’t Surrender,” especially is this album’s strongest song, a track to watch out for with amazing lyrics that are a series of mantras, “Just go and seek out your own truth/Don’t surrender to your fears inside/Don’t surrender to life’s pressures/Live day to day and find the treasures/Keep some faith and hope in your deepest soul/Then you’ll be sure to find your life’s goal/Be strong, never accept defeat/ Live with passion and love so you can feel complete” The lyrics on “Hold On” and “Don’t Surrender” are the stuff of which great songs are made; words of inspiration with real power that are guaranteed heavy radio rotation as evidenced by Natasha Bedingfield’s hit smash, “Unwritten.”
Artist: Jason Yudoff
CD Name: Tragic Hero
Artist Site: Jason Yudoff
If Justin Timberlake fronted for Jamiroquai you might get a sound similar to Jason Yudoff and The New Hotness. Jason Yudoff’s second album “Tragic Hero” opens with “Good Enough” as the sounds of a toy organ mute into a nice funk soul groove a la Stevie Wonder and Michael McDonald. This song is definitely more than good enough for an opening track. But is there more?! Yes, “Personal Addict” and “Too Late Janie” are more of that retro electronic organ sound, sometimes with a jazzy horn section.
I wasn’t as satisfied with the more restrained a cappella and acoustic piano based tracks like “You Should Be My Girl” and “Side By Side.” Although “5 more Minutes” was nice as it really evoked the feel of living in New York, with lyrical reference to the subway and accordion sounds that conjured up images of street musicians.
It is very noteworthy that this album was mastered by Scoot Hull who worked with Steely Dan. This caught my attention because like Steely Dan, The New Hotness is also utilizing multiple instruments in a very salsa jazz fusion style. The overall arrangements are really impressive, as is the use of silence on “Dirty Deed.” Breaks in the sonic space are an important element of production which is unfortunately often forgotten. “Get Up” features some very interesting calypso elements in a soul mix with rapid fire percussion, horns and even traffic cop whistles. The jazz philosophy merges the genres remarkably well.
Artist: Charlie Superfly
CD Name: Everybody’s Sexy
Artist Site: Charlie Superfly
If you’re in a funk band and you say the word sexy you must always pronounce it, “SCHEX-SHAY!” The Good Hurt is a club out near Santa Monica that plays up the idea of “playing doctor.” Their logo is a Red Cross send up, and the buxom bartenders are dressed like nurses that would make Major Hot Lips look like a prude. No surprise that when I see them play tonight Charlie’s Superfly is the house band for this establishment.
The lead singer Charlie is poised to become the next Macy Gray or Beyonce, whose foray into funk during her Goldmember phase in the guise of Foxxy Cleopatra is pretty much what Charlie is running with. Charlie is certified sexy too, voted “Miss Black Howard Stern.” Charlie sings with a little girl voice on the title track. The chorus features that deeper voice which is really what you will hear from her live, where the real soul comes in. But that less mature vocal is a great balance and really brings that funky factor. It’s no surprise that “Everybody’s Sexy” concludes with a cover of The Divinyls, “I Touch Myself.”
On stage Charlie was totally channeling Tina Turner, but not to the point of parody. She made her entrance in a funky afro, with a red kimono robe, matching satin dress shirt and thigh high ruby red sparkly cat boots. There happens to be a Kenpo facility just next door to The Good Hurt and I half expected to see some related choreography in the act. Just a little music junky factoid: Kenpo is the combination karate/kung fu made popular by Elvis Presley during his jumpsuit phase during the funky Bruce Lee seventies. He actually wore those jumpsuits to facilitate the incorporation of Kenpo into his choreography! And this digression is actually related to Charlie because she is totally bringing back that funky seventies spirit!
Already you’re thinking Ron Jeremy/Bom Chicka Wah Wah right? Charlie makes good on the promise of innuendo. The shock factor worked for Madonna on “Like A Virgin” and it works for Charlie too on, “The First Time” with a chorus that goes “I just want it to feel like it did the first time,” and a funny rephrain, “MMM-hmm…” Probably the sexiest song on this album with that old school rock and roll innuendo is “Make Up To Get Down.” Check out these lyrics: “Now baby don’t be shy/ come on and make me cry/stir it up and shake the hive/the honey’s on the inside!”
Charlie’s band Superfly is amazing, and several times throughout the evening more often than funk (which you can hear on tracks like “Get Stupid,”) I found the music to be in the Southern Rock range. Several times I was reminded of The Black Crowes on songs like “Make Up To Get Down” and “Ain’t Fallin’,” with a finale where Charlie’s vocal power really comes through. At six songs “Everybody’s Sexy” is more or less an EP… But this is definitely something you are going to want to add to your collection in support of an artist that is, to continue with the innuendo, going to keep it up for a long time!