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CD REVIEW: "Chicago Soul Sessions Volume I"
By Gian F - 02/12/2005 - 09:59 PM EST

Artist: Band: Chicago Soul Sessions
Genre: R&B
CD Review: Genre: R&B
Sounds Like: Various
Technical Grade: 8
Production/Musicianship Grade: 9
Commercial Value: 8
Overall Talent Level: 9
Songwriting Skills: 8
Performance Skill: 9
Best Songs: Kunfuezd, Hopeless, I Can't Make You Be A Man, Don't Play, Too Kold
Weakness: Needs More Contemporary Production
CD Review: There's an old saying in sports which goes, "You got to be in it to win it." For those trying to succeed in the music industry we can modify that sports adage by saying, "You got to stay in it to win it." This project proves that. It is the first release on the independent label, Listen Up Records, which is co-owned by David Burns and Stewart McKenzie, whose first project I reviewed in 2002 (The McKenzie Burns Project) and expressed that the music production was greater than the vocals.

That's not the case this year or on this project. They accomplished the rare feat of converting their weaknesses into strengths by assembling a project that contains strong songs with polished vocal performances; most notably by Cherisse ("I Can't Make You Be A Man" and "Hopeless") and Chester Gregory ("Kunfuezd" and "Till U Come Back To Me"). Their laid-back, jazzy, smoothed-out roster of old-school flavored r&b tracks is a treat for those in the thirty-plus age group - all of which will instantly relate to the accurate and entertaining lyrics of the closing track on the disc, "Just The Way That I Am," which echoes the concerns and defiance we all have about someone trying to change us in a relationship.

The only area that the project is lacking in, and is not a real concern for their audience, is contemporary production - which is key to the coveted youth demographic of 15 - 25 year olds. They make a valiant effort at servicing that demographic with their urban radio-friendly track, "Kunfuezd," which has a "Musiq-ish" feel to it. Ironically, it is the commercial gem on the disc.

As a music lover, one of the things that I'm able to appreciate on CDs is well-crafted and strategically placed instrumentals on projects. The two contained here ("Don't Play" and "Too Kold") are excellent contributions by Kaiaalexander that help to enhance and solidify the repertoire. With a project this deep in quality, I'm already anticipating volume II.

Advice: Add at least one more contemporary produced track on the next project to increase commercial viability.

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