Thursday, July 14, 2011
The "Official" London Souls Debut
Many moons ago, 2007 to be exact, a friend at a major label suggested I check out a New York quartet called The London Souls. He sent me their album which they recorded with the producers Ray Bardani and Leo Sacks (who also gave us the New Orleans Social Club), and I couldn't believe my ears. What I heard was the perfect combination of hit singles, musicianship and live energy. Think of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with Beatlesque harmonies, and the funk and soul of Sly & The Family Stone, all tailored for AM radio, circa 1975.
My next move was to see them live. And I did. It was, at least for those 45 minutes, life-altering. They were kids. No longer a quartet, but a power trio--Tash, Kyoshi and Chris-- with an African-American lead singer/lead guitar player, sporting a big Afro and a bigger Gretsch guitar, a skinny Asian kid on bass, and a skinnier white kid also with an Afro, behind the drum kit, looking a little too much like Mitch Mitchell. AND...they all sang. What had knocked my socks off on record, happened right before my very eyes. The London Souls brought me back to the Fillmore, 1969, even though I had never been to the Fillmore in 1969.
I waited for what seemed like an eternity for this record to drop. It didn't. The band decided not to release the record, opting instead to make a new record, this time as a trio. Yesterday, the "official," Ethan Johns-produced London Souls debut finally hit digitally.
Two songs from those early sessions, "Someday" and "Grounded" appear as new recordings. That's it. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty to love on this debut. The London Souls have mastered the hook. But, it's a shame that the "first" album remains in the band's vault.
Tash Neal should be a rock star. He is larger than life when he performs. Hard to keep your eyes off of him, really, unless it's to marvel Chris St. Hilaire, who pounds hard like John Bonham and the aforementioned Mitch Mitchell, while singing Graham Nash-like high harmonies, or to stare in amazement at bassist Kiyoshi Matsuyama, who effortlessly holds bottom while adding the third vocal part. These qualities were captured flawlessly by Bardani and Sacks. The producers allowed Tash Neal to shine on guitar, thinking only of how to bring the live excitement to the studio. I miss those grooves. That "first" album played like a recorded souvenir of your very favorite concert experience.
I want to see this band explode, and they just might on the strength of this debut. But if I had my druthers, what The London Souls learned and explored on that 2007 album would find a way onto their sophomore release. Or even better, that Bardani/Sacks edition would find a way out on its own.
"THE LONDON SOULS" is streaming for free below.
It's also available as an inexpensive download on Amazon HERE
From their new, Soul On 10 debut, check out: