Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a British perspective on all that’s good, and not so good, in the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. There was a time when melodic accessible soul music was the order of the day. Artists such as Angela Bofill, Anita Baker, Phyllis Hyman and Patti Austin were recording songs with sumptuous arrangements that often were complemented by huge yet subtle orchestras. Many of these tunes became cult classics but that was then and this is now. With this style of music no longer welcome at its traditional outlet of urban R & B radio it has become marginalized into a sub genre of adult contemporary or smooth jazz. Consequently it’s extra special when an album of the quality of Flow by Lynne Fiddmont comes along. Full of the shimmering soul sophistication that was the hallmark of those hits of the eighties it’s a wonderful collection of jazz infused soul songs for grown ups. That said there is not one thing about it that is dated. Very much in the mold of what is popularly termed urban jazz but which I prefer to brand as smooth R & B, the production and arrangement expertise brought to it by Tim Carmon, Freddie Washington, but mostly by Lynne Fiddmont herself, makes this very much a piece of 2006.
For Lynne Fiddmont this move from the shadows to center stage is long overdue. Born in St Louis Missouri her career, now spanning in excess of twenty years, made an auspicious start when she got the gig to back the Crusaders on tour, performing live versions of such staples as ‘Street Life’ and ‘One Day I’ll Fly Away’. Similar assignments followed, first with Bill Withers on his 1985 ‘Watching Me Watching You’ tour, then with Lou Rawls and subsequently with Stevie Wonder where she was background vocalist in his recording / touring group Wonderlove. Now, a long a time resident of Los Angeles, she sings and plays percussion with Norman Brown's live band and has recently worked with Phil Collins as part of his ‘First Final Farewell’ tour. As for Flow its depth and quality is incredible. Right from the opening track, the light but infectious samba infused ‘Holiday’, the anticipation of what’s to follow becomes huge.
The soulfully romantic ‘Cupid’ is simply mesmerizing while the Latin tinged ‘Something That I Can Feel’ is complex yet catchy. It features Fiddmont’s bother Keith on soprano sax as well as her children Courtney and Alana as part of the children’s chorus. The gentle but heartfelt ballad ‘Never Really’ shows off Fiddmont's known ability to carry a song and the title track, doing what its names suggests, allows her vocals to flow atop a compelling languid beat.
Fiddmont originally recorded U R Loved in 1991 with her former husband Wayne Linsey while part of the duo Linsey. Taken from their album Perfect Love it proved to be a quiet storm classic and this acoustic version, with awesome guitar from Michael Ripoll and Paul Jackson Jr., is spine chillingly beautiful. Talking of quiet storm classics, another one in the making is the sexy and adulterous ‘Feels So Right’ that Fiddmont admits to reminding her of something from the Isley Brothers.
There are no weak links. Fiddmont composes eight of the nine tracks herself and the one exception, ‘No Regrets’, a sub three minute postscript, is a tune that she first discovered in 1976 on an album from Phoebe Snow. A personal favorite is the deliciously sultry ‘Say’. With stellar acoustic piano from Mark Stephens, keyboards from Freddie Washington and soulful vocals from Fiddmont that are off the scale this is one that gets in your head and wont go away.
Make no bones about it; this belated but sensational debut release from Lynne Fiddmont is one of the gems of 2006 so far. Released on her own Midlife Records label it is certainly one to watch.Posted by Denis Poole at August 19, 2006 8:02 AM