R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

Soulful Best Of 2008

19 DEC 08 DAVID NATHAN

It was a pretty good year in the world of soul music. Two of my personal favorites for the year were Leon Ware's excellent Moon Ride set for Stax and the Peak Records debut Music In My Soul by new artist Leigh Jones.

I've been aware of Leon's music for a few decades, from his work on Marvin Gaye's classic "I Want You" through his tunes recorded by Michael Jackson, Maxwell, etc. and his own catalog of memorable albums. Leon readily proclaims, "I use the bedroom as my temple, sex as a religion and music as my ministry, sensuality and spirituality blended together at the same time."

Moon Ride is a full-out expression of that proclamation. I particularly loved the upbeat "Smoovin'" with its instant groove, while tracks like "To Serve You" and "Loceans" are ready made for romance and passion. Even if you don't have anyone to seduce with Leon's musical massage, the album makes for great listening.

The same is true for Leigh Jones. The L.A. native has been working with Kerry Gordy (son of Motown founder Berry Jr.) and the result is Music In My Soul -- strong songs, solid production, a fine showcase for Leigh's skills covering pop and R&B with a touch of jazz and blues. "Free Fall" (video) is an urban treat and Leigh gives the DeBarge classic "All This Love" a nice makeover.

My favorite is unquestionably "Cold In L.A.," a true life testament to the isolation, pretense and flakiness which folks can encounter in Los Angeles. I had the good sense to escape to Philly so Leigh's testimony-in-song hit the mark, helping make this my pick for Best New Artist CD of 2008.