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(42:04, Boosweet Records)
LINEUP / TRACK LIST: 1. Vernon Neilly and Greg Howe: Boogie on Reggae Woman 4:13 2. Kiko Loureiro: I Wish 3:56 3. Bill Hudson and Carlos Zema: Superstition 4:23 4. Miguel Mega and Christopher Clark: Sir Duke 4:07 5. Vernon Neilly and Fabyan Irving: Isnít She Lovely 3:20 6. U-Nam: I Was Made To Love You 5:46 7. Kiko Loureiro: Donít You Worry ĎBout a Thing 4:22 8. Miguel Mega and Christopher Clarke: For Once in My Life 3:34 9. Vernon Neilly and Greg Howe: Boogie on Reggae Woman 5:00 10. Vernon Neilly: Isnít She Lovely 3:23
Prolusion. Instrumentalist, composer and label owner Vernon NEILLY has been an active man in his tenure in the music business. One of only a few musicians from the Bahamas who has made footprints on the scene, his various endeavors for the last couple of decades have made this now US-based musician a rather well-known figure, and one with an assured place in the annals of music history in his native Bahamas. "A Tribute to Stevie Wonder" is the most recent of his recording projects, and was issued by his own label Boosweet Records in 2008.
Analysis. I'll have to admit that I raised an eyebrow or two when this item appeared in my mailbox. It did come alongside a few other items with a much more natural place in the reviews section of an art rock-oriented site admittedly, but still. A tribute to an artist best known for his smooth soul production does seem rather awkward placed alongside the latest ventures from artists with a creative scope of a more challenging nature. As I became familiar with this production I must admit that there is material present that might interest an audience with progressive inclinations. And as such, submitting it for review does make sense, the instrumental version of Boogie on Reggae Woman among those, a smooth piece well inside the fusion parameter in this arrangement, sporting a blues-tinged guitar solo, breaking up the silken backing arrangements of occasional brass bursts, steady rhythms, a dampened organ hovering in the back and a steady, hard-edged funky bass guitar. The guitar solo is the detail that makes this version function; later on a different take, sporting vocals instead of the ever-present guitar solo, isn't by far as intriguing, which might also be due to the use of vocal effects, with what might be a vocoder applied. Kiko Loureiro's take on I Wish is the standout feature however, kicking off with distorted, Hendrix-style, riffs and followed up with a light-toned wandering guitar solo rather similar to Wishbone Ash's mid-80's efforts, complete with underscoring by a steady and distinct bass. Intricate drum patterns and dampened tangents both add distinct jazz flavors to the proceedings, and in sum this makes for a brilliantly executed and highly compelling performance. And while Bill Hudson's take on Superstition didn't quite manage to get approval from my musical taste buds, it was interesting to listen to this song performed with progressive metal arrangements and vocals provided by a singer that would appear to have a background in a power metal band by way of his delivery. The rest of this CD isn't as interesting by far, though. The only other track I'd describe as of stylistic interest is yet again a performance that comes courtesy of Loureiro, his take on Don't You Worry Bout a Thing: a pleasant listen in a light fusion sort of way before losing itself amidst some technically brilliant but musically less interesting frantic passages in the second half. As for the rest of the material, it's too smooth, too safe and not innovative enough to really grab my interest. It is brilliantly performed though, with the exception being vocalist Christopher Clarke whose delivery on Sir Duke became too frantic and stressed in my personal opinion.
Conclusion. If you love the works of Stevie Wonder and find other artists' versions of his material to be generally interesting, this tribute project is one that you'd better note down at once. Other than that, I'd suspect those with a general fancy for the softer side of the fusion universe would be ones who'd appreciate this disc best, alongside instrumentalists with a dedicated interest in listening to fellow artists doing what they are best suited to.
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