James Hunter on The Harlem Experiment; 21 Van Morrison Songs

When I wrote my review of The Harlem Experiment, I didn’t have the liner notes. I was impressed with “A Rose In Spanish Harlem.” Now I know whom to praise: British soul singer James Hunter. From a press release I received:

“You might be wondering what a soul singer from England has to do with a song dedicated to Harlem – but that’s the point. Producer Aaron Levinson cites Hunter as being one of the few musicians singing “classic” soul today and says, “I can hear Harlem in Hunter’s voice.” The result speaks for itself, as James pays respect to soul forefathers with his captivating vocals and old Martin guitar. It’s all part of the experiment.”

I also learned from the press release that one of Hunter’s biggest and earliest fans is Van Morrison. Fans of Van the Man are in for a treat on November 6 when his first ever, cross-label career spanning collection, Still On Top – The Greatest Hits is released. It’s worth mentioning because greatest hits compilations that cover an artist’s entire career, across labels, is rare. On this collection, there are 21 songs from the Decca, Bang, Warner Bros. and Polydor labels. Songs like “Gloria,” “Moondance,” “Domino,” Someone Like You,” “Have I Told You Lately,” “Days Like This,” and “Wild Night” are on there. It covers music from 1964 to 2005 and styles ranging from jazz to rock to soul to hip hop (just kidding about the latter). It’s been recently reaffirmed that Van’s music is good for your love life, making an already enticing CD a must-have.

Review: The Harlem Experiment

harlemexperiment_75pxI’m listening to what may be the coolest release of 2007. Following their eternally enjoyable Detroit and Philadelphia Experiments, Ropeadope is releasing The Harlem Experiment to retail on October 30. You can listen a stream of the entire release at the promo site. Go ahead and hit the link right now, queue up the music, and come back to finish reading this. I’ll wait.

Grammy Award-Winning producer Aaron Levinson has “assembled another genre-bending tribute to perhaps America’s greatest cultural crown jewel.” Genre-bending is accurate – spoken word, Latin, hip hop, soul, and blues are all heard – but, at its heart, it’s jazz. It would take me several hours to write out what I thought about each track. Each song has its own identity. The variety of styles all flow together. “A Rose in Spanish Harlem” is featured twice – in a traditional Spanish setting and as an instrumental – and both are just beautiful. There are a number of killer grooves.

I had recognized some of the names of the Harlem House Band that made the music but now I’ll remember all of them: Carlos Alomar (guitar, David Bowie), Eddy Martinez (keys, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Run D.M.C.), Steven Bernstein (trumpet, Sex Mob), Steve Berrios (drums, Chick Corea), Don Byron (clarinet) and Ruben Rodriguez (bass, Tito Puente). Olu Dara and Queen Esther (Duke Ellington), and James Hunter are also featured.

I think people use the word “brilliant” too often. I don’t think I’ve ever written a review where I’ve used that term. This is a brilliant recording – one that should not fly under the radar. I can’t promote it enough. It’s one that I’ll be recommending to everyone I know.

On the Web: The Harlem Experiment