Calvin Richardson ‘All Or Nothing’ CD/DIG (Shanachie) 5/5

Listen, this is produced by the legendary Willie Clayton so you gotta pay attention, too right you have, because for the most part this is the finest sounding Calvin Richardson we have ever heard. He’s been in this game for some 20 years but he ain’t sounded like this before, if you need proof go straight to the album ender ‘Holding On/Can’t Let Go’, a stunning head-nodding floater in which Richardson really does let go vocally.

The album kicks off with what might be some folks dancer of the year, the album title track sounds very R Kelly influenced but with enough subtle touches and quality vocals to make hold its own – love the stabbing strings, and the rhythm just takes your body over. Then we have Willie Clayton at his best in the shape of ‘The Only One’, a lovely down-tempo stepper that could have graced any Willie Clayton album over the past 10 years. The very classy southern inspired ‘Treat Her Right’ will have you thinking Bobby Womack from the opening monologue as it drifts into the sheer beauty that is modern day balladry. Easily the finest track on the album and one that’s on repeat play here at home.

Next up we move into ‘I Love The Way’, which continues the soul-full feel of what’s gone before, moving effortlessly into the sheer string laden beauty that is ‘Breaking Down Inside’ with more pain and suffering going on than you can shake a big stick at, and you can hear it vocally. Is this the best Calvin Richardson we’ve heard to date? Well the quality is maintained in the meandering ballad, ‘Make Up Love’, which is growing in stature here by the hour. I could bang the drum about this classy soul album for ages but just go out and buy it, likely indeed to be in my top 10 albums of the year (if I bother to do a list). Simply stunning.

Brian Goucher