Clif Payne ‘Too’ (SoulMusic) 5/5

And yet another new name enters my world and turns it upside down, destined to be in many top 10 charts in 2018, an album that you can put on from start to finish without any track jumping, I knew I was listening to something special when I was skipping through the tracks and having got to track four decided to buy it, download only at this moment, the album has the feel of a Phil Perry project, crisp production, all real instruments of course and a vocal that will impress even the most critical of soul music aficionados, plus we have the added bonus of Freda Payne appearing and I’m happy to say her voice is still in good shape.

He was born in the Harlem Sugar Hill area and now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. His vocals span the genres of jazz, R&B, gospel, blues, rock, folk and pop, although on this album it is his soulful voice, with the occasional jazz inflection, we are treated to. He has performed with Freda Payne, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Norman Connors, Bobby McFerrin, Ellis Hall, Sheena Easton, American Idol judge & vocal coach Peggy Blu, Four Play drummer Harvey Mason, jazz fusionists Hiroshima, and former Chicago vocalist Bill Champlin. Clif has opened for Dan Siegel, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis and Dionne Warwick to name just a few. He has one other album release which surfaced in 2016 titled “Welcome To My World” which also featured Freda Payne.

To this album then. Let’s go straight to the two tracks that have taken over the laser flicker here, two versions of “No Payne No Gain”, the Downtown Mix is an absolute stunning crossover stroller, the kind of tune New York City were famous for, whilst the Uptown Mix is a glorious throwback Philly inspired dancer, you would swear you were listening to MFSB, we have both Freda and Clif in fine style, think Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, The O’Jays, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls; they’re all in there, it’s as if these two voices were destined to come together, so effortless, these two tracks alone should make this album an immediate purchase. The album kicks off with “Go Back To What You Know”, which is a fine sparse dancer in the modern soul vein of old, next up we have the title track which has a Stevie Wonder feel and seeps into your head, you will be humming the tune in no time. It would appear that “Yesterdays Payne, Tomorrows Joy” has been somewhat of a hit over the pond, a contemporary dancer that could do well over here too, rich percussion and Freda adding additional class. I’ll admit, even spending two hours every day looking for new releases still let this one slip through the net. Another tune destined for radio over here is the bubbling “Because of You”, just so easy on the ear, and for more of the same try “Get Up, Get Busy”, a fabulous album with only one moan, as is so often the case there is an interlude, Clif it aint needed mate, give us another tune with your fine vocals on instead. In this review I have suggested certain tracks sound like other purveyors of our music but, Clif Payne is his own man and I am like a kid in a sweet shop, Clif we want more mate. For me it’s the soul album of the year so far. Thankyou.

Brian Goucher