Swiss-French pianist Colin Vallon has made a name for himself firstly with the independent Hatology label in 2007 for whom he recorded, ‘Ailleurs’, before debuting on ECM in 2011 with ‘Rruga’. This new album marks his third for the label and was recorded in Lugano with the young accompanists, Patrice Moret on double bass and Julian Sartorius on drums and follows on from, ‘Le Vent’, from 2014.The reposing opener, ‘Sisyphe’, has been receiving regular radio exposure and is by far the strongest piece on the album while, ‘Morn’, has a truly hypnotic quality that is endearing. Another beautifully flowing number that has something of a classical music influence is, ‘Tsunami’, with fine and sensitive drumming from Sartorius. In reality, leader Vallon has been influenced to a large extent by contemporary music that encompasses Ligeti as much as Monk, and he has equally soaked up the lefter-leaning pop hues of both Bjork and Radiohead. A minimalist approach surfaces on the repetitive riffs from the rhythm section on, ‘Tinguely’, composed by Moret.
If the album tapers off somewhat in the second half, then with greater experience and wisdom, the trio will undoubtedly add greater variety to tempi and improve their already excellent compositional skills and this is indeed hinted at on the somewhat chaotic intro to, ‘L’onde’. This writer also warmed to the gentle rambling of, ‘Kid’. A promising new recording from a young trio that is heading in the right direction.
Classic soul formation, The Manhattans, are something of an institution and can be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of The Intruders, The O’Jays and The Temptations as a group that have stood the test of time remarkably well and have a clear musical identity, with a track record of consistently quality songs that they can justifiably be proud of. This anthology is the most comprehensive of any to date and takes the listener through the group’s early breakthrough until the late 1980s when lead singer Gerald Alston then set off on a solo career.
If the 1973 debut for Columbia, ‘There’s no me without you’, showed plenty of early promise minus a hit single, then the template for their musical style was already starting to be cemented at this stage and the follow up album from 1974 included a catchy hook of a chorus in, ‘That’s how much I love you’, which hit the higher échelons of the R & B chart. Superb collective harmonies and the aching lead vocals of Gerald Alston were always likely to win through and the stunning, ‘Summertime in the city’, was a clear indication that everything was now in place with an epic sound including harp and Philly inspired voices. By the third album, simply titled, ‘The Manhattans’, from 1975, the group hit the big time with the popular love ballad, ‘Kiss and say goodbye’, which became a number one R & B hit and entered the top forty of adult contemporary music, a somewhat bizarre genre for sure, but clear evidence of the mass appeal of the group sound. This formula was added to with the 1976 album, ‘Feels so good’, with another hit in, ‘I kinda miss you’ while in ,’Hurt’, the baritone vocal intro hints at Barry White in his prime, before the sweetest of lead vocals takes over. proceedings.
The second CD updates the group history from the very beginning of the 1980s when The Manhattans changed producer to Leo Graham and this collaboration resulted in their major hit, ‘Shining star’. They enjoyed further success with a pared down and respectful update on Sam Cooke’s immortal ‘You send me’ which, in the use of bassline intro, predates the Commodores’ mid-1980s pop hit, Nightshift’ by a few years. Modern soul fans will immediately recognise the uptempo synth bass and gorgeous harmonies of, ‘Crazy’, which became a soul boy anthem in 1983, while their songwriting talents were not ignored for, ‘Just the lovely talking’, was reprised by an emerging soul singer called Whitney Houston who had a later hit with it. A mid-1980s duet with Regina Belle and produced by Bobby Womack, ‘Where did we go wrong?’, was a minor hit for the band. Extremely detailed inner sleeve notes come courtesy of Mojo and record Collector soul aficionado and writer, Charles Waring, and as ever lovingly supplemented by graphic illustrations of album covers, labels and photos.