Adrena ‘Better Days’ (Bone 40) 5/5

adrenaThis much-anticipated album has arrived with very mixed feelings. On the one hand we have an excellently produced southern soul album with a great voice, which at times really excels in all departments. However, a good proportion of the tracks have been made available and have featured quite heavily on soul radio shows for some months now, indeed I was personally sent four of the tracks, those and others were freely available as MP3 downloads too. Some may think what is the point of buying the album? I can understand wanting to promote the voice etc. but on an album where there are only 10 tracks and 5 have already surfaced, it would have been nice to have some additions to the 5 that didn’t get released – gripe over. This really is a top album, ballads, mid-tempo strollers and dancers all combine to create an album you can leave on without skipping. The subject matter is relationships, slipping around in all its trials and tribulations, Millie Jackson would never have made an album like this – that feisty bitch would never let any man treat her badly! Echoes of Shirley Brown here, Barbara Mason and Denise Lasalle can be heard on the pleading ballads “Ready to love” and “He wont leave his wife”. Then we have the dancer “Broke man”, in which she laments life with a penniless man with bills to pay and no Dollar, “Right here, right now” is a tour-de-force crisp mid-tempo dancer which has been hammered on radio yet sounds so damn good as is “Man gone do” in which Denise Lasalle looms so heavily, “Better Thangs” is quite superb with 70’s guitar fills and stabbing horns, head nodding its way into your head. In southern soul circles ‘Jody’ is the man stealer and she’s here in the shape of ‘Joann’ who was a best friend who’s stealing, a mid-tempo strutter that will also get into your head. The big plus is the vocals of Adrena, she has a smokey lived in quality to her tone but also a fragility too as she wanders off key on occasions, but I love that, I can’t stand these perfectly mixed sterile passion-less sounds and I’m afraid we are swamped with them at the minute, she’s real and long may it continue. The album utilises real instruments with some great horn and guitar fills, the drumming is very sympathetic and simply guides the whole project. Recorded and mixed at the famed Royal Studios in Memphis with Lester Snell on piano. Those great guitar fills are provided by Kevin ‘Fuzzie’ Jeffries and with a Tenor Sax, Trumpet and Baritone Sax all wanting a piece of the pie it’s not surprising the sound created is truly soulful. May I mention the backing singers who have aided and abetted the sound perfectly, Sharise Norman, Stephanie Bolton and Shontelle Norman… take a bow ladies. An album that I suggest will be in or around my top ten this year.

Brian Goucher