Gizelle Smith ‘Revealing’ LP/CD (Jalapeno) 4/5

‘Revealing’ marks the new release from the funk and soul vocalist, Gizelle Smith, whose third album sees the artist continue her relationship with Brighton’s independent connoisseurs of contemporary funk and soul, Jalapeno Records.

Back in 2009, the UK’s very own ‘Golden Girl of Funk’ secured herself a suitable musical backdrop with Hamburg’s finest – The Mighty Mocambos – providing the rich landscape now synonymous with their brand of fiery drums and plush horns while Smith’s vocal commanded all else.

The twelve-track gem has rightfully gone on to achieve a cult-like status for contemporary funk and soul fans and although the Smith-Mocambo union has extended to several more collaborations over the years, their fittingly titled joint album, ‘This is Gizelle Smith and the Mighty Mocambos’, proved to be their one and only full-length together. Of even greater disappointment was that it would be a further nine years until we’d receive another full-length Gizelle Smith project.

Following a sprinkle of releases with Légère Recordings, Record Kicks, Mocambo Records and Kay-Dee over the years, the partnering with Jalapeno Records was announced in 2017 placing Smith on a roster with other premier UK talent including Flevans, Smoove & Turrell and The Allergies. The brilliantly received ‘Ruthless Day’ soon followed and was a joyous return to form. Spearheaded by the funky and infectious single ‘S.T.A.Y.’ and the more measured ‘Sweet Memories’, the album displayed more soulful aspects to Smith’s repertoire while still effectively presenting the charm and personality listeners have come to resonate within her music.

‘Revealing’ looks to slightly edge Smith’s sound towards more alternative directions once again. The album’s lead single – an exceptional cover of Kate Bush’s ‘King of the Mountain’ boasting just a twinge of psychedlic-esque influences – sets the tone perfectly for these exploratory and innovative aspects to the album. While there are certainly songs that showcase those stylistic elements most commonly associated with Gizelle Smith releases, like ‘Superstar’, ‘Revealing’ does find itself most at home – maybe surprisingly – when challenging those expectations. The transition into these new musical realms is executed with all the confidence of an artist ready to take those decided next steps.

Once again, the new album pairs Smith with long-time production partner and German producer Steffen Wagner who, aside from production on Smith’s first two albums can also boast production for French vocalist Caroline Lacaze and US singer Eric Boss.

While it would be difficult for Gizelle Smith to ever shake the tag of the “Golden Girl of Funk” – not that I imagine she would ever want to – ‘Revealing’ presents the multitude of varying facets to Smith and her music that are now at her disposal and it’s exciting to see how this evolving style will manifest itself throughout future releases.

Imran Mirza