Hal Bradbury ‘This is Love’ CD/DIG (BBE Music) 4/5

00000tmpBlue-eyed soul has become an increasingly well documented sub-genre in recent years with Boz Scaggs retrospectives, Gregg Allman and others being fêted on swamp rock anthologies, and the likes of Donald Fagan and Hall and Oates ever popular. Enter into the equation Hawaian soul singer Hal Bradbury who will not be familiar to many, but was recently featured on a BBE compilation of 1970s and early 1980s artists with a stand out contribution. Bradbury’s ‘This is Love’ album has been re-issued as part of the ‘Masters We Love’ series and is something of a rare soul classic fetching large sums on the collectables circuit. Dating from 1981 on the obscure Fan records label, it fits neatly into the Kenny Burke or Atlantic Starr bag of quality modern soul with the odd dance floor mover and containing three self-penned compositions by the leader. The classy mid-tempo groove of ‘You win I lose’ is an instant favourite with its synth intro while ‘Call me’ is a pure early 1980s uptempo modern soul heaven burner with keyboards that conjur up Steely Dan instantly. As ever with modern soul, it is often the less dance floor friendly cuts that grow on the ear and so it proves with a creative working of Sam Cooke’s ‘You send me’ which here is taken at a leisurely mid-tempo and really works while the moody mid-tempo ‘Keep the fire burning’ (no relation to the Gwen McCrae rare groove classic). If some of the ballads can be a tad sugary sweet in places, ‘By Now’ is a convincing number with subtle instrumental accompaniment. Overall, well worthy of re-issue and in a lovely gatefold sleeve that oozes a bye gone era of vinyl intensity.

Tim Stenhouse