One of the year’s real soul discoveries, French group Malted Milk and Memphis soul singer Toni Green deserve to enjoy a major hit with this Franco-American collaboration that is a tad grittier than Daft Punk and Nile Rogers/Pharell Williams. Green comes across as in-between of mid-1970s Millie Jackson and Ann Peebles, and when she hits the high notes there are even shades of Chaka Khan, though that is where that comparison ends. Toni Green began singing as a backing singer and worked in Memphis with the likes of deep soul singer Luther Ingram as well as blue-eyed soulsters the Doobie Brothers. Moving to New York, the work rate intensified and she sang background with Dennis Edwards of the Temptations and Luther Vandross among a host of others. By the mid-1990s Green decided to move back to Memphis where she remained in relative obscurity until French producer and writer Sebastian Danchin was introduced to her music via Chicago blues guitarist Poppa Willie. That was some twenty years ago, but more recently Danchin, as artistic director of both the Nice and Paris Jazz Festivals, came across French rhythm and blues group Malted Milk and two years ago he stumbled upon a possible collaboration. The results are here for all to judge.
If Hi Records and the classic 1970s sound of Stax is your bag, then this album will seem like a trip down memory lane. However, there are no famous covers, but rather virtually all newly written material performed in the old style with even a Mary J. Blige song reworked in the classic soul tradition. A fine contender for single release and one of the strongest songs on the entire album is ‘I’d really like to know’ which is quite simply a stunning mid-tempo number. A fine take on ‘Slipped, tripped and fell in love’ is a second uptempo winner with terrific bass line while for quality deep soul ballads, you could hardly better, ‘I can do bad all by myself’ with lovely string accompaniment and a blues guitar solo. There is a neo-Motown backing flavour to the soul-blues number ‘The weather is still fine’ and is the kind of song that either Mavis Staples or indeed Amy Winehouse might have attempted. Malted Milk are a tight sounding outfit and one would not flinch if you heard them and were told they were southern soul veterans from the States, such is their command of the instrumentation and superior arrangements. This album deserves to be a hit and, with a little promotion, the public will be genuinely surprised and taken back at its provenance and the quality of its content.