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Vanessa Freeman's Shades


Album reviewed by Dirk Binsau of Jazz-not-Jazz


Although this is her debut album, Vanessa Freeman is no stranger to  music lovers who are familiar with the West London sound of Phil Asher and Restless Soul.


Vanessa's voice has graced many records in the past like Reel People's The Light or collaborations with Nathan Haines or for the Sun Ra Dedication album.

Vanessa's parents moved to the UK from Jamaica in the late 50's making home in North London where Vanessa was born and raised. Vanessa first sang in the local church choir at the age of twelve like almost all good singers of black music.

She cites Dee Dee Bridgewater, Mahelia Jackson and Curtis Mayfield as her influences and started singing secular songs in the early nineties with the rise of the UK's acid jazz scene.

The album, Shades, was co-written and produced by Phil Asher (once again) and it offers a great variety of styles with soul, broken beats and Urban/R&B.

Together with Phil Asher, Vanessa teams up with what reads like a who's who of modern British soul/dance music, Level Neville Malcolm, Mike Patto (Restless Soul/Reel People), Dave 'deluxe' Okumo (Jade Fox), Shuayo Okino, Kaidi Tatham (Bugz In The Attic/Herbaliser), Argee Arg (Miss Dynamite's DJ), Mark de Clive Lowe, Izzi Dunn, Chris Franck (Da Lata), Acyde, Rasiyah, Rich Medina, and Izzi Dunn among others.

The first song on offer, Show Me, is one of those song where you know just after the first bars and Vanessa's vocal intro that you'll love this song. Show Me is a great piece of modern Nu Brit Soul and destined to become a future classic.

Equally appealing are ultra soulful midtempo grooves of The Way and Dawning Of A New Day.

Vanessa also brings us a fine ballad in the shape of Hang Tight. The title track, Shades, is a funky broken-beat influenced track.


Proof for Vanessa's versatility and ability to cover many music genres are songs like the Urban/R&B influenced Lifeline, Fresh N Wild with its fierce bass line or the dramatic Notice Me.


Add to this amongst other songs the funky guitars undertows of the hip hop inspired Cover Me or the bass ridden modern funk gem This Love and you have a great debut album that guarantees continuous listening pleasure.


Shades is another fine example of Chillifunk Records already impressive releases and their artist roster.


Dirk Binsau is an expert on Jazz and contemporary Black music. He blogs, broadcasts and owns Jazz-not-Jazz


Please e-mail comments about this review to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com


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