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November 2023

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Marcel Smith
From My Soul

Little Village Foundation

Marcel Smith

If you are a fan of classic soul, R&B, and gospel music, then direct your attention to From My Soul (Little Village Foundation), the latest release from Marcel Smith. Smith was an artist that I was not familiar with prior to receiving this disc, but I will certainly be digging deeper into his catalog as soon as possible, which will probably be the next move of anyone who listens to this marvelous recording.

Smith got his start singing gospel and studying the music of some of the great gospel quartets --- the Blind Boys of Alabama, the Soul Stirrers, the Dixie Hummingbirds, and the Mighty Clouds of Joy, eventually branching out into the closely related soul and R&B genres.

Smith sings and plays guitar on this 13-song set, and he’s joined by a host of supporting musicians which include producer Kid Andersen (guitar and other instruments), Derrick “D’Mar” Martin (drums), Endre Tarczy (bass), Jim Pugh (organ/piano), Rick Estrin (harmonica), Jon Otis (percussion), with strings by Dan Dally and horns on selected tracks from Mike Rinta (trombone), Aaron Lington (sax), John Worley (trumpet), and Eric Spaulding (sax). Other guest artists include the Sons of the Soul Revivers backing Smith on several tracks, background vocalist Lisa Leuschner Andersen, and Jerry Jermott, who plays bass on a live bonus track.

Smith co-wrote five of the tunes, including the sparkling opener, “I’m Coming Home To You,” a retro-soul track replete with horns and the sensational Sons of The Soul Revivers in support. The sweet soul burner “If you Miss Me” follows, with Smith’s silky-smooth vocals front and center backed by bass, piano, and drums, as well as a Spaulding sax solo. Next is “What Can We Do,” a powerful plea for some sanity in the current state of insanity that we face. The Sons of the Soul Revivers give this tune a real gospel flavor. Little Richard’s “Freedom Blues” gets a raucous treatment that speaks the blues to its bones, with Estrin’s harmonica certainly helping that feeling along.

Smith’s interpretation of Willie Nelson’s early favorite, “Wake Me When It’s Over,” pays homage to the early ’60s original, but Smith sings it like he wrote it himself and the musical arrangement is fabulous. Smith and the band pick up the pace for a moment with their spirited cover of Jimmy Liggins’ “Drunk,” before settling back in with the mellow ballad “To Be True,” a Memphis-styled soul number with strings and B3. The soulful blues track “Nothing Left To Burn” is superb, featuring rock-edged guitar work to open the track, horns, and Smith giving it his all behind the mic.

The great Johnny Rawls joins Smith for two tracks, a smoky take on one of Rawls’ mentor O.V. Wright’s best tunes, “There Goes My Used To Be,” and the Tyrone Davis standard “Turn Back The Hands Of Time.” Rawls and Smith make a pretty good team and these two tracks will make listeners want to hear more from this duo. “My Heart Told A Lie” is a terrific southern soul ballad, and Smith knocks it out of the park. The heartbreaker “I Don’t Want To Take A Chance” takes a more R&B-based approach.

The album closes with a bonus live track, the Bee Gees classic “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” recorded a couple of years ago at Greaseland. Dedicating the song to his mother, who had recently passed away, Smith’s version owes more to Al Green’s version than that of the Brothers Gibbs, and he delivers a great performance as the audience indicates at the conclusion.

From My Soul is an excellent set of classic soul, mixing in blues, R&B, and gospel as well. If you’re not familiar with Marcel Smith and you love any of those genres of music, this disc is highly recommended. They don’t make them like this anymore, which is a real shame, but it’s a real pleasure when one does come along.

--- Graham Clarke


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