by Guillaume Destot


This month's column will spare you the agonizing dilemma of having to choose between the three or so CDs I usually recommend you get hold of (if you choose at all. Maybe you're so well-off that, just like me, you can afford the dizzying luxury of 3 CDs a month). Yes, dear reader, I have only one record up my sleeve this time, but then again, it's not just any record. Peace and Love (a rather dull title) is Tommy Sims's first solo effort, but by no means his first venture into the worldwide music scene.

You'll be surprised, perhaps, to learn that he was, among other things, co-writer of the Eric Clapton hit, "Change the World", but also that he wrote for and/or produced such people as Bruce Springsteen, Michael Mc Donald, Michael Bolton or Garth Brooks. But perhaps the most surprising - and redeeming - trait of this record is that it sounds very unlike the above-mentioned multimillionaires' brand of middle-of-the-road pap. Tommy Sims is not what you'd call avant-garde, but he has an awesome talent for writing soul melodies mixed with that extra touch of folk, jazz and film-like orchestrations, deploying at times his armada of horns, strings and the odd 100-strong choir. His compositions are very good, very subtle, very mature, very effective, and, to boot, very well interpreted and arranged. Tommy's voice is more or less like that of a Bourbon-loving Mississipi bluesman, but with a vocal mastery that allows him to compete with the young guard of virtuoso RnB singers like Eric Benčt, D'Angelo or Stephen Simmonds. It is also true that this record is strongly reminiscent of Stevie Wonder's best years, like track 5, "Summer", which exploits the same kind of African-type guitar pattern as Wonder's "Big Brother" on "Talking Book", and the Minimoog synth bass favoured by Stevie in the 70s. The master himself graces the song with an exciting harmonica intervention, which is just another reason for you to buy the CD.

It is not often, nowadays, that you can talk of a "commercial", mainstream record as a masterpiece - but here it is, I'm afraid. Most branches of contemporary popular Afro-American music are represented here, with a strong emphasis on the Motown/Stax heritage, plus some scorching funk numbers and more personal tunes. It is very unlikely that you should not find something to suit your tastes in this opus.


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