Wednesday 27 August 2014

'Free Souls' by Nicola Conte [album review]

I’m considering starting an online petition for a new Nicola Conte album every summer – who’s with me?  The Italian, bossa nova and jazz icon makes music that’s just beautifully befitting of warm sunshine and smiley faces, and he paints everyone’s favourite season the best backdrop they could hope for.

…And he’s done it again with ‘Free Souls’ which is brand new from his label Schema Records.  The guitarist and producer holds the unique distinction with his previous album, ‘Love and Revolution’, having been named our ‘album of the year’ for 2011, which really isn’t a title we band around – it’s actually quite a big deal: this blog’s accompanying radio show shares a month-long buildup to unveiling the annual winner, there’s a top 5 list, etc.  Trust me, it’s a hotly contested thing even if no one knows about it :)

Each Nicola Conte album, while glorious in its celebration of bossa nova, can often feature subtle leniencies towards different genres: ‘Other Directions’ was heavy on the jazz; ‘Love and Revolution’ leant itself wonderfully to 70s soul, and ‘Free Souls’ seems to intriguingly dabble with blues.  Songs like ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ and ‘Ahmad’s Blues’ are great examples of this and further demonstrate the producer’s versatility.

Conte’s ear for singers – as always – is impeccable with previous contributions from Gregory Porter, Melanie Charles, Jose James, Nailah Porter and Kim Sanders.  While always exciting to see Jose James and Melanie Charles return for vocal duties, the inclusion of Bridgette Amofah, who appears on three songs, marks her out as another voice to pay keen attention to, as we’ve previously discussed on this site.

It would appear that for fellow Londoners, the summer is now long gone but ‘Free Souls’ can definitely go a long way in keeping the sun’s glow beaming that little bit longer.  Anyway, fear not though – if my petition works out, we’ll have another one from Nicola Conte by about May 2015.

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