Robert Owens - Night-time Stories
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The Dutch duo of TJ Kong and Nuno Dos Santos who produced ‘Merging’ are relative unknowns compared to the rest of the collaborators. Prepare yourself; Wahoo (whose ‘Don’t Take It Personal’ got into the Worldwide top tracks of 2007) have got together with Freerange Record’s guru Jimpster, Gilles Peterson’s favourite Simbad, Florian Meindl’s favourite Marc Romboy, Peacefrog’s Charles Webster, Atjazz, Kid Massive and a couple of old hands of ill repute Ian Pooley and Kirk Degiorgio.
Even if Robert Owens’ name isn’t exactly household, you’d recognise his voice as he’s been at the forefront of house music since forming Fingers Inc (with Larry Heard and Ron Wilson) in Chicago over 20 years ago. After moving to New York in the late eighties and linking up with Frankie Knuckles, notably on the House Classics, ‘Tears’ and ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’.
His elegant, soulful voice will always be in demand and 1993 saw him move to London where he’s collaborated with Sandy Rivera, Photek, Rob ‘No Ears’ Mello, Coldcut’s brilliant remake of Joe South’s ‘Walk A Mile In My Shoes’ and most recently, Ron Trent with ‘Movin’ On’ (Need2Soul).
Ian Pooley’s early notoriety as a fan of Detroit earned him loads of remix work from big names like Daft Punk, Dee-Lite, The Cardigans and Yello. ‘I’m Chained’ shows he’s lost none of his love of the dancefloor and Owen’s prowess of performing soul with pain makes this track one of the many highlights on the album.
‘New World’ sounds a touch Mark Murphy (not adverse to house music collaborations himself a few years ago). What better title than for a New Year and Simbad matches Owens’ emotional performance perfectly. Similarly, on ‘Now I Know’, Atjazzs takes the tempo down a touch to showcase those “beautiful church-honed vocals”.
Charles Webster has been a bit quiet of late until turning up at the end of last year on Freerange Records with a Swell Session remix (with Jimpster). ‘Never Give Up’ is another slower tempo track that’s a bit minimal dubby with a touch of Africa and suitable refrain, “Be strong, be proud”.
Robert’s own ‘Press On’ may hark back to the good old days while Marc Romboy’s passion for old school Chicago dance floor is very evident on ‘Back To You’; “what goes around, comes around”.
If you believe “Happiness is the only thing that really matters”, buy this CD, put ‘Happy’ on and do a dance like there’s no tomorrow.
There was a time when Owens ran his own Christian bookstore but it’s a good job that he’s equally at home in night-time clubland. Compost Records know their house, techno, minimal, electro as much as their Future Sounds Of Jazz and if they think we’re ready to get back to a more soulful 2008, who are we to argue? As someone once said, “Respect to these German taste makers”.
Hectic Mix nominations: ‘Back To You’, ‘Happy’, ‘I’m Chained’, ‘Never Give Up’, ‘Now I Know’, ‘Merging’, ‘No Tomorrow’
Reviewed: Robert Owens — Night-time Stories (Compost Records) Cat. No. COMPOST 285-2 Release date: 25th February 2008
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