They got the title One right on this one – as there's definitely a lot of soulful elements in the mix, of the sort we used to hear much more strongly from the European scene a decade or so ago! The set's a great reminder of the kind of imports that used to really drive us wild – those productions that are steeped in classic influences, yet filter things together to come up with a rich contemporary vibe – a new sort of magic that's only made in the studio, often with a lot of collaborative help! In the case of this session, core sounds from Ralph Kiefer – who plays Fender Rhodes and delivers lots of beats – are supported by great guest work from Bajka, Kay Fischer, Karl Frierson, Declaime, and others – who really bring some great elements to the tracks, particularly the sort of vocals that really help the whole album take shape.
“Struggles And Blessings” is the apt opener. Bajka, who has been busy with Bonobo, Dalindeo and Radio Citizen features her unmistakable vocal style and we discover that The Soul Session is all about diversity. This is where “Root Down” comes in. A heavy heavy monster of a groove with a hypnotic brass section, “Root Down” is irresistible. De-Phazz vocalist Karl Frierson then dives soul deep into a modern fusion track. “Soul Desire” builds a bridge from the spirituality of the 70s to the urgency of the present.
A few bars only into the mysterious opening of “The S.O.S. Suite”, clocking in at a mighty 17 minutes long, we know that this will be one serious trip into space. Think of the golden era of Hip-Hop circa A Tribe Called Quest or Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth connected to the London pioneers of genre bending grooves originated in Camden Dingwalls or That’s How It Is. Dudley Perkins aka Declaime, who already worked with Lootpack, Tha Alkaholiks and Madlib, drops his rhymes to the main theme and boards the funky mothership, before Kiefer catapults it into an enthralling Drum’n Bass excursion.
We take a deep breath while “YeahYeahYeah” puts us back into deep relaxation. Anaj, a highly respected Berlin artist in many disciplines from design to sculpture, is introduced as vocalist on “Woman & Man”, while Karl Frierson returns for “Underneath” respectively. Here we see The Soul Session at their best: Beautifully crafted compositions, a tight rhythm section and cleverly worked out arrangements. “Hamjam” proves this point in full effect: Ralph Kiefer’s grooves are deeply rooted in the best of hang loose 70s fusion, the precise machinery of 80s funk and the crossover vibes of the 90s.
Then, of course, there is “Light My Fire”. Yes, it is the Doors tune and you may be tempted to think that there is no chance to put some fresh perspective to a classic like this. But wait until you have checked out this version with Kiefer himself on vocal duties. Sticking to the era and still breathing the freewheeling spirit of the late 60s and early 70s L.A. sound, One closes with the “Horse With No Name Suite”. Clocking in at around 11 minutes with the America classic, a bona fide three minute 70s pop tune in its original incarnation, turns into an up-to-date Jazz suite on One.
“Out Of The Rain” is the title of the suite’s closing part and that’s exactly the feeling you get after listening to this album. The Soul Session steps into the arena with a longplayer full of pleasant surprises: A profound sense of history, respect and deep understanding of jazz, soul, funk and electronic music, connected with a high-profile musicianship and amazing ongwriting skills. This is definitely “one” rare treat these days – and it’s all about Soul!