The new Cool Million album (III) is an unpretentious modern soul juggernaut, destined to become one of the most played soul albums of 2012 (at least here in the UK). Long-term fans won’t be disappointed with this release from Frank, Rob and their band of merry funkateers. III builds on the intoxicating formula of its predecessors and succeeds in delivering the duo’s finest work to date. The boys may still be enthralled by the sounds of the eighties, mining similar territory to D-Train, The Gap Band, Collage and others, but rather than merely emulating their heroes, Rob and Frank’s production and writing style has evolved to the point where one’s more likely to describe a cut as having that distinct Cool Million style, rather than saying, for instance, it sounds a lot like Howard Johnson etc.
While the last album saw the duo rope in a number of higher profile guests including Eugene Wilde, Mel’isa Morgan, Leroy Burgess, Dee Dee Wilde and Al Broomfield, III is more resolutely focused on European voices (with the exception of Peggi Blu who blows the cobwebs away with the thrilling album opener, When We Loved). The lack of high profile guests actually helps the album’s coherence, forcing the listener to focus on the music and performances. The highest profile vocalist is the UK’s Kenny Thomas who delivers a typically strong performance on the album’s first single, Without Your Love. Gary Poole from Soul Talk demonstrates why he’s one of the UK’s finest male soul vocalists on the Philly-infused monster, Running Around, replete with live horns and a groove sure to hit home with the modern soul crowd and beyond. If this isn’t released as a single, Mr SoulCuts will eat his own pants, live, via U-Stream, or Chatroulette.
Seventeen tracks deep, Cool Million III never falters. While a few cuts stand out, the quality runs deep across the entire collection. Uptempo gems such as the aforementioned Kenny Thomas and Gary Poole starring cuts, the seriously addictive When We Loved (with Peggi Blu), We Can Work It Out (with the Westcoast Soulstars) and What About You (with Peggi Blu) nestle up alongside midtempo goodies from Jono McNeil (Peace of Mind), Chidi (Take Me Home) and Laura Jackson (Think I’m In Love), with a little space afforded for a couple of bubbling slow jams from Bashiyra (The You in Me) and Kenny Thomas‘ wife Francisca (You Don’t Care).
Cool Million’s latest may not be innovative, but it’s certainly not derivative. The Euro Soul dons have succeeded in improving on the quality of earlier releases, deepening the live element of their sound, without sacrificing their established groove. The duo have honed their production and songwriting chops, subtly strengthening their sound to deliver a quality collection of cuts that will resonate with fans of straight-ahead, up front soul. Cool.
New tracks from Cool Million can be heard on this week’s SoulCuts 2012 show, available via the player below!