Danish-American saxophonist Michael Lington has made an entire career of titillating ears with songs suave and flavorsome. Seven albums and numerous radio hits to his credit, Lington, whose musical path features no shortage of intrepid moves and defiant choices, recently released yet another exploratory venture titled Soul Appeal, which oozes with charm and sophistication. Delightful and restorative, this opus acts as an anxiolytic, a balm smeared on septic wounds, a therapeutic cocktail.
The grand majority of the tracks are purely instrumental and prove to be more than mere displays of technical prowess; rather they richly fuse funky, bluesy sonorities and pay homage to all the celebrated musicians of the 60’s and 70’s Memphis soul scene. Michael Lington indulges in an exercise he is not utterly unfamiliar with: take something he adores and make it his own.
Groove-infused “Soul Appeal,” “Taking Off” and “Uptown Groove” open the album and exhibit a musical lushness that is remarkable; we applaud Lington’s generosity in producing an ambience propitious to exchange and musical abandon. Never once does his sax playing encumber or overpower the other musicians’ parts, allowing for a rock-solid circle to form, one rich in slickness and exuberance. In “Gonna Love You Tonight,” Lington’s sax arbors a more romantic suit, and accompanies brilliant R&B vocalist Kenny Lattimore, as any gentleman would, letting the former voice an amorous ode to his or desired beloved, never interrupting, only egging on with the aid of stirringly smooth sax lines – the ideal wingman! “Manhattan Nights” transports us to a 90’s dim and smoky jazz bar in New York, women dancing in retro clothes while men eye them; dulcet and a tad lascivious, this track concludes the first half of Soul Appeal on a particularly hot note.
“In the Pocket,” a reworking of King Curtis’ classic, is nicely jazzy and features a both ardent and nuanced saxophonic solo. “Leave Me You,” a powerful ballad led by Georgian soul musician Ryan Shaw, is another example of Michael Lington’s illustrious musicianship: he withdraws when needed, playing down musical agility in favor of emotional wealth. “Going Home” keeps it home with a languid sax lead in this savory ballad, replete with fits of élan and moments of poignant nostalgia. “Double Down” further grounds Lington’s dexterity and band spirit while “Memphis Soul Stew,” another inventive variant of King Curtis’ hit, establishes him as an eminent instrumentalist whose artistic possibilities are infinite. The album finishes on “Follow Your Heart,” a slow and melancholy piano-sax track, which, although devoid of lyrics, seems to convey untold feelings and sensations, a last appeal to soulful and authentic music.
Soul Appeal demonstrates Lington’s savoir-faire as well as his penchant for risk-taking and gathers, much to our delight, an assembly of gifted artists in this thrill-packed opus. While the album excels at reenacting the immediacy and flavor of Soul wonders past, it does at the detriment of variety, causing it, on a second hearing, to lose a soupcon of its initial appeal.
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