Picks and Pans Review: Paradise
There is a smoldering quality to this English pop artist's voice. It comes through all too rarely, though, on what is an otherwise pleasant enough combination of American soul inflections and British-style funk.
You can hear the more passionate Turner best on "Surrender," a slow-soaring love song with just a hint of Motown behind it, and on the sweet and smoky ballad "See Me." Here, Turner coos temptingly, "Feel me/ Talk to me/ Feel fire/ Live wire/ Feel me/ Hold me" to Jonathan Butler's tuneful if temperate acoustic guitar work.
Rap master Ecstasy from Whodini joins Turner on the funk-driven title cut, one of four for which Turner shares songwriting credit. Producer-composers Womack & Womack, Loris Holland and Jolyon Skinner contributed the rest of the satisfying if somewhat same-sounding tracks. There are a few danceable numbers, notably the longer treatment (on CD only) given the catchy single "It's Gonna Be Alright." Subtitled "The Brixton Bass Mix," this version has a hard-edged street beat that your feet and fingers will want to explore.
Paradise is the third solo album for the Jamaican-born Turner, who has worked as a backup singer of Bryan Ferry, UB40 and Culture Club. It follows by a year or so her all-Motown offering (Ruby Turner: The Motown Songbook), which was a tribute to the Motor City greats she considers to be her strongest influences: Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Levi Stubbs and Stevie Wonder, some of whom played and sang with her on the LP.
It's too bad that what you hear on Paradise is so frequently smoothed over—lots of hip but little hop. When she's at her best, even the relatively slick Motown sound that Turner emulates is earthy and emotive, full of the funky kind of soul that this winsome but watered-down effort could use more of. (Jive/RCA)
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