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Album Review: Ryan Shaw - Real Love

Album Review: Ryan Shaw - Real Love
(Classic Soul)

Twitter Review: @kozmicfunk If your looking for the REAL THANG in music 2012, look no further than: Ryan Shaw - Real Love go & buy it. You can thank me later. Oh you say that isn't enough of a review? Too short? Need more perspective, than 140 characters can give you?

Well below is the review, if you need to understand the larger context, past/present/future of where this great new release fits into the paradigm of Black music.

I don't mind telling you that I am doing some serious mult-tasking at the moment:

-- I am watching the movie "JFK" on Cable TV (for about the 20th time)
-- I am in the middle of writing a piece on legendary NYC communicator, Hal Jackson
-- I am listening to the new Ryan Shaw album "Real Love" (for about the 10th time, since November 2011)
-- I am also preparing a new playlist for Nu Soul @

By now I am certain that you have heard about Ryan Shaw's latest release: Real Love? It has certainly generated a whole lot of publicity and is being featured all over the place these days. In fact Real Love is already in the top 10 on the iTunes Soul/R&B chart and it's just been released. I've been listening to the album for a good 6 months or so now, and if you are reading this, I strongly suspect that you will like Real Love as much as I do.

I get to review all kinds of albums, from all kinds of musical genres. Everything from doo wop to hip hop to bebop and everything in between. However in 2012 oddly enough I don't get to review very many "Classic Soul" albums, despite the fact that there are lots of them around. Sound like a contradiction? Well maybe...

The contradiction in my mind is that the use of the term "Classic Soul" as a marketing term, is poison. However the use of the names of "Classic Soul Artists" as a descriptor in order to "hype" something is perfectly acceptable. How many artists today do you see labeled as "Sounds like WilsonPickettMarvinGayeAlGreenOtisReddingSamCooke." That apparently is acceptable. Even more acceptable is to evoke the "vibe" of Classic Soul. That's because the "vibe' of Classic Soul is such a powerful undercurrent in our society, that even in 2012 all a President has to do is sing a few words from an Al Green song in order to put an entire nation into a "Classic Soul Groove." Hell in 2009 all a white girl from the UK (Amy Winehouse) had to do was a whole album of "Classic Soul," to win 5 Grammy Awards.

The movie "JFK" of course takes place mostly in the 1960's and the 1960's is when "Classic Soul" ruled. As I am watching the movie many of the events that inspired "Classic Soul" music during the 1960's are depicted. Of course our friend, the late Hal Jackson was the first to play the music of "WilsonPickettMarvinGayeAlGreenOtisReddingSamCooke",
etc. on the radio in NYC during the 1960's.

My personal belief is that Classic Soul is the greatest music ever produced by the United States, despite the fact that it's "chart lifespan" according to Billboard was probably less than 2 decades. Obviously it is the music of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Temptations, Isaac Hayes, Whitney Houston, R. Kelly, Barry White, Dells, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, and more. Not quite so obviously it is also the music of Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Mick Jagger, the Beatles and more. Our society is so impacted by Classic Soul, that whenever one of the Classic Soul artists passes away (ex: Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, James Brown, Donna Summer, etc.) we go into a "national state of mourning," for at least 2 weeks. In some cases, their funerals are even nationally televised, similar to that of a head of state.

I realize that "Classic Soul" has an image that is frozen in time. It makes us think of segregated lunch counters, or perhaps of images of people from the past wearing afos/processes, flashy clothes or those very same people now 40 years older. However the reality of Classic Soul" in 2012 is far more complex than those images. It is actually all of that and more. Hell, just go to any college campus in the United States, poke around for a few hours and you will quickly discover that the most popular nightclub in the campus area is one where students dressed in 60's/70's vintage clothing dance till the wee hours to 1960's & 1970's Classic Soul 45's and that the most popular campus radio show is the one where a hip young DJ with a peach fuzz beard spins a combination of old 45's + brand new "classic soul music" created by garage bands with equally peach fuzz bearded members.

"Classic Soul" is also is one of this country's greatest exports. Music fans all over the world enjoy the timeless quality of it's sound/vibe, a fact that I have documented as a result of doing worldwide internet radio broadcasts and running one of the most popular worldwide music sites for well over a decade.

So why then is the term "Classic Soul" itself so damn "toxic" from a marketing perspective in 2012? I don't know the answer to that question, but I can tell you what at least a part of the solution is pretty obvious to my ears/eyes...

Which brings me to Ryan Shaw & Real Love...

First off, I have to applaud Ryan Shaw and his team (people like Jimmy Bralower, Johnny Gale, Al Kooper, Karen Manno, Robert Randolph, The Soul Survivors & more) for having the guts to produce a true fully formed and fully realized "Classic Soul" album in the year 2012. This my friends isn't anything "neo" or "retro," it is instead the REAL THING. By that I mean, the album has an "analog" (warm) feeling to it, as opposed to a "digital" (cold) feeling to it. In other word, it could be dropped into a 1973 "R&B Radio playlist" (or for that matter a 1973 "Top 40 Radio playlist.")

The album Real Love is a true "Classic Soul," album. It isn't "retro." Not one bit. There is only one "cover" (Beatles - "Yesterday") This album is so good that when I heard a rough cut of the songs back in November of 2010 I immediately said that I would add Evermore, Gone, Gone, Gone, That is Why, Yesterday, and Morning Noon and Night to the playlist of the Nu Soul channel on (so I'll be adding all 5 tracks to the playlist this weekend, now that the album has been officially released.)

Listening to the album you can hear clear influences. I can hear influences of the great Classic Soul record labels of the past. I hear Stax, I hear Motown, I hear Chess, I hear Atlantic. I hear the regional styles of Detroit, New York, Memphis, Chicago, East LA, The Carolinas, and more. I hear doo wop, I hear funk, I hear music to drive to the mountains with, I hear music you hear walking down the boardwalk to, I hear music to dance to, I hear music to make love to and I hear the sound of America (in all of its red/blue state permutations.) And yes I do hear the echoes of "WilsonPickettMarvinGayeAlGreenOtisReddingSamCooke."

Clearly the music of Ryan Shaw and Real Love stands on the shoulders of all of this and does so with an un-yielding passion. It doesn't purport to be anything "new" at all. When you listen to it for the first time, it will make you smile in the same way that "comfort food" does when you take that first bite. It is poised to be at the forefront of something huge that is taking place.

The good news here is that this all feels to me like the beginning of something as opposed to the culmination of something. Ryan Shaw is hardly the only artist in 2012 that is looking to the past in order to provide our musical answers for the future. However because you and I are likely to be hearing tracks from this album all summer long in a variety of situations is going to be seen as the leader of this movement. My best advice to you is to pick up on this album in whatever your preferred format is, sit back and enjoy the ride. This is gonna be a whole lotta fun...


--Bob Davis

Blues, Hip Hop and Soul Music Director

I Just Heard A truly C-O-M-P-E-L-L-I-N-G song (a totally "hypnotic/erotic groove")

Ryan Shaw Evermore VideoA few of you all may recall that about a month ago, I kinda went a little crazy and sent out the following email about the song "EVERMORE" from the new Ryan Shaw album called "Real Lov." At that time I had yet to review the entire album, but now obviously I have. I want to re-run that email in this space. Now that you have read my album review, my excitement about the song "EVERMORE" may or not make much sense to you. Either way, click on the video links below and let me know what cha think of the song? And then come back here and read Ryan Shaw bio in the next section. He's got an interesting story. (Bob Davis)

Remember these two songs?

1. Betty Wright - "Tonight is the Night"
2. Tommy James & the Shondells - "Crystal Blue Persuasion"

Now just think about the melody of these two and forget about the lyrics. Simply play back those to songs inside of your mind, with no words.

Now merge the two songs together. They fit together just like rice & gravy, don't they?

Continue to listen to both instrumentals (forget the lyrics) playing together as if they are one song. This now unnamed "third song," has a real hypnotic groove, doesn't it? Don't they sound just like butter & popcorn?

Now bring in a male voice.
It's a voice that sounds a bit like Wilson Pickett? (a little)
Or maybe a bit like Sam Cooke? (maybe?)

But then you notice that he's got background singers
(a little R&B?......a little doo wop?)

Ahhhh, Temptations? (maybe.....maybe not?)

Now you listen to the lyrics. It's a "begging/lust" song. Beautiful....classic....


You know the one, I'm talking about...

The one that's playing thru the speakers of the salt water taffy shop on the boardwalk. The one that's playing when you see..... ...THE GIRL THAT'S STANDING THERE...

It's the same girl that the Beatles saw "standing there."
And just like the Minnie Riperton album cover. She's eating an ice cream cone & the ice cream is melting/dripping on her hand. You want to lick it off.

But first you have to work up the nerve to speak with her. To approach her.
You have no idea what to say. Plus you are half scared that her boyfriend will return at the very moment that you choose to approach her. So you don't.

But if you had the guts to approach her, you would express to her, in your own words, the lyrics to this song. And as you spoke with her, this hypnotic groove, would be what is playing in your head.

Now stop imagining.

I have been listening to this very song, off and on all day long today. It's track #5 of a soon to be released album by Mr. Ryan Shaw. (like so many of the great ones, it's buried in the middle of the album)

The name of the album is "REAL LOVE."

The whole album is actually pretty good, and I will be doing a full review of it soon.

But I had to stop for just a moment and tell you all about this one mind blowing track called "EVERMORE." On this track Ryan is backed up by the Soul Survivors.

I already have it on "repeat" inside of my mind.
(along with all of the others I have mentioned in the past that are permenatly "on repeat," inside of my head.)

"EVERMORE" will be the one that I will remember Ryan Shaw for 20 years from now. (even though I am told that it will not be be the album single.......go figure?)

I just so happens that I have a link to a live version of the song "Evermore" - Ryan Shaw.

Check it out and let me know if you think that I have lost my damn mind?

--Bob Davis

Blues, Hip Hop and Soul Music Director

Bio: Ryan Shaw

Album Review: Ryan Shaw - Real Love
The idea behind Ryan Shaw's new album, "Real Love," is the highest of concepts. With a voice that's as exalted as they come, this gifted performer sings about love in all its forms - true love, higher love, everlasting love, even lost love. When it comes right down to it, what other subject is there?

And Ryan Shaw absolutely loves what he is doing. Just listen to the way he can't help but laugh as he throws himself headlong into the late Jerry Ragovoy's heavy soul burner "You Don't Know Nothing About Love." Or how he surfs the huge, thrilling waves of "That Is Why," carving it up inside the tube of the song.

His debut album, 2008's "This Is Ryan Shaw," nearly took him over the top, earning him a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for the song "I Am Your Man." Billboard called him "a massive talent," and he appeared on several nationally broadcast shows. He was also hand-picked to open on tour for Van Halen - an experience, he says, that was surprisingly simpatico.

"A lot of people think that was a pretty strange pair-up," Shaw says, yet the audiences were quick to recognize a talent who truly deserved their attention. "I actually thought it was kind of cool. I think people connect to real music. After Van Halen, I don't have stage fright anymore. Every stage is my living room now."

After the tantalizing response to his debut, Shaw has dedicated himself to reaching an even higher level with the help of his devoted production team - veteran session musicians, songwriters and producers Jimmy Bralower, who has credits on more than 70 gold and platinum records, and Johnny Gale, who has worked with Hank Ballard, the Dells and many more classic doo-wop and vocal groups. They put out an aptly titled EP, "In Between," in 2010, and they nurtured Shaw's career in the Netherlands, where he scored an unexpected Number One hit record.

Now, like so many other artists in the music industry's new era, they are doing it themselves, writing, producing and releasing "Real Love," Shaw's second full-length album, on Bralower's Dynotone Records label. For Shaw, whose faith is strong, each step on his winding career path has come at precisely the right time.

"I don't really know what God is doing," he says, "but I'd have to say it's all come at the appropriate pace."
Growing up in Decatur, Georgia, the only music Shaw was allowed to hear in his strict churchgoing mother's house was contemporary gospel. The Shaw Boys - there were eight kids in all - sang in a family-oriented Pentecostal church, where Shaw's uncle was the pastor.

Today, Ryan remains very active in his local ministry, where he's a vocal coach for the choirs. "They call me the cleanup man," he says with a laugh.

Though he has lived and worked in New York for years and his mother is still in Georgia, her influence remains strong. "My mother is sort of the gauge for what I do on my records," Shaw says. If it wouldn't pass muster with her, he's probably not singing it.

Yet he is undoubtedly his own man, with his own strong intuition. Bralower and Gale, both seasoned studio pros, have devised a system in which they present Shaw with new ideas from their seemingly bottomless supply of new songs. If he's not feeling a particular track, they don't push.

"I'm pretty solid how I feel," says Shaw. "If it makes me smile, we go with it. If not, we move on."
On select tracks, the team brought in a few all-stars, including keyboardist Al Kooper, pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and the classic Philly vocal group the Soul Survivors. Whatever the track's components, for Shaw, the barometer is simple. "Everything I sing has to be real for me. It has to mean something, even if it's on the lighter side."

Just as gospel music informed so much of the R&B canon - from true acolytes like Sam Cooke and Al Green to sanctified soul men like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave ­- Shaw still hears it in modern pop. "Call and response, the meter hymn, all that stuff - I don't know if there's any way you can get the gospel out," he says. "You can't strip away the core. It'll always be there."

Admittedly, what he does runs a little hot for church. "I'm very high-energy soul," Shaw says. "I get crazy."


Ryan Shaw - Real Love


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