Saturday, February 12, 2011

Undiscovered Soul: Angela Johnson

Angela Johnson (vocals, keyboards, electronics)
It's Personal (Purpose Music, 2010)

Probably known more inside music circles than the wider populous (a shame really), Angela Johnson has been on the scene for almost two decades. Her positive message and soulful rhythms have help transform indie Soul music both in the US, Europe and Japan. While Patrice Rushen is a documented influence, Angela Johnson is making a case as a highly influential figure in her own right among today's indie Soul singers.

There have been a lot of indie US Soul singers in the last few years who have gained considerable exposure; N'Dambi, Ledisi, Anthony David and Donnie quickly come to mind. Angela Johnson is well deserving of the same wider reach. She has not only been a supreme deliverer of passionate themes and beats--Johnson has become a magnificent songwriter (delivering hits for Conya Davis, the groups Reel People and Seek to name a few) over the course of her career.

Originally a member of short-lived underground soul outfit Cooly's Hot Box, Johnson left the group to launch her solo career. This past year she released her fourth album, It's Personal (Purpose Music) and it is truly a slice of soulful strength and personal insight. Mainly revolving around her family and personal experiences over the last few years, It's Personal can still be reconstructed for one's own life. Opening with intimate yet funky "Only One" which asks the question that even after all this time "Em I still the only one for you?". A great love song that is thoughtful, lovely and beat-friendly.

"Hurts Like Hell" discussing the loss of love and how it has affected her life. Something we can all relate to. The harmony and tempo of "Hurts Like Hell" reminds me of early soulful Jamiroquai tracks. It's Personal isn't just about personal and emotion themes, there are also infectious head bouncy, body moving movements like "On The Radio" where Johnson asks the question we are all want to know, "Where has all the good music gone from the radio?". Last night a DJ was supposed to save my life but apparently you just can't get find that on the radio or in a record store. Angela Johnson delivers the question with all the right beats of a late club night.

The title track also hits the dance note perfectly with keyboards, trumpets and sax (by the way an all female band with Johnson on keys). A song stating her strength and independent spirit. "It's Personal" is wonderful closing statement from Johnson and for me the best album since her solo debut, They Don't Know (Purpose Music in US, Dome in UK; 2002).

Angela Johnson writes, performs and produces all of her material which is rare even among indie Soul singers. It's Personal is a brilliant and poignant document of one of the best singer, songwriters on the soul scene today. A real undiscovered treat for any music fan. I plead with everyone to check her out. You won't be disappointed. They don't make soul like this---period.

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