Carole Sylvan – Love
The Orchard – 2021
10 tracks; 38 minutes
Information on both Carole Sylvan and this album was hard to find, but I have gleaned that Carole is an experienced singer from New York who has performed with a wide variety of acts, done commercials and movie soundtracks, but this is the first album under her own name that I could find. Carole handles all vocals (lead and background) and is supported by a wide cast of musicians, the core being Charlie Karp (Buddy Miles) on guitar, Scott Spray on bass and Bobby T Torello on drums, both of whom played with Johnny Winter, amongst others. With horns on most tracks, the style is a pleasing blend of soul, Rn’B and a little blues, four of the songs being written by Charlie who sadly passed away in 2019.
Of Charlie’s songs “Lighthouse” is a splendid ballad with a superb vocal arrangement, fine sax and keys work and a nicely poised guitar solo on the outro from co-writer Rafe Klein; this one really grabs your attention! “Keep It Clean” heads to the funky side of the street while “Love To Love” is another winner with a central horn riff that recalls vintage Bobby Bland, a song that Carole obviously liked enough for a short reprise at the end of the album! Charlie’s other contribution is “I Still Love You Anyway” which replaces the horns with the mournful sound of a cello, a sad ballad with some rather different time changes which Carole sings convincingly.
The closest to straight blues is a cover of “I Cry For You”, a track from Willie Dixon’s late period album Hidden Charms. With Rafe playing some funky guitar and organ and piano to the fore, this is one of the tracks without horns. A completely different rhythm section plays on the upbeat and soulful “Only One Around”, written by Gary Thompson, about whom I could find no information. “What Do You Call It? (I Call It Love)” makes a strong opener to the album with its soul and gospel approach, a duet between Carole and the writer of the song, New York soulman Bobby Harden. Moving away from soul, Carole sounds equally at home on the familiar “Tennessee Whiskey”, probably now better known from Chris Stapleton’s rather than George Jones’ version. The absolute highlight of the album, however, has to be the cover of The Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody”. It’s a wonderful song, originally written for pitching to Otis Redding who, sadly, was killed before that could happen. The song was, of course, memorably covered by Nina Simone and subsequently Janis Joplin, The Animals and Michael Bolton are among many acts that have recorded it, but, in this reviewer’s opinion, this version is as good as any, Carole’s deeply soulful lead vocals brilliantly supported by her own choral vocals and a fine performance by the band, notably producer Vic Steffen’s piano and J. Meo’s sax and flute.
Fans of soulful vocals and horn-drenched arrangements will find plenty to enjoy here!