Allan Harris: Kates Soulfood

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Allan Harris

Kates Soulfood

(Love Productions Records)

February 24, 2021

Reviewed by Alix Cohen

Vocalist Allan Harris has an eminently appealing baritone and great musicality. This CD, a tribute to his home turf of Harlem, features a large, highly skilled band; background voices and background vocals; and considerable overdubbing. Producer Harris has allowed arranger Kamau Kenyatta to use far too many of the crayons in his box, homogenizing every track, then engineering everyone alike. Songwriter Harris is sincere and articulate, but formulaic.

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“I Grew Up” is effervescent stoop music—a rhythmic, dancey groove with percussive clapping.

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Gregoire Maret’s harmonica emerges outstanding; voices create atmosphere. If only this weren’t buried in sound. “One More Notch” features Curtis Taylor’s fine, muted trumpet—“I made a name for myself at the end of a gun/I play this part oh so long, I now believe it myself/I watch the clock—one more notch…” The story song gets bogged down in prose.

“Wash Away My Sins”: “You can buy things in life/But you can’t buy a soul—” has an easy gospel sound with quiet horns and some call and response. Making everything level keeps it from being moving. “Open Up” rides a syncopated percussion; it’s shadowy with rap attitude buried in and lots and lots and lots of effects. “Color of a Woman” starts with Harris’ seductive speaking voice. It arrives a cottony, swaying love song accompanied by too loud, metronome-sounding drums and Tonga Ross-M’au’s deft electric guitar.

“99 Miles” might’ve been a warm bath. “Autumn,” again showcasing a skilled harmonica, might’ve landed without extra emphasis. The pastoral, optimistic “A New Day” hums.

In my opinion, this is a case of can’t see the forest for the trees.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.