And now, for something completely different — the debut of a new musical aggregate headed by English producer/arranger Jazzie B. and writer/programmer Nellee Hooper. Soul II Soul and its many members, called The Funki Dreds, weave together dance music that is characterized by the blending of R&B, rap, reggae, African and jazz elements. The nine-cut package, which showcases vocalists Do’Reen, Caron Wheeler and Rose Windross, delightfully embodies the spirit of constructive musical experimentation.
The first single and title tune ― an alluring mid-tempo item highlighted by Ms. Wheeler’s eloquent vocal, teasingly restrained piano playing, perky percussion and slight string accents — is already a certified R&B hit and making inroads on pop radio as well. Other key tunes include the funky “Fairplay” featuring Ms. Windross’ eclectically soaring singing, the flute-driven instrumental “African Dance,” the P-Funk inflected “Feel Free” featuring Do’Reen’s soulful pipes and the house music-styled “Happiness.”
Jazzie B. and Nellee Hooper have succeeded in creating a unique product by adhering to the philosophy of intricate conception and simple execution. Perhaps due to their isolation from the United States, the pair have constructed an album and a sound that leaps out from the pack when contrasted with the current glut of cloned styles currently heard on the radio.