BY MICHAEL TOLAND
There seems to be a surfeit of new soul men who draw from the ‘60s and ‘70s rather than post-Babyface R&B, but if the latest arrivals are as talented as Curtis Harding, they’re welcome at the table. On Soul Power, the Michigan-born, Atlanta-based singer and guitarist eschews the roof-raising energy of Charles Bradley and the slow burn eroticism of Lee Fields for a more measured, plainspoken sound – more Al Green and Arthur Alexander than Otis Redding and James Brown.
For Harding, funkiness is more a feel than a form – he’s more interested in an undulating hip sway like “Heaven’s On the Other Side” than a frenzied booty shake. Melodic mood pieces like “Beautiful People” and “Freedom” or midtempo charmers like “I Need a Friend” and “Keep On Shining” form the bulk of the menu, broken up by heart-on-sleeve balladry like “Castaway” and surprising shots of rock & roll a la “I Don’t Wanna Go Home” and “Surf.” As impressive as his range is, Harding’s ability to keep every song in line with his personable singing and no-nonsense guitar is what makes this LP truly special – well, that and the fact that there’s not a bum track on it. [Agreed—despite the monumentally pretentious album cover photo. –Art Ed.] An exceptionally strong debut record, Soul Power will make you believe in the title concept.
DOWNLOAD: “Keep On Shining,” “Heaven’s On the Other Side,” “Surf”