Sounds of Urban Life
Soulology: The Genesis
Abandoning the shallow shadows and false promises offered by the secular music industry, the Houston trio of Mr. Mone, Hen and Lavance surrender all to Jesus Christ, bringing their vocal talent to the altar on this debut disc.Producer: Crazy C., Rodney Jones
album release date: late 2000
Collectively known as the Sounds of Urban Life (S.O.U.L.), that moniker pretty much sums up what their stuff is all about.
The vocal threesome offer up nicely honed blends, with enough similarities in their voices to deliver seamless choruses, and yet able to make their solo lines distinctive. Running the gamut from the jam to the bounce, S.O.U.L. also offers riffs and runs (with Hen leading the way in that department) that compare with the best.
On par with today’s hottest R&B, and with every track scripturally referenced, the album breaks out with the first song, “Hold On” (click on adjacent image for download of the song's remix). Structured tightly around relentlessly funky rhythm of beats and guitar, chorus harmonies and a loose solo line give way to some finely buttered rap from the mic of guest Harvey Luv.
Heart-stopping ballads in the vein of R. Kelly are peppered throughout the project, with “Oh Poor Old Me” being the pick of the bunch.
Mr. Mone sweetens Soulology: The Genesis with his honeyed vocals, balanced out with wild side flecks of street grit. That’s what comes out on “Intimate”, a song primed with his tender street balladry that gets picked up by Lavance, who adds his slightly rougher tones mid song. Mone returns to close this highlight cut by ripping it with soaring ad libs. On the lyrical tip, S.O.U.L. chooses not to hang with the school of ambiguity, leaving no doubt that this intimacy is only about Jesus Christ.
The group's journey from secular to sacred is portrayed on the testimonial “Dance For Me”, with its reference to conversion. Getting your groove on with God is the theme here, with splashes of Spanish vocals from Tiffany D. and a spicy orchestral and guitar track imputing the bounce (because you HAVE to bounce with this one!)
Relationships are explored on other cuts; “Are You The One For Me” turns the tables on the typical themes of pain, rejection and spite so common on R&B radio. Moving instead into God-rooted lyrical territory, the song lays out New Testament based foundations for marriage. And "The One God Sent Me" is a gorgeous wedding jam with impassioned harmonies that cries out for inclusion in nuptial celebrations.
The familiar is interpreted in two spots. There’s a flavaful sanctified rework of Big Bub’s “Tellin Me Stories” as well as a remake of The Winans’ classic, “Millions” which was sure enough already sanctified. While it’s a near impossibility to improve on the original, S.O.U.L. gets respect for launching this one to the front of memory again.
Give up major props to noted producer Simon "Crazy C." Cullins Jr. for marshalling the talent of the three. With previous credits on projects that including those from Goodie Mob, Outcast, Destiny's Child and 8ball, Cullins is now mixing and engineering with Holy Spirit inspiration for the saving of souls. He puts his Crazy House Studio to work in generating a soul-soaked, jeep track jammed and deeply grooved project that never lets up on lyrical honesty.
Avoiding today’s over-reliance on slick studio tricks, Cullins opts to lay his bumpin’ new school tracks into a beds of old school vibes, and in doing so, removes all traces of that sterility that so often plagues millennial projects.
With sounds like these, Gospel has found itself another gem of producer, and with this mix of old school vocals, new school production and True school message, this project does it right.
reviewed by Stan North —
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