Classics: Nuyorican Soul – It’s Alright, I Feel It! (MAW 12″ Mix) (Talkin’ Loud)
Superlatives are still missing to tell you how I felt by the time I received the highly sought after Nuyorican Soul‘s 6 × Vinyl 12″ boxset from Talkin’ Loud. From the object itself to its content, sounding like an introspective flashback into the influences of its conceptors. Not to mention its line-up featuring an impressive array of luminaries. From Roy Ayers to George Benson. But also Tito Puente, Vincent Montana, Jr. and Jazzy Jeff to name but a few.
“Let nothing block your way coz’ this is your day. Stand up and be free! And all they got to say is it’s alright, I feel it!” As many words speakin’ for themselves when referring to the history of Louie Vega and Kenny Dope. Two music lovers who’ve emerged from the Underground to establish themselves as major forces in the production. Meanwhile using their respective backgrounds as a tool to craft their sound as a twosome, but also as individualities.
More than 20 years have gone since the release of ‘It’s Alright, I Feel It’. And the impression of freshness pretty much remains the same. With thanks to its timeless uplifting message and its outstanding interpretation by the likes of Jocelyn Brown. But also to Terry Burrus‘s killer piano part. And how about its overall concept? At the crossroad between the Soul from the Big Apple and Nu Jazz (if not Broken Beat), with an undeniable reminiscence of Hip-Hop, rhythmically speakin’…
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– The first mention to Nuyorican Soul dates from 1993 with the release of ‘The Nervous Track’ on Nervous Records.
Nothing more from then on until 1996 and the release of a self-titled album. “Nuyorican” (meaning “New Yorker” in Spanish) being a reminder of both Louie Vega and Kenny Dope‘s Puerto-Rican roots. Although both of them have a slightly different background. With Louie (Hector Lavoe‘s nephew) inheriting from Fania / Salsoul Records’ influences. And Kenny being more of a Hip-Hop B-Boy guy. The twosome getting their connection via Todd Terry and makin’ themselves a name under various guises such as KenLou and Masters At Work.
As a result, ‘Nuyorican Soul’ stands pretty much as their legacy. Paying props to classics that have nurtured their teens such as The Salsoul Orchestra‘s ‘Runaway’ featuring Loleatta Holloway. Or Rotary Connection‘s ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’. But also collaborating with some of their heros from Roy Ayers to Tito Puente, George Benson and Vincent Montana, Jr. among others. This giving birth to gems such as ‘Our Time Is Coming’, ‘You Can Do It’ and ‘Sweet Tears’. Not to mention ‘It’s Alright, I Feel It!’ which received countless remixes, from Roni Size to Armand Van Helden or Mood II Swing.
Louie and Kenny told me about their aim to release a follow-up, eventually mentionning their will to collaborate with Manu Dibango among others. Alas, the project never saw the light. Most likely due to the promotional costs of the volume 1, with so many legendary artists on board.
– A Kingston, NC native, Jocelyn Brown grew up in a family of 7 brothers and 2 sisters whom she was the eldest. Her aunt, Barbara Roy, was the lead singer of Ecstasy, Passion And Pain. Her mom, two aunts, cousin and grandmother were all accomplished singers.
Singin’ acapella among the family quickly became a way of life. Jocelyn would develop her art upon moving to NYC at the age of 6 while singing further in the churches of Harlem. A few years on, and she ended up leavin’ the Gospel to become a session singer, working with countless luminaries. From Bruce Springsteen to Bette Middler and Bob Dylan. But also R&B/Disco acts such Musique, Chic and Change (‘Angel In My Pocket’). Not to mention Kleeer or Cerrone (‘You Are The One’) among others.
The first time I got to hear her brings me back to 1979. Back then, she was singin’ the lead for Patrick Adams‘ band Inner Life on ‘I’m Caught Up (In a One Night Love Affair’ (Prelude). An experience she would repeat two years after. This with a memorable interpretation of Ashford & Simpson‘s ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ (Salsoul). The year after seeing her teamin’ up with Salsoul Orchestra on ‘Take Some Time Out (For Love’). Then back with Inner Life on ‘Moment Of My Life’ and ‘I Like It Like That’.
Jocelyn Brown released her debut-album back in 1984. Its title cut – ‘Somebody Else’s Guy’ – standing as her most famous song as a solo artist. This with production work courtesy of Allen George & Fred McFarlane. She would eventually deliver its follow-up – ‘One From The Heart’ – 3 years after, collaborating with producer Hubert Eaves III (D-Train). An album which featured another goodie of her by the likes of ‘Ego Maniac’.
By 1985, Brown released ‘Love’s Gonna Get You’ along with producer John Jellybean Benitez. Eventually sounding like an answer to ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, it most likely inspired artists such as Snap! then Bizarre Inc.. The first sampling one particular line in the song by the likes of “I’ve got the power!” on ‘The Power’. And the latter borrowing another line – “Why waste your time, you know you’re gonna be mine” – on ‘I’m Gonna Get You’.
Meanwhile Polish producer Juliet Sikora would embed (uncredited) vocals of Jocelyn Brown on ‘Larrys Garage’ back in 2015. The latter comin’ from her live performance at the Larry Levan Street Party on King St. in New York, outside the original venue of The Paradise Garage, May 11, 2014.
Facing problems with the development of her own career, Brown would most likely spend her time singin’ for others from then. Teamin’ up back in 1989 with Spanish producer Raúl Orellana on ‘Gipsy Rhythm’. Then a year after with Incognito on a memorable cover version of Ronnie Laws‘ ‘Always There’.
And how couldn’t we remember her brilliant performances on the 1996 Nuyorican Soul album? From her one of a kind rendition of Rotary Connection‘s ‘I Am The Black God Of The Sun’. To the uplifting ‘It’s Alright, I Feel It’. Not to mention, more recently, the firing ‘You Are Everything’ from Louie Vega‘s 2015 ‘Starring XVIII’ album. This in addition to ‘Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys’ with Bollo. And ‘Don’t Quit (Be A Believer)’ with Diephuis which Reelsoul eventually remixed a few months later.
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