Classics: Soul II Soul – Back To Life (However You Want Me) (10 Records)
“Back To Life (back to reality)..” Alright then! If ever you had to name one song representative of Soul II Soul… And more widely of the Brit-Soul itself, which one would you go with? ‘Back To Life’? ‘Keep On Movin’??? We leave this to your own devices. With, as usual, your reactions more than welcome.
What amazed me back at the time is the absolute purity of Soul II Soul‘s arrangements. With thanks to their obvious minimalism, as opposed to the overproduction of the US R&B back then. And, by that, their redefinition of the sound. And most likely its rearticulation around the bassline. With the latter standing as the central part of their composition.
As a result here we have another sample of a unique and fascinating blend of deep vibes inherited from Philadelphia Soul, Disco, Reggae and Hip-Hop. This in addition to extra harmonies brought together by the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. With Caron Wheeler‘s sily performance comin’ up as the icing on the cake…
‘Back To Life’ would eventually come back to reality once again a few years later. This with a killer remix courtesy of Masters At Work…
Like many acts with Jamaican origins, Soul II Soul first came to recognition as a sound system. This with an initial line_up comprising Caron Wheeler, Doreen Waddell, Rose Windross, Daddae Harvey, Aitch B, and Jazzie Q around Jazzie B.
Their debut single – ‘Fairplay’ featuring Rose Windross – only peaked at #63 position in the UK charts. And its follow-up – ‘Feel Free’ – also failed to make it. But major success would come with their third attempt – ‘Keep On Movin” – along with Caron Wheeler on lead vocals. With history repeating itself with ‘Back To Life’. Then ‘Get A Life’ with Jazzie B‘s cousin Marcia Lewis fronting the band after the departure of both Rose Windross and Doreen Waddell.
From ‘Vol. II: 1990 – A New Decade’ which they recorded without Caron Wheeler who’d gone solo, one would most likely remember ‘A Dream’s A Dream’ along with Victoria Wilson-James. This in addition to ‘Get A Life’. Not to mention, although to a lesser extend, ‘People’ which Timmy Regisford happened to remix, and ‘Missing You’ featuring Kym Mazelle.
From ‘Volume III Just Right’ would most definitely come the uplfting ‘Joy’ featuring Richie Stephens with outstanding remixing work courtesy of The Brand New Heavies. With its follow ups – ‘Move Me No Mountain’ and ‘Just Right’ – achieving quite moderate success.
From then on, Soul II Soul progressively disappeared from the spotlights. Eventually disbanding in 1998 back in 1998 then resurfacing almost 10 years after for some tour activities.
In April 2013, Jazzie B and Charlotte Kelly launched the Soul II Soul ‘Classics’ Collection at Harvey Nichols in London. It features T-shirts and sweatshirts with Soul II Soul’s Funky Dred logo. And three years after, Soul II Soul released a single titled ‘A New Day’ credited to Caron Wheeler, which features production from Jazzie B and Louie Vega.
Meanwhile, on the remix front, SIIS are responsible for two killer reworks – ‘Do The Right Thing’ and ‘Ghetto Heaven’ – respectively for Redhead Kingpin And The F.B.I. and The Family Stand.
In March 2002, Doreen Waddell, who had been living in Hove following her departure, died aged 36 after being hit by three cars while fleeing from a shoplifting incident. And Melissa Bell sadly died 15 years later after suffering from kidney failure on Aug. 28, 2017.