How can I pass up the chance to review an album by someone who calls herself Divine Brown, a name she unfortunately shares with the hooker caught in actor Hugh Grant’s car in 1995 on the Sunset Strip in L.A.? But OK, she’s from Canada, so maybe she missed that issue of Entertainment Weekly.
How can I pass up the chance to review an album by someone who calls herself Divine Brown, a name she unfortunately shares with the hooker caught in actor Hugh Grant’s car in 1995 on the Sunset Strip in L.A.?
But OK, she’s from Canada, so maybe she missed that issue of Entertainment Weekly. Regardless, Brown’s "The Love Chronicles" is the second August release – Beyonce’s little sister Solange released the other – that uses old-school soul as its template and adds just the right amount of modern touches to keep it from sounding dated.
While Solange’s "Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams" succeeds a little better at mining the classic sounds of Motown and Stax, Brown is aiming in a slightly different direction. As per the title, "Love Chronicles" is a trip through the history of soul music, beginning with the doo-wop-inspired “Lay It On the Line” and continuing up through the mid-‘60s with the go-go rave-up “Bebe,” which comes complete with a cornball nasal soprano and a “Monster Mash”-style hook on the chorus. Both are a bouncy good time.
Brown’s take on the soul ballads of queens like Gladys Knight and Diana Ross are a little formulaic, but soon we slide on into the ‘70s with the slinky “Next Best Thing” and a disco tribute in “Boogie Slide” that matches Brown’s breathy vocals with a nimble acoustic guitar and Technicolor keyboard runs.
Marvin Gaye’s lush, driving soul is tapped for “Best Friend,” and "A Night at the Roxy" sounds like Brown's been listening to Miles Davis' awesomely-crazy ex-wife Betty; and while the last few songs draw a little too much on early-to-mid-‘90s R&B for my taste, there are a few imaginative touches that keep the proceedings lively.
And of course there’s a hidden track that should be part of the main album, but I digress.
When she leans more toward the old-school, Brown’s vocal chops and unique touches breathe new life into genres that were a lot of fun to begin with, and you can’t blame her for a fixation on Mariah and Whitney: they were pretty great back in the day.
I just can’t help thinking that this review would be so much better if it was Hugh Grant’s Divine Brown who recorded "The Love Chronicles." It would be a great comeback story. Oh, well. It's still a solid set of R&B from my new favorite Canadian soul artist (full disclosure: she's the only Canadian soul artist I know -- no, we DO NOT count Celine Dion, and shame on you for suggesting so).
For more on the album, see Amazon’s Canada site.