Gregory Porter’s majestic voice is in full bloom on his new album, which speaks instantly to the heart.
Take Me To The Alley feels more inward looking and deeply personal compared to Liquid Spirit, which put him firmly on the musical map and propelled him from his native Bakersfield, California to selling out venues across the globe.
Straight out of the block Holding On opens pretty much where Gregory left off, with you fully submerged in the mellifluous power of his voice.
The track, which he co-wrote with British disco dons Disclosure is re-worked with an understated driving rhythm, leaving his singing to be perfectly complimented by a subtle piano and double bass.
But Mr Porter is in a decidedly different mood as he takes his listeners on an emotional journey, tackling his innermost feelings.
Subject matter in this collection of songs ranges from the loss of innocence and sorrow at seeing his three year old baby boy Demyan growing up in Day Dream, an instant ear-worm from the first listen.
Soaring vocals describing a little boy lost in playful exuberance, which will soon be lost as he faces the challenges of growing up.
The album is also scored with religious undertones. Title track Take Me To The Alley, reflects Gregory’s time growing up in Bakersfield – watching his mother, who moved there to pick cotton.
She also served the community by helping the homeless. And the track tells how humility can be the key to making a difference in other people’s lives.
More Than A Woman is a moving song which further evokes images of motherhood and how difficult it must have been for Mary to bear witness to Jesus’ life and death.
But the soul searching, also present on Liquid Spirit, 2013’s Platinum selling record, is deftly counterbalanced with stronger jazz elements, which at first challenge and then reward the listener upon further plays.
Stand out tracks Insanity and Don’t Be A Fool deal with feelings of regret and lost loves. With Gregory’s voice leaping effortlessly from somber feelings to an uplifting soulful crooning.
Not since Bill Withers self imposed departure from the music industry have we seen a voice so powerful, capable of climbing and taking your heart along for the ride.
His voice is akin to an old friend giving you advice about your troubles and pulling you in from the cold.
Still Bill aficionados will surely not disagree with these sentiments, as Gregory has cited (apart from Nat King Cole as his biggest influence) that Withers is a huge inspiration for him and has covered Grandma’s Hands.
Should you need any further evidence on the raw potency of Mr Porter’s voice, we urge you to listen to the A Cappela version of Take Me To The Alley, which you can watch in the video box here.
Take Me To The Alley is your essential listening for the summer, jazz stalwarts Blue Note Records have got a bone fide star on their hands in Gregory Porter and long may we enjoy his songs.
If you get the chance to see him live, seize it with both hands as you are witnessing a music legend in the making.
Purple Revolver rating: ***** Flawless
Track listing for Take Me To The Alley:
1. Holding On (Gregory Porter/James John Napier/Guy William Lawrence/Howard John Lawrence)
2. Don’t Lose Your Steam (Porter)
3. Take Me To The Alley (Porter)
4. Day Dream (Gregory Porter/Craig Dawson)
5. Consequence of Love (Porter)
6. In Fashion (Porter)
7. More Than A Woman (Porter)
8. In Heaven (Darlene Andrews, Gregory Porter’s cousin)
9. Insanity (Porter)
10. Don’t Be A Fool (Porter)
11. Fan The Flames (Porter)
12. French African Queen (Porter)