Keep On Movin'

Soul II Soul

Virgin, 1989

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


Keep On Movin’ by Soul II Soul is where the distinct drum machine sound of the ‘80s meets the laidback R&B flavor of the ‘90s. It was the precursor to the short-lived new jack swing period and had elements of jazz to make it more high-brow (and harmless) than your typical hip-hop fare. The title track, sung by Caron Wheeler, has an elegant, sweeping style that is set to a danceable beat. As the album’s producers, Nellee Hooper and Jazzie B announced their arrival in a big way, even gaining the attention of the likes of Bjork and Madonna. Later, Nellee Hooper went on to further critical acclaim as a member of the trip-hop outfit Massive Attack.

The album (which is also titled Club Classics, Vol. 1 in some territories) is mostly known for the two #1 club hits, “Keep On Movin” and “Back To Life.” The other tunes to be found on the record didn’t really catch fire like those two did, so they come off sounding like window dressing designed just to pass the time and to ensure an album’s worth of material. There’s an instrumental here (“African Dance”), a dub version there (“Happiness”) and a B-side thrown in for whatever reason (“Jazzie’s Groove”). For this album to have done so well critically and commercially is something of a surprise, considering how much filler it contains.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first few tracks are the best of the lot on Keep On Movin’. Despite the constant refrain of the line “Wouldn’t that be fair” sung by Rose Winthrop, “Fairplay” has an enticing, laidback groove that’s along the same lines as Janet Jackson’s “That’s The Way Love Goes.” Even better still is “Holdin’ On,” where we first hear Jazzie B’s distinctive vocals, not to mention the sorely missed sounds of strings – the element that made all those ‘70s disco records so magical. There are even some Zulu vocals by an unknown artist known only as Shikisha. Go on with your bad self, Shikisha!

There is more bad news that comes when Jazzie B attempts to rap on the slowed-down and murky “Feeling Free.” Had the tempo been a bit faster, the rap would have fit, but the way it stands now it just doesn’t work. Also disappointing is the similarly titled “Feel Free,” which has a bizarre warbling vocal performance by Do’Reen. Needless to say, her singing is something of an acquired taste.

Thankfully, the songs are short in their duration because I couldn’t wait for it all to end.

Unfortunately, this genre of music is not one of my favorites, hence the low grade. There just aren’t enough memorable tracks on par with the two hits making it worth plunking down your hard-earned money for. The drum machines now make this material sound dated and Soul II Soul has since ceased to exist. Truth be told, this album sounds like it was hastily assembled, making it more of an artifact than the classic it aspires to be.

Rating: D+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin, and is used for informational purposes only.