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Joseph Malik - Diverse (Compost Records)

This one's been my morning coffee/first fag of the day brain-soother and gentle kicker up the arse for a couple of weeks now, and it's smoother than a freshly polished glass lounge table. Released on Munich's wonderful Compost record label, the label schpeel with "Diverse" correctly includes Mr Malik amongst a "growing post-dancefloor generation of young talented singer-songwriters... back to fill the lack of soul in clubs".

I don't know if it's quite fair to dismiss all club music as lacking in soul - you just have to dig deeper these days 'cos there's more of it being released - but the 'talented singer-songwriter' moniker applied here is unquestionably justified, perhaps even somewhat understated. Malik's vocal prowess is really something to behold - his delivery is silky, clean and soulful throughout, even hitting a spine-tingling gospel feel on many tracks. Think Marvin Gaye cross-bred with early Prince, before he climbed so far up his own excessively artistic little rump that he forgot his own name, and you're somewhere close.

Musically speaking, "Diverse" is just that. The quality and craft of musicianship on the album matches and compliments Malik's breathtaking vocals on every single track, with the primarily guitar-led productions taking influences from all over the shop - classic soul, jazz, R&B, folk, dance and Latin/African percussion patterns all mesh together beautifully here. Impressive stuff.

"So, what's on it then?" I don't hear you ask. Well, on such a tasty album with absolutely no weak moments whatsoever it's always a bit of a task to point the finger at three or four standouts, but with a gun to my head I'd probably go for the Bill Withers cover 'Take it all in and check it all out'. Simply a modern funky soul classic that'll have you singing 'Respect yo'self, na na na na na na' and nodding your head like a kinky Afro-ed swaggering pimp for days. Just watch in amazement as your shirt collars mysteriously begin to lengthen and The Funk slowly seeps its way into your street-stride. This one's been released on an album sampler twelve, along with the heavily percussive Latin soul of 'Futuristica' (produced by Son of Ugly) and the bluesy gospel preacher 'Evil Things'.

There's also a remix of 'Take it all inů' by Edinburgh's sublime house-headz Aqua Bassino in the pipeline, which I'm sure is bound straight for the front of my over-worked record bag. For me, though, the best of the bunch is 'I don't want' (feat. Colin Steel) - pushy bongo and organic drum and bass style beats, high-pitched synth strokes, NuJazz space bleeps (!) and gently piercing trumpets with Malik's toppest of top drawer vocal performances sitting very pretty atop the lot. Sex on vinyl.

"Diverse" is a soulful seductress of an album, something to sooth, heal, inspire and vitalize the senses without fussing and shouting or seeming to try too hard. Essential coolness for cats, clubbers, groovers, shakers, lovers and anyone who's looking for quality and freshness at the right price.

Steve Kinsey

(Mr Kinsey plays Lost in the Supermarket on Dublin's Jazz FM 89.8, Saturdays @10pm.)

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