Artist: Terri Walker
Label: Def Soul
Rating: 9 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
The amount of UK-based females who have had any kind of long term success in the Hiphop or R’n’B market can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. You’ve got Beverley Knight and ummm… Beverley Knight. Whether its a case of both record labels AND the buying public showing a little too much bias towards American artists when it comes to the crunch is still open to debate, but the emergence of firstly Mis-Teeq, and now Terri Walker certainly goes to show that the talent on this side of the pond IS to be taken seriously.
Terri Walker kinda appeared from nowhere last year, when her debut single ‘Back To The Drawing Board’ made a few ripples, but with the release of this album, “Untitled” and the backing of the UK arm of the mighty Def Jam empire, Def Soul, it seems that Walker is set to make a major imprint on the R’n’B scene this year.
Why? Well its not often that I make such bold statements at the START of an album review – but THIS is one of the albums of the year. From start to finish Walker’s superb vocals glide over the tightest production I’ve heard on an entire R’n’B album since Jodeci’s “Diary Of A Mad Band”. Yup, that’s how long its been for me. From start to finish the production on each track compliments her voice perfectly, as she toys with a range of influences from Hiphop and R’n’b to dirty funk, jazz and gospel. The influence of late 80’s and early 90’s vocallists like Caron Wheeler is also spread all over this album. Indeed at times some of the tracks sound like they could have come straight out of the Jazzie B / Nellee Hooper Soul II Soul stable.
Things kick off with the bouncy ‘Lovefool’ where Terri lays on the line how she ain’t gonna be chewed up and spat out in the relationship game, over a thumping beatbox-assisted backing. The whole thing is similar to how Puffy worked Mary J Blige’s debut album back in the day, with the Hiphop influence winning over the heads, while the R’n’B crowd were swayed by Mary’s voice, ultimately hooking both sets of fans. Here the Kakalaka Coffee production team provide the beat while Walker tears it up vocally – not only displaying the full range of her vocal talents, but seemingly having FUN in the studio while doing it. Its very refreshing.
The sparkling opener is followed by the two older singles – last year’s ‘Back To The Drawing Board’ is a sassy high-tempo jazz head nodder, while the last single ‘Guess You Didn’t Love Me’ flies along at the same speed, but carries a sharp little kick in the guise of Mos Def’s guest verse. Current single, the bouncy, happy-go-lucky ‘Ching Ching’ will perhaps be a little too sweet for some, but the catchiness of the hook can’t be denied at all.
However its on tracks with a slightly moodier hint – the ones that aren’t really commercial enough to release as singles – that Walker particularly sparkles. ‘Fake’ is superb, again borrowing heavily from jazz elements, and wrapping things up in an almost G-funk array of squelchy synths. Here, Terri sounds remarkably like Erykah Badu, as she belts out another memorable chorus. Elsewhere, slower cuts like ‘Da Business’ and ‘4 Feet Under’ also display Badu-like tendencies… not that THAT is a BAD thing. The shit is dope.
This is a fantastic debut from a supremely talented lady. Its not just that its excellent – it also retains a uniquely British flavour (even with the inclusion of a quick one minute track called ‘Deutschland’ where Terri bangs out the lyrics in faultless German.) This deserves to succeed, and as I mentioned earlier you NEED to pick this up, cos its one of the albums of the year. Go cop it.