Blue Soul Ten – Ten Percent – Album Review
Scheduled for release on September 13th, 2019, is a brand-new album from a project we KNOW we can rely on for quality tunes and immaculate instrumentation – Blue Soul Ten is back y’all. I’ve chatted briefly with the man behind the music, Mr. Claye Greene, about his latest album Ten Percent, and even though it was just a few words here & there…I’m tellin’ ya, you could sense the excitement. Part of me always assumes that’s coming my way – heck, it should be, shouldn’t it? Any artist or band out there with something new on the go SHOULD be excited about it in my opinion; but with Greene, it’s different. I’m not really sure why that is…perhaps it’s because he’s always seemed so grounded & down-to-earth to me in past conversations we’ve had when reviewing music he’s made on albums like The Peaceful Warrior or The Beautiful Warrior over these past years…he’s never oversold anything to me personally. I suppose I figured if I could sense his enthusiasm and excitement about this record from just a few of his words behind the scenes here, that there had to be a justifiable reason for it. Which of course, got me likely equally excited about what I might find…
…and then I pushed play, and all became clear.
Like I said – Blue Soul Ten has always been a project that’s highly worth your time. But this. THIS!
Listening to the extraordinary instrumental flow & roll he goes on through the adventurous & smooth sounds of the record’s title-track as it began was all the confirmation my ears needed to know that Blue Soul Ten had even more in-store for us all this time around. Not just a great song, but absolutely one of the best in the BST catalog of songs so far to-date, “Ten Percent” is all-out freakin’ magnificent, full-stop. From the crispness of the beat to the beautiful piano melody, to the essential muted-guitar hooks and the stunning lead-tones that roam throughout the song, to the gorgeous & graceful background vocals that drift through this instrumental as it plays, to the brilliant addition of saxophone into the mix – “Ten Percent” is as mesmerizing as it is moving. Claye’s got everything sounding fantastic from the lefts to the rights as the new album begins – and for as full as a song/experience like “Ten Percent” truly is, you’ll also notice how impressively the space is used and how much sparkling clarity comes along with it.
Bringing in some vocals and a bit of the ol’ light Funk to the R&B-infused vibes you’ll find on “Give In To Me” – again, I think it’s clear that you can hear how high Blue Soul Ten has raised the stakes overall from these first two cuts alone. And that’s really sayin’ something people, I’m tellin’ ya – it’s not like I was complaining about Claye’s music beforehand, you feel me? Yet you can still hear the evolution in the production, performance, and the writing here…you can hear the REFINEMENT of the BST sound – and I’m lovin’ it. This is Greene dialed right in to his vision for this project & getting the maximum potential out of it undeniably through every move he’s making with his music…when you listen to the amount of detail, rhythm, and groove that exists in the sweet swagger of “Give In To Me” and the brilliant mix on elements like the low-end, you’ll hear just how much effort is being put in from the sheet fact that everything you’ll hear sounds completely effortless! Tracks like “Give In To Me” come out with such an impressively organic vibe & natural energy to them…almost like you can imagine Claye was in the studio jammin’ on this tune, and some singers close by were like – ‘yooooooooo, I got something for that’ as they were passing through – and then the next thing you know, here we are, with an amazing tune! Really smooth stuff…loving the keyboard melody that’s tucked just underneath the surface – if you’re listening closely, you’ll hear just what an essential part of this song’s structure it provides; it’s the glue. Vocals are spot-on with plenty of soul, the saxophone shines bright in the solos, and the bass cannot be complimented ENOUGH for its P-H-A-T low-end coming through to add bounce to the experience.
“Make It Hot” INDEED! Right when the songs switch & you’re just about sure that, the third tune couldn’t keep up to what you heard in the first two – BST shows you that Ten Percent isn’t gonna start lettin’ up on ya anytime soon. Relentless with quality sound, this whole project most assuredly is. In that Jazz-meets-R&B-meets-Hip-Hop combination that you’d find in something like Prefuse 73 – Blue Soul Ten flips the script here on this third cut from Ten Percent and gives you a seriously hybrid track to bump up loud on your stereos this year. The keys, samples, and frequencies being rocked on this cut all stack up solidly – and uniquely at that; sure there’s a perfect combo happening in the rhythm-section between the bass & drums on this track, but recognize that the rest of the core of this composition has a stunning level of ambition & imagination fueling its vibe too. There’s arguably maybe ONE tone/frequency that may get to a few of you people out there…it’s pretty high up there & I have the feeling there’s gonna be a few listeners that’ll respond to that in both directions – but…if you’re asking me, it’s still a welcome part of what makes this song different than so much of the rest of what’s out there. Plus, this is an emcee with inspired energy that simply cannot be denied; not only are the words brilliant, but the confidence & wisdom in his voice commands the mic and keeps you listening 100%. Personally, I’m all about it – “Make It Hot” gets to the heart of what Hip-Hop hybrids can really achieve – and bonus points, mad respect, and shout-outs for the incredible record-scratches he’s got onto this cut.
The good-time vibes continue in a positive direction with the dazzling sound you’ll find on “Life,” great melody on the mic, great melody in the music surrounding her vocals too – it’s a pleasant & inviting tune – and if you’re listening up close to the lyrics, you’ll hear a ton of encouraging words in the mix for ya. Lady-friend even sounds like The Queen Bey at times in her performance of “Life” – what’s happening on the microphone & lyrically on “Life” were quite often the biggest draws for me when it came to this song. Don’t get me wrong, BST has the music-department as locked-down as always – I’m just saying that “Life” has a really refreshing sentiment, powerfully expressive vocals, and a whole set of positively-charged lyrics that guide this track to victory as well. Do I think the people out there will feel this vibe? Absolutely. As chill as “Life” is in many ways, it’s still completely engaging at all times through the impressively sweet sound in the vocals & music combined – and in my heart of hearts, I could only hope that the words you’ll find on this song reach each & every one of you on some level, and inspire YOU in turn, as they’re designed to do. Sage advice all throughout this tune – and spectacular sound too.
Alright…so…here’s where I’m at with “Satisfied” – I agree with its title, that’s exactly how I feel. That being said, I can recognize the departure from the easily accessible hooks laced throughout the first four cuts on Ten Percent and how the record slides into a more ambitious combination of sound & style here. As to whether or not that’s going to maintain the smooth ride through this record that we’ve been on for some out there, that’s harder to say – I can hear that “Satisfied” has more depth to its idea & as a result, would likely be a tougher tune for the people out there to decide on, because it is more involved. “Satisfied” works with a Reggae-infused vibe…which I’ll fully admit, isn’t usually my thing – but that’s fully due to the fact that it’s usually such an overblown element inside of the music…almost like it’s become somewhat of a parody of itself over time from where the roots first began. I like how BST has chosen to use the Reggae aspect of “Satisfied” and give it so much less of a one-note demeanor in sound – this is creative…this is artistic…this might be more challenging for listeners, but it’s fully rewarding. Vocally, I think it’s excellent…again, I didn’t feel like any of “Satisfied” was typical, and I really enjoyed that personally – the Reggae vibes are ever present of course, but there’s so much more to a track like this. It might not be one of the first cuts people notice on Ten Percent, but it will be one they come back to listen to & find they get more out of it each time – PLUS…I mean, c’mon…the way that this track lights-up around the 2:30 mark with the guitar solo set far off in the distance makes for a real highlight.
“10% Interlude” and 100% awesomeness. The shortest cut on the record as its title would imply, the “10% Interlude” provides a quick reset & switch in direction back towards the roots of the BST sound as the album gets set to head into its second half. Claye’s got so much style & technique in the way he plays a guitar…and the man constantly finds really inventive ways of adding it into cuts like “10% Interlude” that really make it all stand out to the ears in all the right ways. From the rhythmic chops he puts on display to the soaring tones that fly through the atmosphere…ain’t no doubt that the man can hold his own on an axe, without question. You’ll hear absolutely jaw-dropping stuff goin’ down in the short amount of space he’s got goin’ on in the “10% Interlude” with the lead instruments, and everything backing him up on this track goes down smoother-than-smooth…definitely a vibe you feel.
I’d be taking a good look at “Real Love” as a potential single for sure. Right from the drop, this is a highly enticing tune to listen to – and for as sparse as it is, as mid-tempo as it might be – I can’t imagine this track not catching the attention of the people out there. Melody & movement combine brilliantly on “Real Love” – listen to the precision that Blue Soul Ten has harnessed on this song and how each move made is one that seriously contributes to the overall results big-time. Not a solitary step out of line on this track and a stunning build into what it becomes – “Real Love” has that amazing depth you’re looking for in music and the creativity & skill to back it up perfectly. One of my favorite performances on the microphone here without question – the hooks are strong, the singing is exceptional…everything stacks up to a sincere, passionate, and inspired experience all-around here. The movement through the music is equally crucial & appealing – the guitar & drums most specifically – you can hear Blue Soul Ten really flexing creatively on “Real Love,” but at the same time, undeniably delivering on a song that’ll connect with the listeners out there easily. The spark of innovation is stamped all over this song – “Real Love” might be one of the slower cuts on the record in some respects, but by far one of the most captivating.
The ride continues to glide on a cushion of air, sliding slickly into the next cut “Purpose” – another highlight cut on the Ten Percent record and single-worthy sound. Stylistically weaving thought-provoking words of truth from bar to bar, you’ll definitely discover some of the most inspiring, honest, raw, and real lyricism from this album right here on this very track. Socially conscious, spiritually aware, and straight-ahead in presenting what “Purpose” is all about – Blue Soul Ten has done a jaw-dropping job of creating a designer-cut that hits the mark like a musical Robin Hood splitting the arrow here. “Purpose” pushes cool from every pore of your speakers – what you’ll hear on the microphone is all aces for sure – but recognize that the music you’ll hear on this cut is absolutely competing with quality sound comin’ atcha at all times. From the sweet snare snaps, to the glow of the keys, to the distance & echo of the subtle guitar notes in the background, to the bass-lines that give the rhythm an avant-garde feel to the flow but also keeps this cut on-point as well, you’ll be more than impressed by just how much BST works into the sound of this song without over-stuffin’ it one iota. And then there’s like, the trumpets you’ll hear soar and spread out into the atmosphere too…like…if we go down this rabbit-hole, we’ll be here all day and tomorrow, I promise ya – let me just simply say it’s one of the best additions to a song that I’ve heard this year when it comes right down to it. With all the amazing things about “Purpose” from the lyrics to the vocals to the music – I gotta say, those trumpets lit my whole LIFE up every time.
What’s incredible about Ten Percent all-around is the fact that, for as good as it started, it just keeps on staying amazing or getting better as it plays on – particularly, this roll Blue Soul Ten is on with single-worthy songs in the second-half of this record keeping the entertainment flowing with such catchy hooks & memorable music deserves a serious high-five. “These Words” would be included in that list; BST raises the level of Pop-inspiration into the R&B/Soul vibes you’ll find on this cut & shifts the direction of sound on the record yet again, but once more, comes out with a transition that listeners will fully welcome. Especially when you hear the vocals here on this tune, which definitely steal the show as far as “These Words” is concerned. Don’t get me wrong – it’s still BLUE SOUL TEN, and of course you’ll find just about a million degrees of sonic amazingness within the music, but the technique & tone of the vocals & melody on “These Words” is sure to be what catches the most attention from the people out there. Within the first minute, she’s probably my favorite part without question – there’s very little aside from the beat supporting the vocals, and she sounds absolutely stunning. As the music expands and gets more lively around her, she never loses that magic or allure – all I’m saying is, the more sparse the music was, the more you get a chance to appreciate what a fantastic voice Claye Greene has found to add to this song – she’s bold, beautiful, and brings her A-game to “These Words” without question.
“Grateful” reminds me much of what I love in the early records from Zero 7 back with Sia was still chillin’ with’em & bringing her warm, expressive, and soulful tones to their smooth vibes with such impressive style. Gorgeous piano on the way in…love how it turns into the keyboards shortly after & adds a bit of electro-flair into the mix alongside the beat once it kicks in to support another fantastic vocal performance on Ten Percent. There’s no doubt that being a slower-tune, “Grateful” is going to have to battle a bit more for attention in comparison to some of these other songs on the record perhaps – but I guarantee ya, once you connect with the hypnotic & artistic design of this cut, you’ll stay locked onto it. Part of me is convinced it’s one of the best cuts on the record…it’s graceful, gentle, and mesmerizing as it plays throughout its first three-minutes or so, and “Grateful” continues to find even more expressive sound afterwards when it comes to the structure & music supporting the amazing vocals on this song. By the end of “Grateful,” you’re enveloped in-full – and what once began as one of the record’s most isolated sounds now seems to include everything you could have possibly imagined, making a real finale show up in the last quarter of this song that raises the stakes for the energy of this song to new heights.
While every vocal performance you’ll find on this album is a noteworthy one that’s either great or even better than that – Blue Soul Ten has always been built on the solid foundation of incredible music. Making a smart return to the instrumental section at the end of Ten Percent, “Blue Theme V” gives you one last innovative, creative, and massively appealing dose of BST’s strength without a single word at all. Listen to the key electro-elements in the background, listen to the absolutely wonderful guitar-riff (I think? Could be keys…) melody that fuels the energy & vibe of “Blue Theme V,” listen to just how much of an impact that saxophone has, and what a ride it’ll take you on! It’s tracks like “Blue Theme V” that’ll have you appreciating just how incredible Blue Soul Ten still is on an entirely instrumental level, just like Claye had established with “Ten Percent” at the very beginning of the record long ago. We come full circle to what has & what likely always WILL make this project as compelling as it is – the ideas & music are so ALIVE on this album, you can’t help but truly notice and seriously appreciate just how fresh it is.
I get why Claye seemed so excited about this record now. Another remarkable job from start to finish for Blue Soul Ten and another awesome album in this project’s growing musical legacy. It’s got smooth grooves for your summer, a whole lotta soul & fantastic vocalists, top-notch production & attention to detail that stays sharp at all times…if you were to ask me, Ten Percent is much closer to One Hundred.
Find out more about Blue Soul Ten at the official website at: http://www.bluesoulten.com