Blue Soul Ten – This Is Worth It

 Blue Soul Ten – This Is Worth It

Blue Soul Ten – This Is Worth It – Album Review

This IS Worth It!  I mean, c’mon now y’all – it’s Blue Soul Ten, how could it not be, right?

As I’ve been tellin’ ya for the past six years or more of listening to this collaborative-minded project, there’s simply no such thing as a Blue Soul Ten record that’s anything less than completely consistent.  I think we might have missed an album along the way back in 2017 somewhere, but other than that, we know full-well that, like clockwork, at some point in time throughout any given year, there will be some new BST tunes to jam through our stereo system here at the studio loud & proud.  Blue Soul Ten does it right folks…a record per year is no small accomplishment to begin with & a remarkable achievement – for this particular project, it’s a schedule that keeps each and every album true to their high standards.

I know what you’re thinking…especially you first-time readers here – this guy ALWAYS has something good to say, right?  First of all, I wish that was true but it ain’t – and secondly, if you can push play on this new record by BST and not end up reaching straight for the volume to turn up “All We Need” as loud as your system can handle it…then you’re made of pure cold hard steel, and you should get that checked out by a professional.  See if you got a heartbeat and a pulse, and tell’em I sent ya – because there’s not a person in this world that we’re living in that shouldn’t immediately be feeling the vibe of “All We Need” work its magic on ya.  Building it from the ground up, you get each piece of the puzzle introduced cleverly as it starts, with the fabulous Syauqi Destanika sounding as inspired & incredible as she ever has – and by forty-seconds in, where the bass-lines come into play, it’s good game from there folks…there’s no resisting “All We Need” once everything has snapped into place & the song’s in motion.  Destanika sounds AMAZING in the opener here…there’s no knocks against any aspect of this opening cut whatsoever, but she’s downright sensational, and becomes the real gateway hook into This Is Worth It.  Extra credit for those horns though…that’s also a nice touch, and pretty much the icing on the tastiest of cakes by that point.  BST knows production values inside & out, and always gets a spectacular clarity & sparkling sound – that’s not an opinion y’all, that’s a fact – pushing play on this record reveals the truth y’all.

I’ll tell ya this much…Blue Soul Ten is the kind of project that, every time a new release comes up, it’s just extremely hard to not be completely excited about it.  Like – you longtime fans know exactly what I’m talking about – you got to song TWO on This Is Worth It, and just like myself, you already had the thought flash through your mind that this could very well indeed be the best Blue Soul Ten record yet.  Considering the ridiculously high standards that have been set throughout the course of this project’s career, that’s not just saying something, that’s saying EVERYTHING – this is BST in its prime for certain.  Listen to the sensationally soulful performance from singer Skyler Harris!  Listen to the immaculate groove in the bass-lines!  The brilliant flash & flair of the design on the drums & percussion!  Or those insatiable keys at the heart of the melody – what about those too!?!  “Different Than I’m Used To” is very much akin to the finest you’d find in the Soul/Trip-Hop realm, flashing that early Zero 7-esque vibe that always hits a huge homerun with me.  “Different Than I’m Used To” is a beautifully expressive and professionally played cut combined…lyrically it’s got a wonderful perspective of the true power of love, and hooks-wise, the pure charisma & chemistry of the music & vocals together brings value to every moment.  The definition & depth in the production is straight-up spellbinding, and the brilliance displayed in the way this song is layered to perfection from the lefts to the rights, foreground to the background…”Different Than I’m Used To” hits different in all the right ways…the unforgettable ones.

Records like Blue Soul Ten makes are truly tough to examine on a critical level, because everything you’ll hear would be an easy A-side on the record of any other artist, band, or project out there in the scene.  It becomes an internalized competition…BST is really only competing against its own songs in any given lineup of songs on any album you’d choose to listen to from the entire catalog.  Not that they’re throwing elbows at each other or anything like that – there’s a professionalism in this project that keeps everyone at their inspired best, and that remains to be true with the stellar performance put in by Dennis Lorenzo as he leads the way with the vocals on “You Should Know By Now.”  It’s tough to say what the impact of this song will be on the listening ears out there – it’s already got a hard spot to fill in the lineup coming after two flawless opening tracks, switches up the direction of sound into lower-key energy & a mellower melody, and also transitions the record into male-driven vocals for the first time.  That’s a lot of changes in one dose, and there’s no doubt that it’ll take this track a couple more spins for it to get its proper due credit as a result – but just like the record began, “You Should Know By Now” has the advantage of sound that instantly slides smoothly straight outta your speakers.  The clarity in the mix on this track is straight-up award-worthy – performance-wise, structurally speaking, and in terms of the execution you’ll find, there’s simply no fault to be found.  It’s really all a matter of personal preference when it comes to the music of Blue Soul Ten…we all like what we like & love what we love – I might personally be more partial to the first two cuts myself, but there’s nothing I’d take away from the writing, performance, or overall quality you’ll hear on a track like “You Should Know By Now” – it’s aces.

Major credit to the BST crew once again, you’ll find each of the cuts has the right personality and voice upfront on the mic to get the maximum potential out of the tunes throughout This Is Worth It.  Shamain lends her time & talents to the vocals on “Up To You” as Blue Soul Ten dials back the energy even further on the fourth tune, leading to a quaint, pleasant, and inviting sound that’s organically charming.  Personally, I’m in love with the way it starts – “Up To You” uses a somewhat false-beginning approach to the very first moments, giving you a snapshot glimpse of sound that’ll get you excited before taking it away to pause for a moment, and eventually launching into the groove at its full mellow strengths.  All-in-all, I think there’s a dreamier vibe in “Up To You” that kind of works both for and against it a little – it’s the kind of cut that’ll earn your attention through its stylistic sound & Shamain’s stunning technique, as opposed to the more intense energies displayed towards the beginning of the record, sound-wise.  Nothing wrong with goin’ in a mellow direction, and “You Should Know By Now” sets up the transition to get to “Up To You” really well; I don’t know that this particular cut has that one defining moment in its hooks in comparison to the others in the set, but in terms of being memorable, it’s still up there with the best on the record.  That can be the effect of a clever transition…mind you, it’s gotta sound THIS great too when you go to make that move…but yeah…sometimes the mere switch in a vibe can lead to a song’s longevity in our minds & on our playlists…they all make it pretty easy to love “Up To You,” 100% – it’s got the kind of organic magic that seems effortless & the kind of production that reminds ya, it ain’t.

Syauqi has always been impressive in her collaborations with Blue Soul Ten, but there’s just no doubt whatsoever that she’s got her game face on & she’s ready to play when it comes to her appearances on this new record…she’s made the most of every moment, and she sounds just as spectacular on “I’m Afraid I Might” as she did on “All We Need” as the album began.  Smooth & accessible, “I’m Afraid I Might” is as sweet & entertaining to listen to as it is real & grounded in the lyricism and the observations made on that fine line we need to walk in a relationship that separates falling in love from falling so far into it we might never return…and recognizing the latter might be exactly what you really want, deep down.  Doesn’t mean it don’t come with a whole lot of fear mixed into that excitement…but it’s the right kind of fear, if there is such a thing…it’s cautionary, self-protective, and smart…y’all know that rush of new love & how it makes you question just about everything – “I’m Afraid I Might” takes on all of this & more.  It’s a single-worthy cut for a slower-jam without question…fantastic hooks in the chorus, the music is fully on-point & genuinely interesting…everything stacks up to a solid win in this collaboration.

Listen to that rhythm in the beat for “No Love Greater” will ya?  Spectacular!  Blue Soul Ten never disappoints when it comes to the mix – and artistically-inclined endeavors like this song right here?  THE best.  Straight-up, full-stop – when the right voice is found for a spoken-word style track, believe me, I am ALWAYS paying complete attention…and that’s exactly what we’ve got here with this sensationally poetic, vibrant, and ALIVE performance put into the vocals from guest-star Saniyah X.  By far & away one of my favorite cuts on a record where basically every track stands a great chance of qualifying, “No Love Greater” is genuinely special…an artistic GEM if you ask me.  Saniyah X is superb & powerfully eloquent – she’s got the gift of communication, expression, and creative freedom locked down tight, in addition to a clear understanding of how to use the textures & tone of her voice to put the right energy & emphasis into every syllable she speaks.  Truly, I could listen to “No Love Greater” all day long and I’d never get tired of it…this is living & breathing art, and it’s authentically something else to experience.  While I was CONVINCED beyond the shadow of a doubt that, no matter what might happen in the music, Saniyah X would continue to steal the show – she’s THAT good – but instead, she graciously steps aside & out of the spotlight to let the magic of Blue Soul Ten take over through the music for the final ninety seconds or so; and no joke folks, it’s one of my favorite instrumental sections of sound on the record.  What’s NOT to love here?  The bass-lines are jaw-dropping, the saxophone is stellar…the drums & keys & all that are played to pure perfection…and the way the music springs to life after Saniyah takes her exit, gives this entire track a complete refresh for the finale while still remaining 100% cohesive with the rest.  I like a good sing-along hook as much as you do I’m sure, don’t get me wrong – but this is where I’m at – “No Love Greater” is a vibe you can feel flow straight through your mind, body, and blue soul.

So let’s be real here…by my account, Dennis Lorenzo has without a doubt had the two toughest spots in the lineup to fill so far; each time he’s made an appearance, he’s come right after a massive highlight in a set-list stocked full of stellar competition in that regard.  Last time out on “You Should Know By Now,” I think this collaboration had a harder time making the impression they perhaps could have, and perhaps only because of where that particular song sits in the lineup…nothing performance related, that’s what I’m gettin’ at.  When it comes to the title-track of this album, Dennis does nothing else but beam out his radiant personality from the microphone, and he gets the opportunity to really shine as he should.  “This Is Worth It” ends up becoming quite the catchy cut, and quite quickly…it’s got a light-Jazz/Pop-Soul combo goin’ on, and I’m here for it – they found a way to get to the maximum potential of their talents combined on this track.  “This Is Worth It” is one of those smooth grooves that once again seems like it comes so naturally to the BST crew, yet the crystal clarity & stunning array of colorful sound in the mix will tell ya the effort has certainly been put into every note & tone you hear.  And YES – that includes Dennis!  Like I said, he was solid before earlier on in the record – the main difference here, is that we get a more upbeat dose of what the man can bring to the microphone – and this radiant energy fully suits him.  Stylistic & soulful – Lorenzo’s got an excellent voice, and it’s great to get a more up close listen to what he can do through the technique & finesse you hear him bring to the mic on the album’s title-cut.

I think that, if there’s gonna be any moment of real hesitation or resistance…it’s probably not so much the switch in the vocal style early on at track three, so much as it might be the more intricate & involved ideas, melody, and structure of “Heavenly” – this one might be a bit beyond a few of the folks listening out there to a degree.  Still a quality cut without question…it’s more of a matter of the material itself being less accessible as a result of it having a few more ideas merging together this time around, and styles as well with the vocals of Skyler Harris making a reappearance & Ascent bringing the bars to this cut.  Skyler’s got her moments…a ton of significant highlights along the way, and a few spots where I felt like she could have given it a bit more, or clashed slightly with the melody of the music.  Ascent makes a solid impact with his rap in the breakdown of “Heavenly,” and towards that third-minute mark once again, you’ll hear the music of Blue Soul Ten come to life & really find the inspirational spark it needed.  You’re never gonna find me turning off a tune by BST, that much I can tell ya, “Heavenly” certainly included…it might not be my personal favorite of the set, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t be yours.

One of the most noticeably different songs in the lineup is “Pieces,” featuring Brail Watson and a second appearance from Ascent on the m-i-c.  In terms of its overall sound, the spacious atmosphere and more minimalistic design puts quite a bit of weight on Brail’s shoulders to start things up…he’s pretty much on his own there for a minute or two before the rest of the music really kicks in and “Pieces” finds its most confident gear.  Another standout cut for the brilliance of the percussion and drums in the mix…there’s enough rhythm comin’ straight off the skins to fuel the second half of this cut & keep ya fully engaged!  I’m a bit split on this one personally…I think the first two minutes gives you a little, but the last two minutes give you a lot – and it’s kind of hard not to feel impatient knowing there’s such a smorgasbord of sonic excellence just waitin’ around the corner during a two-minute buildup on those subsequent spins.  The songwriting is effective at the end of the day…one half truly does need the other, but you can’t blame me for wanting a whole lot more of that second half of “Pieces” to come at us even earlier.  You’ll get it when you hear it…Brail gives us his biggest highlights, Ascent comes in perfectly to back him up in “Pieces” on the mic, wisely not overdoing it whatsoever and playing a truly complementary role.  I really like the two of them together a lot – but I’ll admit, when you get them together on “Pieces,” the music has also found its way to the next level we were all hoping for…everything snaps right into place around that two-minute mark, and the whole song ends up finding a way to exceed your expectations.

Dennis makes a third & final appearance on “Like I Do,” sounding spectacular in a slower-jam, filled with what seems like mainly a piano & a slight beat, but actually has quite a bit more in the mix for ya as it plays on with horns & layers & backing vocals & such…plenty to keep ya entertained, that I can confirm – and I can also vouch for a performance & song that merits the attention.  If anything that one layer of somewhat randomized guitar/synth sounds (I think?) towards the end could potentially be one or two elements too many…but at the same time, I appreciate the energy you find in the finale here as well.  If you’re paying attention to the words in this tale, you wanna hear that sweet conclusion to this story, and I think that’s genuinely communicated through the design of the music just as much as the lyrics.  Good use of space and pacing…all-in-all, there’s hooks to be found from both the vocals and within the instrumentation…and somewhere in a world between a Prince slow-jam & a John Legend tune, you’ll find Blue Soul Ten and Dennis Lorenzo find themselves a nice lil’ space of their own to reside & thrive in.  “Like I Do” is a fantastic example of standout elements that all stack up into one real mesmerizing listen.

I like that Blue Soul Ten enlists a variety of talent, and I love the fact that quite often, these guest-stars get more than one opportunity to make an impression on us.  When Shamain resurfaces to lead the way on “Loving Me,” very similar to how I felt about hearing Dennis that second time earlier on, this second appearance seemed to hit the mark that much more for me.  It could be the case of “Loving Me” being stronger material or a better song to work with & whatnot…I’ll leave you all to be the judge of that – all I’m sayin’ is that you get a noticeably bolder & beautiful performance from Shamain on this cut, and I felt like she really stole the show on this cut.  The reality is, she’s got fantastically tangible uniqueness in the textures and tones of her voice, and whether she’s going high, or goin’ low, she adds a real superstar element into the mix…a confident personality that really sounds destined & born for the spotlight.  I’m not accusing this fine lady of holding back on us earlier during “Up To You” – I think she did well – and I also think that she’s that much more suited for this particular vibe on “Loving Me.”  A true artist in her element, she sings soulfully & sweetly, with confidence and grace…and the music to be found surrounding her, is straight-up exquisite.  I’ll be real with ya…when I first heard this cut on my initial spin through This Is Worth It sometime back around a week ago, I felt like it was the kind of track that would probably grow on me quickly, but by the time of writing this review, I feel like I STILL somehow underestimated just how much I went on to love this song.  The music is some of the best and shows the sensational level of professional control & attention to detail you love in the finest of Blue Soul Ten tunes, and they’ve got a real X-factor on the mic that works her charm subtly, until it’s fully undeniable.  “Loving me ain’t always easy,” she sings.  I dunno about that Shamain…this track makes it pretty easy to love ya m’lady…that creative vocal moment around the 2:38 mark?  Brilliant, full-stop, brilliant.  That’s a show-stopping moment right there is what that is, and combined with the highlight guitar solo, shimmering sound of the horns, the smooth grooves of the bass-lines and beautiful backing vocals – what else can be said?  “Loving Me” has everything it needs & then some – your playlists need this song.

This one goes out to you.

This next one goes out to me?

Yes, you.

Oh!  Well then…thank you Blue Soul Ten, thank you Brail – that’s mighty kind, and I’m truly honored.

All kidding aside, there’s no reason it couldn’t be for me…no reason it couldn’t or shouldn’t be for you too – it’s one of those inspirational-type tunes that helps remind ya of the special person “You Are.  I like the way it’s designed too…it’s kind of like the majority of what’ll inspire you comes through how Brail ends up pointing out what’s not really been goin’ all that well, but the effect of this approach provides the opposite feeling once that chorus hits, you follow me?  So while Blue Soul Ten and Brail Watson dare to dive a little deeper here and generate some fantastic contrast in the process, you can’t mask the overall uplifting feeling that this song uncovers as it plays on.  At the end of the day, they’re addressing some very real thoughts, feelings, and emotions that we all share…many of us internally…bringing them out into the open is the right way to go to bring sunlight to the truth of the matter – “You Are” enough.  “You Are” special, you are beautiful, and you are loved – the sentiment of this song, its ambitions and intentions…all this stuff adds up to a quality listen that’s more than music…this is the kind of cut that the people out there will reach for at a time where they really need to hear encouraging words like these.

Longtime listeners & fans of Blue Soul Ten, of which I consider myself to be included in, all know full-well what to expect at the end of a BST record, and This Is Worth It does not disappoint in that regard – we get our “Blue Theme” here – the sixth in fact.  You can always bank on one of these stellar instrumental jams to be featured at the end of the albums, and they certainly are a great reminder of just how much of a crucial role the music & production has played every step of the way…it’s such impressive audible art when it comes right down to it.  Blue Soul Ten has a magnificent sound & vibe of their own, an open hearted, collaborative-minded attitude & approach to making music, and the advantage of spectacular variety to be found, expertly brought in through the diversity of talented guests lining set on this record.  Every one of them has had their real moment to shine in the spotlight, and Blue Soul Ten always deserves one of its own too…personally, I love the fact that we get one of these instrumental tracks at the end of each experience.  It makes for a great outro…”Blue Theme VI” makes perfect use of those insatiable bass-lines you love, the stellar percussion, and cleverness surrounding the rhythm section – Blue Soul Ten makes music at the right pace to get quality results, and this record proves that perfectly.

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