(5 / 5)
You can buy warranties for cars and washing machines. But you get an automatic guarantee of quality when you see two words on the front of an album or on the marquee of a concert venue.
Those two words: “Ruby” and “Turner”.
The UK’s first lady of gospel-soul drops her 20th solo album – and all is very much well…
Her vocals are her vocals, so that means there is not much more to say about that aspect of the 11 tracks here.
Ruby Turner is a singer’s singer and her chops are as innate as they come. If anything, as the years go by, her voice gets richer and maybe even more soulful. But you can bet a Ruby Turner album will, at some stage, take us all to church. She has great faith and that inevitably shines through her work.
But the sheer strength of the songs make this a safe vehicle for her vocal skills, and makes this record her best for a long time.
As usual, Ruby serves the song. But because she has had a hand in penning all 11 cuts, her desire to start writing again re-ignited by co-writers Nick Atkinson – who also produced the album (tracks 1-10) and plays guitar on it – and singer Kat Eaton, this solid gold material fits her like a glove.
Ruby says this is the album she has always wanted to make. Inspired by the “feel and grooves” she heard and loved from the likes of Curtis Mayfield, BB King, Ry Cooder, Al Green and other greats from back in the day.
There’s a so-called bonus track that closes the set here, “Chasing Love” from the film The Host, starring Sir Derek Jacobi. The song Ruby wrote with Wan Pin Chu.
She calls upon a very restrained, pulled back vocal mode for this one and it gives the track a mysterious and darker feel, especially with the yearning string arrangement.
But towards the end of the track, she tears into fifth gear and belts out some passionate vocal licks that could stop traffic. Wow! Would not be out of place on a Bond movie.
Kat Eaton sings backing vocals with Ruby, Joe Glossop plays keyboards, Jeremy Meek on bass and John Blease on drums and percussion. Recorded in Sheffield. Made over an 18-month period between tours with Jools Holland and shows with her own band.
The hooky opener “Got To be Done” channels Mavis Staples, a very commercial cut that immediately sets the tone for feel-good vibes.
“Won’t Give You My Heart To Break” is a killer track, ear-worm chorus and Ruby inhabits this kind of soulful feel in her sleep. Rev. Al Green territory. Current single.
I’d bank on covers of this one cropping up in the next few years. Great song writing. Sheffield lad Paul Carrack should cut this one (Jeremy Meek is his bassist….)
The title cut is a winner, a beautifully crafted ballad which Ruby deeply connects with on an emotional level. One of those songs you need to hear a few times to fully appreciate.
Another radio-ready commercial track with a great hook is “Make You Happy”. Ruby’s phrasing and that little rasp in the back of her throat make this special.
The closing track “Time Of Your Life” (before the bonus cut) is an uplifting gospel moment in the Shirley Caesar and Mavis Staples sphere. It’s just lovely and trademark Ruby T.
But this stuff is not just a retro or vintage project and that’s it. Not at all. The likes of Paloma Faith could pick up on almost any of these songs and probably score a big chart hit.
Ruby Turner has always had a way of staying relevant, and maybe working with two young, enthusiastic, energetic, confident and talented people as Nick and Kat on these songs and this project, has helped that cause.
Ruby says she is “forever grateful for the gift of singing”. Not as grateful as her fans are for that gift – and with her work with Jools Holland across decades now, she has built up a loyal following around the UK and overseas, as Mr Holland’s favourite singer.
Guest singers come and go in that band, but there’s always Jools and there’s always Ruby. Good reason for that as soon as she opens her mouth.
Ruby Turner: “Love Was Here”. 20 and not out…..
By Simon Redley
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’