Review: “Sweet Soul Music” by London Boys (CD, 1991)

Today’s POP RESCUE from a fate uncertain is the 1991 second album Sweet Soul Music by the late dance duo London Boys. Will this album be the sweetest thing, or does it lack a soul? Read on…

London Boys - Sweet Soul Music (1991) album cover
London Boys – Sweet Soul Music (1991) album.

This 11 track CD burst opens with the rattle of snares of third single and titular track Sweet Soul Music. This sees Edem and Dennis take on a Motown-inspired song. There’s certainly the beat, and a burst of brass, and a sample of a man saying ‘Motown’ every now and then. The song is really upbeat and fairly catchy. The wall of sound and enthusiastic pop vocals reminds me of something you’d hear from Big Fun.

Next is Tonight! Tonight!, opening with a sultry spoken promise before bounding straight into another tirelessly bouncy pop song. Again, the pop vocals and harmonies run throughout, and I’m reminded again of Big Fun, or Brother Beyond, or maybe even Jason Donovan, yet there’s no sign of Stock/Aitken/Waterman here. The track was the album’s fifth and final single, but it didn’t bother the UK charts.

That leads on to second single Freedom, which also as the duo’s final single to chart in the UK. It reached #54. The track opens with swirling synths and vocal chorus, before dropping into another big pop song. The vocals are a bit buried in the mix though, although the backing vocalists help to lift it a bit. The theme of unity that this song conveys probably helped it get picked as a single, and the breakdown with the inevitable crowd-participation hand claps above the head moment is a nice but brief moment that would have helped bring things together, but Tonight! Tonight! would have been a better choice for the earlier single.

Is This Love follows and the tempo lowers for a breathy and tender ballad. A warm synth pad swells as echoey soft percussion and vocals joins the guys as they sing about love. Musically there’s a beat that reminds me of the Fine Young Cannibals and swathes of orchestra-like sounds that would make Enya twitch. That said, it’s a really nice song, and really good to hear the guys sing a slow song. We’re even treated to a key change in the final minute, that allows the guys to show off their vocal power and range. The track was the album’s 4th single, but didn’t touch the UK charts.

The tempo picks back up as we’re given a mid-tempo Bob Marley. Not actual Bob Marley, but a song. The bubbling synths gradually evolve closer to a reggae sound, but never quite get there. ‘Who’s the man?‘ Edem (i think) says, as the track steadily builds with loads of vocal layers and an affectionate song about Bob.

That’s followed by Was?! (Just An Illusion) which opens with some insane female vocals that sound like what Martha Wash might sound like if she trapped her hand in a door. The track is a prime 1991 exhibit of mashed up of pseudo-rap, dance vocals, and unstoppable euro-pop synths. It’s a bit nuts, and probably could have benefitted of making a bit of space in the track with a few less instruments just to give the vocals some breathing room.

It’s time for Love Train, and this has some beautiful synths throughout, and the catchy synth sequence we’re introduced to right off the bat, is a great friend throughout this song. The song effortlessly shuffles from verse and chorus and back. The vocal samples ‘everybody part-ay’ and cheering crowds dates it a bit, but this is definitely a great track that could

High Fidelity is next, and this track sounds pretty unstoppable. It’s very loud and energetic, with the chorus vocals repeatedly singing the song title. It probably was exciting and fresh in 1991, but listening to it now, it just goes on for a bit too long.

Chapel Of Love follows this, and this was the album’s lead single. The track opens with an interpolation of The Wedding March before bursting into a high energy dance track. This is absolutely the sound that The London Boys were successful for in the UK with their debut album. The lyrics are catchy, as is the throbbing bass drum, racing bass line and synths. Excellent! Sadly though, it wasn’t a success, and it gave them a #75 UK single – their lowest, and penultimately charting single in the UK.

That leads on to Cherokee, which begins with cries of ‘Cherokee Nation!‘, and is performed like a political battle song, and the London Boys have definitely got the defiant vocal power and musical wall to put up a good fight. Would have been interesting to see this as a music video, although I don’t think it would have performed at all as a single.

The album closes with Reggae-Reggae, Rasta-Rasta (Reprise Bob Marley) which wafts in as if from a radio before becoming the full stereo track. It’s a continuation of earlier track Bob Marley, giving a wonderful continuation of the chorus vocals and harmonies. It’s a really nice addition in reprise form to close the album as it heads back off to a ‘radio’ sound.

London Boys’ lead single ‘Chapel Of Love’.

Verdict

Over all, this album undoubtedly packs the same kind of energetic punch of their debut album. There are some great tracks, particularly Chapel Of Love, which fits right in with earlier hits despite it’s commercial failure in the UK. Sweet Soul Music, Tonight! Tonight! and Is This Love were wise single choices as they shine here too, but the missed opportunity of Love Train is unfortunate as it could have helped them continue their success instead of weaker single Freedom.

The album feels a bit jumbled in what it’s trying to be – it’s titled Sweet Soul Music, yet aside from the Motown-esque titular track, there’s scant other soul references. There’s plenty of pounding euro dance here, but also a light mix of wider styles too, and Cherokee and High Fidelity are probably the weaker tracks here. Still, it holds together well enough, it’s just a shame that the UK didn’t see it get released.

It’s hard not to feel sad for this duo. Within 5 years of this album, they had released another album, but were both killed in a car accident. Their re-appearances on repeated shows like Top Of The Pops always stirs affectionate memories of what we were robbed of.

Rated 3 stars! It's a nice album.
  • POP RESCUE 2021 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 1991 UK ALBUM CHART PEAK: Wasn’t released in the UK.
  • POP RESCUE COST: €4.99 from a Discogs.com seller.

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