Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.

Freestyle are celebrating twenty years of existence in some style by digging out a veritable cornucopia of wonderful UK streetsoul and Britfunk. A full-on mainline hit of bumping bass and smiling faces guaranteed to whisk you back to simpler times (or were they…nostalgia’s a heady narcotic….) – check TJ Johnson’s superfine Pretty Lady, or last summer’s pitch-perfect State Of Grace banger Touching The Times for proof of the pudding.

Rick Clarke‘s 1992 opus, Guess Who, fits right in with the celebrations: independent soul music squished into skeletal 4/4s, garnished with some thrilling guest vocal performances – this is heart on your sleeve / love saves the day / we shall overcome vibes in excelsis. Its rough edges entwined with smooth grooves, the yin and yang of daily existence thrown onto hot wax and immortalised. Underground as hell, but harbouring plenty of pop hooks: a helluva neat trick to pull off.

Show Me The Way opens proceedings and you’re in from the off – a Ten City tonic, tanked up and ready to throwdown, Mark Antonio‘s vocal butter-soft and pillowy, machined claps and four-note bassline: simplicity polished until it shines. Quietly confident, and still sounding so fine.

Do What We Gotta Do channels Raze’s Break For Love: Delroy Dyer and Gina Foster trading lyrical licks, the classic piano riffs plinking away in the background: yes it’s a formula, but it’s a formula for a reason, right? This shit works wherever you play it: end of story.

Gonna Make You Happy drops the tempo for serious streetsoul moves: Jill Francis pouring honey over the loping groove – late night blues party business for the people. Soulful, synthetic, sensual: after all, what could be better than making someone happy? That’s what we’re all here for, surely?

There’s a great version of Love Don’t Strike Twice and Gina Foster excels up again on the dreams can come true slow jam, Fantasy, before you get less than two minutes of the closing cut Sweet Vibrations to play you out.

Guess Who is full of charm, delightful in its innocence and naivety: the lovelorn youth returns to his roots and lets us all in on those rites of passage. This is a document of how we used to swing: my guess is that this will be booming out once more around the city streets this summer. Fast forward the future once again…

Rick Clarke Guess Who

Rick Clarke’s previously privately-pressed white-label only will finally be made widely available by Freestyle Records on April 7th.

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