I’d love to say I first heard and fell for these 12 tasty tracks in March 2019, when American Love Call was released. The reality, however, is that I first clicked play on the album one morning last fall, not long after hearing Jones’ lead vocals on “Hold on to Love,” one of the many stand-out songs on the Stone Foundation’s Is Love Enough? I contemplated spotlighting it at the time, but it was too old for a First Impressions review and too new for my Essentials series, which features albums at least (and usually much more than) five years old. While I have written about relatively recent releases under the First Impressions banner, at the most it’s been no more than six months since they hit store shelves. So I made a mental note and hoped to get to Durand Jones & the Indications with their next release.
Fast forward to last month’s release of Paul Weller’s Fat Pop – or, more specifically, the delayed delivery of the deluxe version to my door, which took four weeks. The two bonus discs are well worthwhile, and I plan to write about them tomorrow, but for now know this: the soulfulness of the live in-studio set sent me spiraling back to Is Love Enough?, which features a sterling vocal turn from Weller on “Deeper Love.” That, in turn, led me back to Jones, the Indications and American Love Call, which has been in heavy rotation in my den ever since.
The main difference between last fall and now? My nascent Delayed Plays series, which I introduced in April as a way to make amends for such slights and oversights. Good music, no matter its release date, should be celebrated.
In short: Betcha by golly, wow. It’s a stunner. Think the Miracles, Temptations, Impressions, Intruders, Chi-Lites, Stylistics and O’Jays, among others, with a silky-smooth sound sliding from the speakers and straight into the soul. One thing I didn’t realize last October: Jones is one of two lead singers, sharing the duty with drummer Aaron Frazer, whose falsetto is a thing of wonder. (The band is rounded out by Mike Montgomery on bass, Steve Okonski on keys, and Blake Rhein on guitar.) Frazer, I should mention, released a solo album in January – not that I knew it at the time.
The album opens with “Morning in America,” a song that speaks to the present even as it echoes the past via a series of vignettes that paint a picture of a new day that looks a lot like ones from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s: “And in towns across the country/It’s color that divides/When in working men and ladies/We could find our common side.”
“Don’t You Know,” the second song, is a slice of old-school soul. If you stumbled upon it on the radio, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d tuned in an oldies station. It sounds like a long-lost classic.
The remainder of the album continues in the same vein, with one fully formed song followed by the next, each radio-ready and absolutely, positively shimmering with the intangibles that make tunes connect with listeners. While their sound has been called “retro soul” and they’ve been labeled a “soul revival” group, the “retro” and “revival” parts shortchange what they’ve created on this, their sophomore set, as does my own use of “old school” in describing them. In truth, their sound is essentially an amalgamation of ’60s and ’70s soul that blends bits of the Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia variants into a delectable whole.
That’s to say that, yes, their influences are indeed discerned in the grooves, licks and arrangements to anyone with a working knowledge of those bygone styles – but never to the music’s detriment, only the listener’s utter delight. Which is to say, if you’re in a dour mood, give American Love Call a go – it’ll boost your spirits, guaranteed.
The track list: