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  Soul Heaven Presents Blaze
Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating: 4 out of 5
by Sterling McGarvey

With the newest entry into Defected's successful Soul Heaven Presents series, the production duo of Blaze (Kevin Hedge and Josh Milan) has cemented their way into the annals of the series' fine efforts by producers such as Masters At Work and Jazzy Jeff. Known for a plethora of classic house tunes such as "If You Should Need a Friend," "My Beat," and "How Deep Is Your Love," Hedge and Milan have been elevated to the status of elder statesmen of house music. Having said that, Soul Heaven presents Blaze has its occasional bumps, but is overall a solid effort.

In listening to the album a few times, it becomes evident that the group saves the best for last; that is, the disc starts off with some decent Afrobeat-influenced tunes by Trüby Trio and Oreja, but the disc doesn't pick up for a few more tracks. Granted, Blaze is known for a variety of soulful sounds, from African-influenced tribal to Gospel-tinged vocal house, but the opening doesn't really grab the way it should. Honestly, the album is a tad lopsided, with the first disc being the weaker of the two. It is with the Charles Webster remix of Battle's "Mystic River" that things begin to warm up. With the Motor City-flavored techno jams "Sandcastles" and "Meaning of Life," the duo truly begins to get into the groove of things. Other standouts of the first disc include Blaze's WMC anthem "Most Precious Love" with Barbara Tucker and Alexander Hope's "Big Mistake."

It is with the second disc in the album that the duo highlights more vocal efforts (coincidentally, many of them are on legendary disco/house label West End, of which Hedge is president) and the quality of the album shoots up stratospherically. Could it be that disc two is really just a showcase for West End's hottest new tunes and less a showcase of the best upfront house tracks? Does it really matter when it sounds like this? The album picks up with the island flavors of Ian Friday's "Carib's Leap" and works into back to back vocal tracks by soul stalwart Stephanie Cooke (check the divine "Love Makes the World Go Round") and doesn't let up at all. Mr. A.L.I.'s funky "Cast Your Spell," and the harmonica tinged "Fly" by 280 West truly evoke the New York house vibe that people know and adore Blaze for carrying. Before gushing too much about the quality of the disc, there is a speed bump in the proceedings. For some reason unknown to anyone except Blaze, their inclusion of Kerri Chandler's white-hot "Bar A Thym" with the a capella of someone who sounds like a cross between E-Man and Biz Markie at a karaoke night is a glaring flaw in an otherwise fantastic mix. Coincidentally, this same nightmarish vocal also shows up on the penultimate "Gloria's Muse," but doesn't muck up that track nearly as much. Finally, with Diviniti's organ-laced "Love Will Stay," the album hits a gallant stride to home plate.

Quite honestly, your love for soulful, chocolate-dripping vocal house will determine whether or not this CD is worth your time. Do you often wish you could have been among house music history at the Paradise Garage? Do you wish that you lived in New York so that you could go to Shelter every weekend? Do you find yourself tapping your foot and thinking about how much better it would be if you had some baby powder to sprinkle under your feet? If, so then you can probably dance to this beat.

At Amazon.com

Soul Heaven presents Blaze from Amazon.com Soul Heaven presents Blaze

Disc 1:

  1. Jaleo - Concha Buika
  2. Diablo
  3. Vazilando [Main Mix]
  4. Mystic River [Charles Webster Remix]
  5. Shake Dat Booty [Pal Joey Interpretation]
  6. Sandcastles [Original Mix] - Jerome Sydenham
  7. Meaning of Life - Vince Watson
  8. Journey's Prelude [Nulife Remix] - Ursula Rucker
  9. C.U.B.4. [#] - DJ Choco
  10. Most Precious Love [Radio Edit]
  11. Big Mistake [Roots Vocal Mix] - Alexander Hope
  12. Baby 3 Times [Sweet Abraham's Deep Tissue Rub] - Panyard Rhapsody
  13. Breathe
  14. Release Your Mind - Judy Peterson
  15. Time - Dajae
Disc 2:
  1. Carib's Leap [Unreleased Roots Mix]
  2. Love Will [Unreleased Roots Mix] - Stephanie Cooke
  3. What Makes the World Go Round [Shrine Mix] - Stephanie Cooke
  4. Cast Your Spell [Original Mix]
  5. Fly [Original Vocal Mix] - Diamond Temple
  6. Dreamer [Frankie Valentine's Classic Vocal]
  7. Do What Feels Right [12" Extended Mix]
  8. Fall in Love - Tortured Soul
  9. Runnin - Jon Cutler
  10. Another Day - Kings of Tomorrow
  11. Bar a Thym - Kerri Chandler
  12. Flight - Monique Bingham
  13. Discover - Jeremias Santiago
  14. Glorias Muse (The Yoga Song) [Danny Krivit 718 Mix] - Blaze
  15. Love Will Stay - Diviniti
Disc 3:
  1. Funky People [MAW Mix] - Funky People
  2. If You Should Need a Friend - Blaze
  3. Elevation - Blaze
  4. Reaching
  5. Keeping My Mind - Black Rascals
  6. Can't Win for Losin - Blaze
  7. All That I Should Know - Blaze
  8. Can't Get Away [Blaze Remix] - Mood II Swing
  9. Moonwalk - Blaze
  10. Saturdays [Saturday Nite Mix] - Alexander Hope

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