It’s not often that a husband and wife both release new albums at the same time. This is what happened when John and Gina Carey both released new albums earlier in February 2012. While Gina released her beautiful, sixth album Love Letters, John Carey, The Urban Soul Guitarist released his new album Smooth, Soulful and Funky. Like Gina Carey’s album Love Letters, John’s album Smooth, Soulful and Funky is released on the couple’s GiCo Music. It’s a collection of nine tracks from Chicago born jazz guitarist John. However, John Carey is much more than a guitarist with over forty years experience, but he’s a multi-instrumentalist who can play bass, keyboards, drums and percussion. Back in the early seventies though, John made his name playing electric guitar and singer. During his career, John has worked with some of the legends of music, opening for Earth Wind and Fire, George Benson, Buddy Guy, Norman Brown and Rose Royce. Previously, John has released four albums on independent labels, including 2011 New Beginnings, released on GiCo Music. It reached number eight in the UK Soul top thirty and was named one of the top Smooth Jazz albums of 2011 in the UK. So, having told you about John Carey’s background, I’ll tell you what his new album Smooth, Soulful and Funky sounds like.

The first track on Smooth, Soulful and Funky is Eunice (Song For Mom). This is a lovely, laid-back slice of smooth jazz, with John’s subtle jazz guitar accompanied by keyboards, lush strings and percussion. His talents as a guitarists are demonstrated on this track, as the guitar drifts in and out of the track, while a horn soars above the arrangement. It’s joined by occasional bursts of the lushest strings, while percussion augments this truly beautiful smooth jazz track.

Let It Flow opens with John’s guitar meandering, before crispy drumbeats and Gina Carey adds vocals. Keyboards join the track, while John jazz tinged guitar playing is quick and accurate, as it chimes and soars, as his fingers effortlessly flow up and down the fretboard. With the lovely combination of Gina’s subtle, sensuous vocal and the crunchy drums accompanying John, this is a track with a lovely mellow, understated sound.

Quite different from the two previous tracks is Spicy, which literally bursts into life, combining jazz with Latin influence. Percussion, a searing guitar solo from John and blazing horns open the track, which now has a Spanish sound and influence. With alto saxophonist and smooth jazz composer Will Donato accompanying John, the track is full of energy and like. Will’s punchy saxophone and John’s guitar combine, before John takes centre-stage with stunning guitar solo. After that. John and Will combine, their efforts driving the track along. Then, Will gets his chance to shine, playing an equally stunning rasping solo. The success of the track is down to two things, when John and Will unite, and when they both take turns of demonstrating their virtuoso skills. 

Stanky sees another change in style, with the track having a funky sound. This is down to John’s guitar playing which sears and soars throughout the tracks. John seems to almost make his guitar talk, while keyboards, drums and percussion accompany him. Like the other tracks on the album, John plays each instrument, demonstrating he is a true multi-instrumentalist. However, it’s on guitar that John Carey made his name, and here he demonstrates that he’s one of the finest jazz guitarists around, making his guitar do things other lesser guitarists could only demonstrate on this funk drenched track.

I’m Into You is truly a “family affair” to quote the legendary Sly Stone. On this track, John’s wife Gina is the guest vocalist. Crunchy beats, a loping funky bass and braying horns give way to the sultry sound of Gina’s vocal. She duets with John, who has a really throaty, rasping voice. Lush strings, join the horns and rhythm section, while John’s guitar plays an important part in the arrangement. Meanwhile Gina and John sing of their love for each other, as they sing “I’m Into You.” This is a a very beautiful song, that combines John’s jazzy sound with Gina’s Nu Soul, on a track where the Carey’s sing of their love for each other. To me, this is easily, one of the highlights of Smooth, Soulful and Funky and would make a great single.

Old School sees John reminiscing about the old school music of his youth, while Gina adds some soulful vocals, against an arrangement that features keyboards, crisp beats and chiming guitars. Then, John joins Gina as they duet. John’s voice is full of emotion and impassioned, as he rolls back the years, singing of his musical heroes like Smokey Robinson Teddy Pendergrass and Freddie Jackson, on a track with some fantastic lyrics. Meanwhile Gina’s vocals soar high above the arrangement, before she takes her turn to sing about her heroes, name checking Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin and Stephanie Mills. Again, her vocal is equally emotive and impassioned as John’s, soaring beautifully, but always in control. What makes this such a great track are the lyrics and John and Gina’s impassioned vocals which are fill of emotion.

You’re My Inspiration is one of Smooth, Soulful and Funky’s quicker tracks. During this song, John sings of how Gina is her inspiration. This he does against an arrangement that marries his jazz guitar with a really soulful arrangement. His chiming, shimmering guitar is played quickly and seemingly effortlessly. This results in a beautiful, emotive sound, while keyboards, drums and percussion accompany Gina on backing vocals. Later, John decides to show-case his skills as a guitarist, with a dazzling, sizzling solo that is mesmerizing. When this is added to the soulful sounding vocals and arrangement, then this is the recipe for a beautiful track that’s a fusion of John and Gina’s musical styles and talents.

Who Am I sees Gina singing vocal on another track with some great lyrics from John. These lyrics are full of social comment, pondering the meaning of identity as Gina asks “Who Am I?” With synths, crispy beats and some searing, soaring guitar playing from John throughout the track, Gina delivers the lyrics thoughtfully and punchily. Later, a sample is effectively added, before the track returns to the punchy, Nu Soul sound. This Nu Soul sound has a slow, slightly spacey arrangement, while John’s jazz tinged guitar sears and sizzles along this track that marries contemporary lyrics with a Nu Soul sound and a twist of jazz.

On We Came Here To Party, John takes the roll of MC as this funk drenched track opens. A combination of bursts of Dave Thomasson’s rasping saxophone, Theo Coakly’s funky bass and Kirkwood Coakley synths, augment John’s sizzling, funk laden guitar and a proliferation of percussion combine to create the a stunning stew of jazz funk. Meanwhile, Gina adds vocals that drift in and out of the track. With four hugely talented musicians combining, John is spurred on, laying down one of his best guitar solos on the album, one that mixes, rock, jazz and funk. The result is an absolutely mesmerizing, blistering track that demonstrates the hugely talented John Carey and his trio of talented jazz friends.

Closing Smooth, Soulful and Funky is Tears For A Fallen Soldier, a gentle, thoughtful and introspective track that’s very different to the previous track. It’s a return to the smooth jazz sound of earlier tracks, with an electric piano, sad sounding strings and subtle percussion combining, before John’s adds an emotive and atmospheric guitar solo. This is perfect for a track that has a thoughtful, sad sound. When the guitar drops out, the electric piano reenters, adding to the emotive, pensive sound of this track. After that, John’s guitar returns as the track heads to its emotional ending. Not only is this a quite beautiful track, but one that has a thoughtful and emotive sound, that makes you think deeply about the title and something that sadly, is a far too common and tragic occurrence nowadays.

John Carey’s album Smooth, Soulful and Funky is an eclectic combination, ranging from the smooth jazz of Eunice (Song For Mom) and Let It Flow, while Spicy combines jazz and Latin music and Stanky and We Came Here To Party are two funk drenched tracks. Adding a soulful sound are I’m Into You, Old School and You’re My Inspiration, while Who Am I has a real Nu Soul sound and feel. Overall, the ten tracks on Smooth, Soulful and Funky are an eclectic selection of some incredible, quality music. On the album John’s mesmerizing, virtuoso guitar skills are augmented by the soulful voice of Gina Carey, along with saxophonists Will Donato and Dave Thomasson, bassist Theo Coakly and synth player Kirkwood Coakley. Along with John Carey they helped him to create an album that deserves to be heard by the widest audience possible. So, If like me, you love jazz, funk and soul music, Smooth, Soulful and Funky features all this and much more. It also includes some gorgeous smooth jazz, which allows John to showcase his jazz skills. Like his wife Gina Carey’s new album Love Letters, John Carey’s Smooth, Soulful and Funky is a must have album for everyone who loves quality jazz, soul and funk music. I’m sure that by the end of 2012 both Smooth, Soulful and Funky and Love Letters will be crowned two of the best albums of 2012,  like John’s previous album New Beginnings and Gina’s 2011 album Melodic. Standout Tracks: Let It Flow, I’m Into You, Old School and We Came Here To Party.


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