“Do you like good music?” is the opening lyric of The Overtones’ new record, Sweet Soul Music, and I must admit, on first listen, the question had me rolling my eyes. When Arthur Conley first sang the line back in 1967 it seemed then to be a celebration of all soul music – not necessarily just Conley’s – but in the mouths of The Overtones’ it struck me as a query with all kinds of arrogant implications – “you like good music? Then you’ve found the right album.”
But, as it turns out, I was jumping the gun. But by the time the album’s 11 tracks were over the line no longer seemed like an empty brag, or even a brag at all. Sweet Soul Music is, at its best, a paean to the music of a bygone era; one that bursts with love; affection; and yes, even soul.
The record isn’t a total success, however, and some of the songs do fall a little flat. Give Me Just A Little More Time lacks a little bit of the edge of the original, and feels slightly mundane. Similarly, album closer Give Me Soul, an Overtones original, lacks the bombastic weight that could have really made it soar.
But these gripes are relatively minor when compared to the overall strength of the album. Get Ready, an album standout, is a beautifully brash, incredibly energetic cover, and one that exudes confidence and appeal. Similarly, although The Overtones’ cover of Under the Boardwalk has a shaky start, by the minute mark the band find their feet, and carry off the track with controlled aplomb; showing off their ability to rein in their energy, and translate it into a subtle, infectious power.
River Deep Mountain High boasts impressive instrumentation and the bands’ strongest collective vocal performances, while How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) manages to sidestep the pitfalls of saccharine nonsense and truly deliver an upbeat, impressive pop tune.
Back to that initial, album-opening question then: do you like good music? Why yes, The Overtones, I do. That’s why, despite the odd faltering step, I like your album Sweet Soul Music. I like it more than I ever thought I would.