Brandon Burrows is a talented young vocalist endowed with a confident soulful style. He delivers an impressive collection of songs on his new debut release entitled On The Move. His musical vision is aided by the recruitment of some of contemporary jazz’s elite for their expert assistance on this ambitious outing. On The Move contains covers of famous artists from the varied genres of popular, soul, reggae, gospel, and classic rock on this successful jaunt, as well as offering a pair of truly fine originals. The bright and clear production by the husband and wife team of Rob and Amber Whitlock is impeccable.
One of the keen original songs, the title track On The Move, comes first. It’s a funky delight complete with support from a driving raucous horn section and features Brandon’s soulful and seasoned vocal. Both original songs are boosted by the masterful bass work of veteran Alex Al. Cliff Almond with his skillful contributions on drums throughout the disc also never fails to impress.
Co-producer Amber Whitlock shares vocal duties on "True Colors," a song made famous long ago by Cyndi Lauper. Where the Lauper version sounded whiny and coy to me, here it shimmers radiantly. The accompaniment provided by Rob Whitlock’s piano works to brilliant perfection. Cat Steven’s "Wild World" is given an updated infectious treatment, and Brandon nails it. Wisely he doesn’t attempt to recreate the song’s original world weary tone, instead moving into more of a popular direction. He utilizes his upper register while adding some improvised vocal inflections to nice effect.
The second original song is "Chase Your Dreams," a song rich with optimistic lyrics, and Brandon is convincingly sincere on this song that he co-wrote. Background singers give this song added garnish, as they do elsewhere to good advantage. The songs of Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 fit Burrows like a favorite pair of jeans. Both "I Want You Back" and "Got To Be There" could have been written with him in mind. Neither strays too far from the original, but would, without a doubt, sound fresh to those too young to remember Michael’s versions. Both are extremely well done with profound feeling.
Two of Jimi Hendrix’s classic rock chestnuts are tackled. On "The Wind Cries Mary" Burrows brings an innocent yet feisty quality to his vocalizing and Brian Price plays lead guitar beautifully. On "Fire," energetic Cliff Almond is masterful on the drum kit, and after the initial first listen shock, Brandon’s reworking becomes more acceptable.
Three gems from Stevie Wonder’s vast past catalog are chosen for cheerful vibrant tributes. Chuck Loeb’s tasty guitar frames Brandon’s soul-tinged vocal on "Do I Love Her." I swear Burrows is so passionately convincing that I truly believe he does love her. On Stevie’s "Sugar" the choice contrabass guitar of Anthony Jackson competes for top billing alongside Brandon’s sweet singing and the swinging brass section. "Superwoman" touches more on a light jazz side, and also works very well. Admittedly, it’s a difficult task to top Stevie’s heavenly singing, but Brandon does leave an imprint.
The emotional gospel blues of Ray Charles is also unfurled. On Ray’s exuberant "Hallelujah (I Love Her So)" Brandon croons in a sassy style that works just right, and the horn section consisting of Wayne Bergeron, Andy Martin, and John Rekevics is superb. The traditional gospel song "Wade In The Water" also is performed with power and grace. Brandon’s respectful take on Bob Marley’s "Redemption Song" is one of the album’s highlights as he sings Marley’s meaningful lyrics with a conviction that belies his age. Rob Whitlock supplies plenty of earthy spice with his Hammond organ.
The evident beauty in John Lennon’s "Hold On" rises undeniably to the surface, as is the case with the Kenny Loggins classic "Celebrate Me Home." Both of these two pretty ballads are given stirring interpretations, and end the recording on a great note.
On The Move contains a few minor missteps, but all in all it’s a pleasing recording. Even on the songs that don’t quite hit the mark, there is something of quality to latch onto. Kudos to all the marvelous talented musicians that gave their all to make Brandon’s initial recording such a fun and memorable affair. And thanks to Brandon for acknowledging the artists who have inspired him, and for this gallant attempt to bring their music to a younger audience.