James Hunter Six, Minute by Minute (Concord)

James Hunter Six, Minute by Minute

British soul stylist James Hunter is back, after an extended lull in touring and recording, with a release similar to his previous efforts that seems to grow on the listener over time. (Or in this case ‘minute by minute.’) This CD doesn’t have the hard R&B edge that his breakthrough effort—People Gonna Talk—mustered, rather this leans toward the smother side of R&B a la Johnny Nash, the Impressions, Sam Cooke and even Johnny Adams.[iframe src=”https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:album:1zddcgiJxij6Ch69lqLedM” width=”300″ height=”380″ frameborder=”0″ allowtransparency=”true” class=”spotify-right”]Buy on AmazonBuy on iTunesThe opener “Chicken Switch” does have a bit of an edge as it’s taken at a swinging ska-like beat with a sharp Lowman Pauling influenced guitar break. The song’s story line is indeed telling (most of his songs are) as Hunter advises that sometimes, it’s better to switch than fight. Interestedly, the title track’s message is quite the opposite as Hunter seems determined to swim the English Channel and scale the Brunley Tower to get to his baby’s side. Another corker here is “Drop On Me”—with a catchy baritone horn line—which sounds like a slightly less frantic arrangement of a mid-1960s James Brown track. As the title indicates, Hunter is again dispensing relationship advice on “One Way Love,” but this track offers a strong invitation to the dance floor. Unexpectedly, a couple tracks in the middle verge on being, well boring. Yes they have creative horn lines but they don’t seem to go anywhere. In R&B terms they sound more like the Platters than the Five Royales. Hunter gets his mojo back on “The Gypsy,” as it sports a shave-and-a-hair-cut, Bo Diddleyish beat. Minute By Minute winds down with the storming “Look Out,” which not only points out that there’s strength in numbers, but it’s arguably Hunter’s best vocal effort here. Curiously, it concludes with “If I Only Knew” which might best be described as “pretty (fill in the blank).” One can only surmise that our man is mellowing in middle age. Still, despite a few ponderous moments, this is a very good CD that will put a smile on the face of many R&B and soul buffs. Recommended with only a slight reservation.