FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS
“The Raw & the Cooked.” I.R.S. ****
The Cannibals’ sophomore opus just may be the best tribute to and update of American soul styles from England since the Rolling Stones’ “Black and Blue” or side 2 of “Tattoo You.” In fact, singer Roland Gift often employs the same catchy falsetto Mick Jagger used to such great effect on those Stones records.
Of course, there’s hardly any novelty in even a terrific soul update from the U.K., and like American expatriate Terence Trent D’Arby, Gift calls to mind a few American soul greats--mostly Al Green, but also Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. But where D’Arby’s mannerisms often seem self-conscious, Gift’s glide, slide and growl have a naturalness all their own.
The same is true for the way Gift navigates through traditional soul themes (love, loss and regret, as opposed to the more political content of the Cannibals’ 1985 debut), and also for the music fashioned by Andy Cox and David Steele (with production by former Prince associate David Z.). As much as the trio may borrow from Motown (the choppy rhythm of “Good Thing”) or Memphis (the very Green-like “I’m Not the Man I Used to Be”), there’s an original vision that looks forward as well as back.