Full Flava – Refreshed (2021) (Review)

Full Flava – Refreshed

Throughout the 2000s, UK studio Full Flava served up a compelling mix of sophisticated soulful originals and fresh, faithful takes on R&B classics. Working with top vocalists Carleen Anderson, Ruby Turner, Chantay Savage, CeCe Peniston and Alison Limerick (to name a few), producer Rob Derbyshire has released four tasty albums containing an ideal mix of grooves suited to soulful clubs and arrangements.

Although Full Flava has only released new material sporadically over the past decade, its following has remained intact via updated remixes and compilations. By widening this angle, the two discs Refreshed The collection features an album’s worth of key cuts from previous sets with restructurings by both Derbyshire and outside producers, while adding several new cuts. Well-received versions of Jean Carne’s “Was That All It Was” “Betcha Wouldn’t Hurt Me” by Quincy Jones and “Music is my way of life” by Patti LaBelle are revisited are revisited with danceable elements that maintain the deep soul of the initial mixes and boost the sonic highlights a bit for new listeners.

Disc one of Refreshed features remixes by Incognito, JKriv, Rob Hardt and Nigel Lowis, while disc two centers around Full Flava’s own selection updates. Either way, the treatments are grounded in preserving the vibes of Full Flava’s previous takes and the artists’ original recordings. The remix of Micky More and Andy Tee’s “Was That All It Was” (featuring Carleen Anderson) opens the collection on an inviting note with soothing guitar and percussion patterns swirled by nighttime keyboard rays laying a solid path to tones Anderson’s deep and crisp. Soft, dreamy textures, meanwhile, are added to Dee Johnson’s feature, “Too Much Too Late,” on Lowis’ Philly remix.

Some figures are not so convincing. Gil Cang’s remix of “Bad Habits” does nothing to improve the song’s attitude or Kelli Sae’s vocals, and Sunlight Square’s remix of “September,” featuring Chantay Savage, strays from the mood. distinctive of the 2006 mix and pivots to a low-rent imitation of the Earth, Wind & Fire original. Savage’s warm delivery shines through more on the September 21 Full Flava remix on disc two.

Momentarily slowing the pace, Blue Lab Beats lends an engaging jazzy, hip-hop flow to the memorable Anderson-led original “Stories.” Next, Cool Million’s Rob Hardt injects Donna Gardier’s rendition of Change’s “The Glow of Love” with understated flourishes and rhythmic accents that honor the original without trying to replicate it.

Incognito, whose Joy Rose also features on a cover of Lisa Stansfield’s “Change,” embellishes a new rendition of George Benson’s “Love x Love” with kinetic tropical elements and a jazzy edge. Their mix and the “Love Flava Album Version” redeem reimaginings highlighted by Izzy Chase’s endearing performance. Savage also returns to the fold with a rousing cover of the late Oliver Cheatham’s 80s masterpiece “Get down Saturday Night.” The original is untouchable, but Savage’s warm tone and expert phrasing are most enjoyable to hear on record. Full Flava includes two blends on Refreshed of melody, with the “Saturday Night Sunday Morning Mix” featuring saxophone melodies complementing the verses and choruses.

In the age of segmented listening via instant streaming and choppy playlists, Refreshed is a welcome blend of ever-soulful dance tracks and midtempo jams. The vocal presence of Britain’s leading R&B divas translates into almost two hours of motivating performances that fill out the satisfying grooves from start to finish. Recommended.

by Justin Kantor

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