Jazz singer Emmanuel blends together Caribbean music culture with soul, funk and pop, with one delicious Easter egg hidden at the end of the album
Hailing from the ‘Island of Spice’, where people report the nation smelling like one giant scented candle due to its rich soils producing cinnamon, nutmeg and a variety of other cloves, jazz singer David Emmanuel’s 2006 album Lovely Day tickles the senses in a different way with his immensely pleasant music. Though often crooning, this is by no means a terrible thing, as he does so by skirting across a range of musical styles.
“As a song it has all the right ingredients to create that warm glowing feeling that good disco music so wonderfully evokes.”
Like the majority of Grenadians, most of whom live in a diaspora outside of the country, Emmanuel plied his trade in London in the 1960s and 1970s, working alongside many successful artists such as Sade, Rod Stewart and Billy Ocean. Despite the nation’s inherent link to their British colonial past, and even to modernday Britain (with Lewis Hamilton’s Grenadian roots being a great source of pride), it was on Emmanuel’s return that leader Maurice Bishop begun cosying up to the Soviet bloc. Focus on this almost unspoken about communist past was being distracted by their Cuban counterparts elsewhere in the Caribbean. Despite the period of flirtation with the Soviet ideology on a cultural level, the Soviets remained unable to penetrate and thus an album like Lovely Day remains an obvious mix of Caribbean island genres such as calypso and reggae, with styles of music popular in the West such as funk, disco and even at one point synth-pop.
Though Emmanuel is not exactly reinventing the wheel, the whole album is certainly agreeable enough to listen to. I was a little bit dubious of the album to begin with as his cover of the legendary Bill Withers’ Lovely Day is quite middle of the road and not sufficiently adventurous enough to justify covering it in my opinion. However, straight away Emmanuel earns back brownie points with the rather catchy and memorable pop number Life On The Road. The appearance of the brilliant saxophone is the first of many on this track to be enjoyed.
Emmanuel seems to have a habit of speaking over the music in a Barry White style, as first demonstrated on You’ll Never Find, however he does so with far more romantic than overtly sexual spoken word. There is a radio station in the UK called Magic FM in which much of Emmanuel’s repertoire would fit onto seamlessly. This is perhaps most true of his very 80s sounding ballads, namely She Comes to Me and Stir It Around, which I can visualise perfectly on a compilation disk with tracks from Eric Carmen, 10cc and Savage Garden. Other ballads on the record have far more of an ‘island’ influence. Just Don’t Wann Be Lonely and Nice Time fuse together a reggae beat with a balladeer’s sensibility.
The more upbeat tracks range from the poppy synth-laden song I Found Lovin’ to two of the songs on the funkier side of the scale Love’s Secrets and When I Fall In Love. The former of these two funky tracks are part of the trinity of great songs on this album, due to its great beat and lovely harmonising, coming at a third place in behind the brilliant calypso track Rock It. Whilst, the album we have chosen to review from Grenada is not jab-jab music and thus not necessarily entirely reflective of the nation’s musical innovation, it would be wrong not to feature an album that includes the country’s much beloved steel drums.
However, if you get nothing from this album and are feeling a bit tired of it around the time of the penultimate track then make sure you wait until the end. The final track Givin’ It Up is a genuinely banging disco number that I find myself often returning to. As a song it has all the right ingredients to create that warm glowing feeling that good disco music so wonderfully evokes. Whilst, it would be exaggerated to suggest that Emmanuel is a revolutionary musician, it is certainly an enjoyable album and I imagine he would be fun to see playing at an event.