Steve Oliver-Global Kiss

My very early bottom line: Global Kiss could well be the Steve Oliver CD for me (i.e., the best from him to date, and that includes his magnificent debut, First View, in 1999 and the inimitable sophomore release, Positive Energy, in 2002).

Here on Global Kiss, the body, the substance, the fabric, and diversity are all so vibrant and warm. As the title implies, Global Kiss expands Oliver’s repertoire with its world-music energy while retaining the lyrical melodies and song hooks that have made him a stand-out fan favorite for over 10 years. As he says, “The concept is of global influence and world music, how you can put that flavor into jazz and R&B tunes,” says Oliver, who, by the way, commissioned contemporary jazz saxophonist and graphic artist Marion Meadows (yep, Meadows is a graphic artist, as well!) to design the CD’s bright and inspiring cover. “The CD touches on different cultures, from Brazil, India, the Middle East, America, Europe. I’ve always loved taking different styles of music and blending them into a cohesive vibe. That’s always attracted me as a listener, as well.”

Oliver, who wrote all of the tunes on this tight album, brought in some solid quality musicians to record much of this baby in the old-fashioned way—live in the studio (boy, do I always love that!). He did this despite the fact that he plays a guitar synth that he designed for the Carvin guitar company. With that instrument, he can trigger orchestral, brass, piano and other sounds. Instead, he sought the magic that recording with quality musicians offers. On this release, we have NuGroove sensations Darren Rahn and Nate Harasim (who also comprise two-thirds of the really smooth new group De Naté), as well as Spyro Gyra’s Tom Schuman and Bonny B, saxmen Will Donato and Marion Meadows, additional keyboardists Bob Baldwin and Alan Hewitt, and many more.

The first track, “Fun in the Sun,” is so Oliver with its brightness and high-stepping energy. As he puts it, “It’s feel-good music.” Ya think? That’s followed by a strongly-arranged, hook-tight title track that just emits the very signature and soul of Oliver’s music. “Long Road” follows with its slow, hauntingly beautiful melody and crisp bridge. To sing this way with your instrument as the only voice at the “mike” is one of the accomplishments of an accomplished guitarist that simply can’t be heralded enough. That effect is further accentuated by Will Donato’s sweet sax work. “Barcelo,” popping with a drive and flavor as only Oliver can capture, is named for the hotel where he stayed while performing in Spain.

If you’re a fan of Oliver’s cool, smooth, and uniquely soulful vocals (and that’s what captured my attention early on in the guitarist’s career), you’ll love “Life Goes On,” with its enticing melody. “Lyrically, I write songs about life,” he says. “I think outside of myself; I don’t write a lot of love songs.” Although the majority of his vocal tunes are positive in nature, Oliver admits that “Life Goes On” isn’t as sunny as usual and is more of a snapshot of what he’s seeing in today’s world. In fact, it’s almost distressing; certainly reflective and dripping of some melancholy. That takes nothing whatsoever from the beauty of its call to you, however. In fact, it probably will enhance it. It certainly affected me that way.

There are so many more positive things that can be said about this top-shelf production, perhaps too much to detail here. Summarily, Steve Oliver has done himself proud with this wide-based and all-enveloping project full of melody and charm. “I’m an advocate of music healing and bringing people together in the global community,” he says. “It’s healthy. When you’re hearing a song and you get goosebumps as its moving through you, there’s power there.” If that’s part of his prerequisite for what constitutes power in music, suffice it to say that there’s a mountain of it here in Global Kiss. — Ronald Jackson

Sorry, there are no Amazon MP3 clips available at this time for Steve Oliver’s Global Kiss CD. However, the CD can be previewed at CDbaby.com.