Indigo Jam Unit & Flexlife – Vintage Black (2009)

Indigo Jam Unit & Flexlife - Vintage Black (2009)
Artist: Indigo Jam Unit & Flexlife
Album: Vintage Black
Genre: Jazz-Funk, Soul
Label: Basis Records
Released: 2009
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)
Love Love Love [06:04]
I Believe in Miracles [04:03]
My Cherie Amour [05:34]
Never Can Say Goodbye [04:34]
The Makings of You [04:11]
Lady Day & John Coltrane [05:11]
It’s a Shame [04:41]


Vintage Black is the second of three releases in successive months from indigo jam unit. December saw the release of the superb Pirates, and this album sees them embarking on a slightly different project, working with label mates Flexlife ~ an acoustic soul duo consisting of Rie Aoqi on vocals and Ken Okura on vocals.
Given the success that indigo jam unit have had, I imagine that this album is intended to show a different side to their music and also raise the profile of Flexlife. For this collaboration, the musicians decide to cover some classic soul songs from the sixties and seventies, and given that they have dipped into the songbooks of Donny Hathaway, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five, Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield, you could say that they have set themselves up for a fall. It’s almost as if someone has raided their collection of Free Soul compilations and selected their favourite songs.

So, the question is, how do they manage? Well, I think on the whole the result is something of a mixed bag. Some tracks work quite well, whereas others don’t quite come off, though given that Rie Aoqi is singing in a foreign language, it is understandable that she is going to have a difficult job matching the originals.

The album opens strongly with a version of Love, Love, Love, which is nicely arranged and executed, and allows for the band to expand on the tune in their own way. Next up is a version of The Jackson Sisters’ rare groove anthem I Believe In Miracles, which is still very popular song in Japan. It’s generally a faithful cover, but being more uptempo, it allows indigo jam unit to show their more natural instincts with the arrangements.

The middle section of the album is the part I find the most disappointing. My Cherie Amour is seems to plod along without really exciting. Never Can Say Goodbye is passable, but nothing outstanding, and The Makings Of You is simply a difficult track to cover for a foreigner as so much of the song is in the vocals.

Things pick up a lot for the last two tracks, though, with Lady Day & John Coltrane allowing indigo jam unit to build up a head of steam as they do on their own songs, and the closing track is an interesting arrangement of It’s A Shame, that is quite a change from The Spinners original.

An interesting collaboration that doesn’t quite work over the whole album, mainly because for about half of the tracks indigo jam unit have to reign themselves in a bit to accommodate the slower tunes or fit in around the vocals, but when they do follow their more natural instincts, the results are a lot more satisfying.

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