Carroll Thompson – Carroll Thompson (expanded edition): Album Review

Carroll Thompson’s superb second album is reissued and is testament to the exceptional musical talents of one of the most soulful vocalists in reggae.

Release date: 18th August 2023

Label: Doctor Bird Records

Format: CD

Carroll Thompson’s self-titled second album feels long overdue for reissue. As one of the most soulful voices in reggae and particularly lovers rock, it is great to see this 1982 album available again, enhanced with additional tracks and an informative booklet with photos from that time.

I first came across Carroll Thompson’s unique vocal talents, when listening to the 1984 debut album, Into The Hot, by Sheffield based band Floy Joy. This marvelous album excitingly combined jazz, soul and funk, with at the center Carroll Thompson’s impressive vocals, which were equally adept at showcasing soulful ballads and high-octane jazz funk work outs.

On this album, we are treated to an exceptional selection of lovers rock-based tracks, combining elements of rocksteady, reggae, soul and jazz. The reissue also contains eight bonus tracks, all but one of which are new to CD.

Opening track World Of Love sets up an intoxicating groove, as the guitars and keyboards circle around the precision swing of the bass and drums. Carroll Thompson’s vocal performance is soul embodied, joyfully setting the melodic contours of the song, supported by her own and Cleveland Watkiss’ sweet soaring backing vocals. The theme of freedom fits perfectly with the optimistic tone the song beautifully puts forward. 

Third song in, Change, benefits from the intricate drumming and bass patterns laid down by Drummie Zeb and Tony Gad, from the legendary Aswad. Together with the exquisite horn phrases, it has a cool jazz feel. Carroll Thompson’s singing seems to almost float freeform over the hypnotic instrumentation. A quite stunning vocal performance. The following, Stay with Me Tonight, has a classic lovers rock lilt, with the romantic sentiments accented by the fabulous combined backing vocals of Carroll Thompson, Cleveland Watkiss and Caron Wheeler, surely a vocal match made in heaven.

Music (It Will Never Die) has a powerful rhythmic propulsion, led by Jah Bunny on drums and Courtney Carr on bass, that lends an engaging danceability to the song. Carroll Thompson’s voice imbues the song’s tribute to the redemptive quality of music, with a strong emotional core. Just A Little Bit (new mix) in contrast has a wonderful contemporary pop feel that sparkles in both its instrumentation and vocals.

As will be evident from this review so far, Carroll Thompson as a songwriter, musician and vocalist, has a wide range of musical influences, that she is able to blend in to highly original and distinctive musical pieces. Dreams Of You epitomises this talent with its syncopated rhythms, and soul and jazz instrumental touches, and a lead vocal that very elegantly permeates and underpins all the subtle musical elements contained in the song. In addition, the way the music changes pace mid-song is simply breathtaking. 

Of the great selection of bonus tracks on the album, the duet with Sugar Minott on the David Gates song Make It With You, in both its 7” mix and version 7” mix, completely stands out. Both the soft harmonious 7” mix and dub heavy version 7” mix take this classic pop song into wonderfully new creative musical spaces.

A great reissue then of this simply superb Carroll Thompson album, that fully deserves to reach as wide an audience as possible. I hope this review will encourage you to seek out the album. You can check out Carroll Thompson & Sugar Minott – Make It With You with track visualiser here:

For more information about Carroll Thompson: Facebook / Instagram

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