By Micheal Marsh
Hailing from London, England, Paul Hardcastle presents us with one the first CD releases of the new year from a major smooth jazz artist, with his February 5, 2008, release of “Hardcastle 5”, on the Trippin N Rhythm record label. Though it has only been available for a few weeks, “Lucky Star”, the first single to be released from the CD, has already attained the #1 position for a single on the Smooth Jazz Top 50 chart. “Lucky Star” is the 19th Hardcastle single or album to reach the #1 position on one of the major music charts from around the world. Although I found “Lucky Star” to be an enjoyable listen, it is definitely not one of my favorite songs from the CD. I personally like “Marimba”, “Constellation of Dreams”, and “Keep Movin’ On” even better. On “Marimba”, Hardcastle, along with his long time sax and flute man, Chris “Snake” Davis, present us with a jam that has a much funkier edge to it than “Lucky Star”. On “Constellation Of Dreams”, Hardcastle gets back to the “up-tempo, space vibe sound” that first garnered him attention from smooth jazz listeners when he released his Jazzmasters 1 CD back in 1993. On “Keep Movin’ On”, Hardcastle is joined by female vocalist, Beki Biggins, and presents us with a slightly upbeat tune that is somewhat reminiscent of old school songs such as "Fever", Peggy Lee’s classic song from the 50’s. Beki Biggins’ vocals are also featured on “Don’t You Know”, “Closer”, and “Blew My Mind”. To be perfectly honest, I really didn’t care very much for any of her vocal work on any of these other selections, but I thought she was very good on “Keep Movin’ On”. Of the remaining instrumental cuts on the CD, “Return Of The Rainman” is a nice listen when you are in the mood to just lay back and chill for awhile. In fact, Hardcastle states that the inspiration for this song was a trip he took to the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, where, as he puts it, “the word chill must have originated from”. Hardcastle concludes this CD project by presenting us with a little unexpected bonus. The last track on the CD, “Take 1”, is a very nice song that was written, produced, and performed by Paul Hardcastle, Jr., his 16 year old son.
"Hardcastle 5" is a decent collection of 11 cuts, plus a short intro and outro, which continue that signature “Hardcastle sound” that has entertained his American fans for over 15 years. As with all of Hardcastle’s musical projects, this one is a pleasant listen from beginning to end, but at no time comes close to stretching the musical envelope. Hardcastle consistently keeps his music in his safety zone, and it works quite well for him, as well as his many fans. I give it 3 and a half stars out of a possible 5 stars. If you are not a Paul Hardcastle fan, you should probably pass on this one. However, if you are an avid fan, you will surely want to add "Hardcastle 5" to your collection.
Michael Marsh is the jazz reviewer for TNCP. To make contact, you may e-mail him at [email protected] for review.