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Album Review

What a curious cocktail of African music, jazz, soul, and gospel Michael Olatuja has cooked up on Speak. Although the bass player takes a back seat, underpinning the tunes on the disc, his writing skills are very sharp indeed, with some excellent musicians and vocalists to help him out. It all kicks off with a West African groove on "Ma Foya," but those roots are just one facet of Olatuja's talent. He's often more about soul, as he shows on "Le Jardin" (which could have been lifted from the Stevie Wonder songbook), "Hold On," or the ballad "Unconditional." But there's also gospel with "Walk with Me" (a traditional piece and the only non-original) and "Altar Call," while hip-hop appears on the title cut. And what about the jazz? Its inflections suffuse the whole album, but are strongest on the closer, "Mama Ola," which turns into a subtle, melodic jam. Put it all together and it shows Olatuja to be an excellent composing talent with a great future.

Speak, Michael Olatuja
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