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Album Review

It was much to soul singer Spanky Wilson's surprise — she didn't realize she had had such an impact — when British multi-instrumentalist/producer Will Holland contacted her in her Los Angeles home in 2004, professing his love of her music and wondering if she'd collaborate with him. Still, she agreed to go the studio, and together they did two songs, "Don't Joke with a Hungry Man" and "When You're Through," for Holland's solo project, Quantic, on the album Mishaps Happening. That collaboration worked out so well that they decided to make an entire record together, this time with Holland's full band, the Quantic Soul Orchestra. Wilson's lovely voice is the centerpiece of I'm Thankful, and it does show a bit of its age, but only in the best of ways, deepening it and giving it an added measure of credibility and authenticity while still preserving its expressiveness and strength. Attesting to Wilson's tremendous ability is the fact that the record is very intimately and sparsely produced, making it seem as if the singer is almost in the room right with the you, the sometimes raspy and breathy line endings audible in that professional, practiced way. The band, which plays J.B.'s-inspired tight funk riffs, occasionally branching into modern jazz horn solos or even wah-wahed guitars, often uses a modern dancefloor-esque beat (in both versions of "Don't Joke with a Hungry Man," for example, which are different from the Quantic one), which makes sense as Holland is an able electronica producer as well as composer (besides the cover of Bo Diddley's "You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover," all the pieces on the album are completely written and arranged by him). But the music here is still funk, horns and all, and since the drums are always live, there's still a nice organic sense about it. The neo-soul "That's How It Was," which reflects upon Hurricane Katrina, is touching and affecting, and as Wilson sings, "Now people are talking 'bout a need for a change/Hoping and fighting for power exchange/Thank heavens for life, but not for the pain/Thousands of tears just washed away in that rain," there's a real emotion and tenderness in her voice that comes through clearly and honestly. Because I'm Thankful is about clarity and avoiding pretension, it's about rhythm and groove, it's about playing soul music for its own sake, which makes it a very successful album, a great melding of two talented artists — and an introduction to Spanky Wilson for many who haven't heard her before, and need to — and a lot of fun.


Born: Philadelphia, PA

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '00s

Born in Philadelphia, PA, soul singer Spanky Wilson (a nickname she received as a child due to the spankings her father gave her when she behaved badly) joined the scene in the late '60s with big-band recordings, moving to Paris in 1985 to continue her career there. With collaborations with the like of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Lalo Schifrin, Marvin Gaye, Willie Bobo, and Sammy Davis, Jr., along with her own solo work, Wilson became a DJ favorite all over the world, including in England, where...
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I'm Thankful, Spanky Wilson
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