Terry Callier Alive

"You've got soul, so you can feel it," sings Terry Callier, storyteller and songwriter, in his "Ordinary Joe" classic, the upbeat number that kicks off Alive. Callier, for the uninitiated, is a spiritual, Chicago-based vocalist who has been creating inspirational soul, jazz, folk and blues sounds for more than 40 years. The man has shared stages with talents as diverse as soul singer Jerry Butler, folkster Pete Seeger and poet/proto-rapper Gil Scott-Heron, frequently garners comparisons to Curtis Mayfield and yet didn't receive his due. Callier recorded heavily throughout the '70s, scoring a few hits with releases on Elektra and Chess, but retired in 1983 in order to be with his daughter. Labels kept calling, but Callier was having none of it. In the early '90s, a song of his became a UK acid jazz and dance club smash, prompting invites for live gigs, through which Callier developed a massive UK following. His first studio album in 20 years, TimePeace, was released in 1998 (Verve in France, Talkin' Loud in the UK), but fans and the curious alike will definitely want to check this brilliant live album, recorded at London's Jazz Café in both 1998 and late 2000. Terry Callier creates warm, emotive, incredibly human music; the man is interested in making us think, feel and connect. Alive sees him in a prime period, sharing classics such as "Lazarus Man" and "Dancing Girl" alongside new gems, including the introspective and beautiful "African Violet" and the stunning "Lament for the Late AD," an exploration of Callier's response to the New York police shooting of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed black man. Here, Callier's direct lyrics, quiet instrumentation and struggle for answers to huge questions results in one of the most powerful songs imaginable. On the flip, album closer "I Don't Wanna See Myself" is a love song that grows from quiet and lamenting into a gospel-flavoured jazzy soul stormer. "I want you back" has never sounded so good. The same can be said of Callier's return to music. (Mr. Bongo)