The last Paul Hardcastle release was titled 6. I made the appropriate request through the label for a review copy and only now do I feel comfortable in sharing what happened.
I was denied. The reasoning was more than understandable because my tastes clearly run towards the straight ahead and more Latin influenced jazz and the executive I spoke with was afraid and I will paraphrase his response, that I "would rip it to shreds simply because it was not my thing."
A friend of mine had the release so shortly after it hit the streets, I closed my blinds and poured my usual Sunday morning coffee to prepare for whatever the disc had in store. Admittedly I was expecting a shiny disc of compressed Valium but what I found was a deceptively subtle release full of flavor and texture. A lyrically cohesive and well put together work that was incredibly solid and a release I eagerly recommended to a friend of mine who happens to be a huge fan. Did Hardcastle reinvent the wheel on 6? No. Did he have to? No. If it ain't broke don't fix it, I don't care what genre of jazz your forte is.
This brings us to The Chill Lounge...
If you liked 6, then you will love The Chill Lounge! There are some subtleties to this release that are intriguing. While I can always do without smooth jazz vocals, there are none here to cause any major issues and that is Hardcastle's true magic. Paul Hardcastle can address some of the negative issues some fans have with a release traditionally classified in the smooth jazz radio format and make lemon aid out of what would otherwise be lemons in the hands of a lesser artist or a label that lacks attention to detail with neither being the case here. There is at times an all most ambient quality to the music that is incredibly appealing. Call it "chill" or anything else that allows you to sleep better but the bottom line is that The Chill Lounge is distinctly different than 6 and arguably his finest release to date. While the whole island hopping theme is a bit too pretentious for my tastes what makes this release hit my musical sweet spot is a slightly New Age meets World Music with of course the keen sense of lyrical direction that is the trademark of Paul Hardcastle.
I stated earlier this year my contemporary and or smooth jazz reviews would be done on a slightly more limited basis due to reader input, this release is a wonderfully organic release while losing none of the Hardcastle flavor or charm.
If you have a taste for jazz that runs on the smoother side, perhaps an interest in some more exotic flavors that can be found in this incorrectly labeled sub genre of jazz then this is a stellar release. I decided to try Paul Hardcastle yet again and with no prompts from the label - that is not how they roll and this was indeed money well spent. At times, for me listening to smooth jazz can be the musical equivalent of watching an adult film in the middle of the day, you feel a bit dirty but you get through it. Granted even the most straight ahead fan such as I can be as musically pretentious as the next person.
Paul Hardcastle and Trippin 'N' Rhythm are the very models of consistency in an all to inconsistent business. 4 Stars out of 5 if you lean more towards straight ahead jazz. If you are a fan of smooth jazz then take 5 stars and just keep this between us.