Living My Dream
2014 / Artistry Music
Review by Michael Debbage
Jonathan Butler’s stateside recording debut was back in 1986 when he released the eclectic album Introducing Jonathan Butler. Including elements of his native Africa, Smooth Jazz, R&B crooning and heartfelt gospel inspiring material, Butler immediately provided his listening audience with a unique hybrid musical style. Closing in on 30 years of impressive and at times downright inspiring albums, Living My Dream draws in all of these genres into one cohesive recording, resulting in his most extraordinary soundtrack testimony since 2005’s Jonathan.
Living My Dream awakens you immediately with the absolutely stunning optimistic sway of “African Breeze”. It has all the trademarks of a classic Butler composition that includes a toe tapping rhythm section further enhanced by Jonathan’s flawless optimistic guitar player along with a lively horn section. The instrumental is a beauty and while she is the crown jewel of Living My Dream there are several precious instrumental gems to be found. In fact of the eleven tracks over 50% of the material carries the guitar voice of Butler. Prance forward and find the tearful more meditative “Be Still” that not only plays tribute to the recent passed George Duke but also features the late Mr. Duke. Mellow mid-tempo results can be found on the remaining balance of the instrumental tracks with the album concluding with the more gospel tinged song “A Prayer”, with Butler’s wordless but uplifting vocals bringing both the song and the album to a conclusion.
In between the six instrumentals, the album is peppered with five vocal tracks of varying quality. Standout material includes Butler pleading to his lover on the more R&B influenced "Heart & Soul" that incorporates a wonderful chorus with the brilliant horn section that counters Butler's guitar work. Similar results can also be found on “All About Love” reminding us that his vocal work is as remarkable as his guitar work. But perhaps the downright fun and funky “Song For You” is more your cup of tea.
Butler’s recording career has been a thoroughly impressive ride that is far from over. Nevertheless there are a few crown jewels throughout his career that do stand out. Effectively enveloping his African roots, R&B, Smooth Jazz and Gospel influences they include Jonathan Butler, Deliverance, The Worship Project and Jonathan. With the previously mentioned recordings having that magical ability to encompass all of Butler’s musical styles, we can add Living My Dream to the above impressive list. And what a precious gem she is.
June 22, 2014
Review by Michael Debbage