Friday, May 13, 2016

RECORD REVIEW: M'Lisa Alonso - "M'Lisa Alonso"

M'Lisa Alonso
M'Lisa Alonso
(SoundPlay Records)

As a kid growing up during
the super-soul '70s, I was
mesmerized by the magical
R&B music created by such
iconic artists as Chaka Kahn,
and Patti LaBelle. As result,
my recent discovery of this
nearly-lost treasure from a
decade ago was a total treat.

Stylistically, this self-titled 2007 release from Central Florida singer / songwriter, M'Lisa Alonso, crosses (and bridges) generations. While retro freaks (like myself) who still yearn for the days of Odia Coates might feel as if they're reconnecting musically with an old friend, Alonso's '80s and '90s flava will likely also resonate with Lisa Stansfield and Toni Braxton diehards. Even millennials raised on Alicia Keys will probably sense Alonso's ability to "scratch" their "itch" sufficiently.

Although the hard copy version is long out of print, I managed to locate a physical CD among a mere handful of super-pricey used copies still floating around on Amazon. However, it does remain readily available via iTunes.

Polished, yet (fortunately) not over-produced, this 12-track collection oozes well-crafted, heartfelt songs and countless noteworthy performances. From the unmistakable Fender Rhodes warmth woven into "If She Could Only Say Goodbye" to the completely legit, Barry White-style wah-wah guitar work on "Between Us" to the engaging remake of the Marvin Gaye classic, "What's Going On," this record sounds like sunshine. REAL humans playing REAL instruments — all glossed to perfection by Alonso's gloriously organic, angelic vocals.

M'Lisa Alonso onstage - circa 2008.
But despite the record's overall R&B / pop tastiness and authenticity, it's the gospel gem "I Believe" that shines brightest  serving as the record's crown jewel. I want what's in my heart to flow out like a melody, Alonso sings with undeniable conviction in this four-minute opus. 'Cause I want my life to count for more than just temporary things, she continues — a bold and beautiful objective, to be sure, and one that Alonso accomplishes here quite masterfully.

And it's that honest and pure commitment and dedication to creating the type of songs reflected in "I Believe" that ultimately compelled Alonso to actually abandon her pursuit of personal fame and fortune shortly after the release of this record — just as she was seemingly primed to graduate to major label pop star status. Huh? Who does that? Apparently someone who answers to a very powerful voice   and I don't mean Clive Davis'.

M'Lisa Alonso-Newell (center) leading
Worship at Central Life Church in 2016.
More recently, M'Lisa Alonso-Newell has been bringing her unique and unaffected passion-filled soulfulness on a weekly basis to Central Life — a dual-campus church located in Melbourne and Cocoa, Florida where she now leads the amazing Praise and Worship ministry. Currently back working once again with a chosen few top musicians and producers, she's reportedly gearing up for her full-blown Contemporary Christian debut record — set tentatively for a 2017 release. Simply put, as an admitted slobbering fanboy, I'm psyched!

-Christopher Long
(May 2016)

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