Original Release Date:

April 2, 1996

Reviewed by
Bonnie Schendell

Most fans of smooth jazz despise the descriptive words of sultry, sexy, and seductive that seem to permeate the reviews of CDs in this genre.  But back in 1996, when I first heard the playing of sax man Richard Elliot, those were the words I had to use.  Okay, I added others like funky and soulful, but in this girl’s mind, no one can seduce you like Richard Elliot, especially when he makes that sax purr.

City Speak was my first purchased album of Richard’s.  Yes, I know he had several before this release in 1996, but it was my first exposure and still is my favorite.  It’s the one that makes me feel good when I need to clear my head. And with a cast of musicians that include Dave and Ron Reinhardt, Richard Smith, and Luis Conte, it was bound to make waves and garner attention for this extraordinary horn player.

The album kicks off with the title track, which has a great groove.  While the drum line is a little repetitive, the sax just pulls you along for a tremendous ride.  “Walk the Walk” is full of funk…a kind of in-your-face track.  The keyboard intro sets the mood then gives way for the sax to take over.  “Unspoken Words” is the first of a few sultry tunes that Richard is so good at.  It’s slower, very defined pace is alluring, with just enough keyboard in the background to fill things out, as is “When the Lights Go Out.”  For a quick temp, funky track, check out “Amazon.”  With Luis Conte, the blend of percussion and sax really gives it a great sound.

When Richard Elliot takes an already romantic, seductive song and makes it over, there is nothing to do but succumb to the music.  The cover of the Babyface song “I’ll Make Love To You,” is no exception.  Just beautiful.  In a nod to his homeland, “Scotland” is an up-tempo track that feels like you are racing along the countryside.  The drums and sax keep building to take you on a wonderful journey.  Slowing it down again is “Sweet Surrender.”  This ballad is sexy from its first note of the sax.  “Downhill Run” depicts Richard’s love of skiing and this tune really plays like you are flying down a slope.  It’s playful and exciting with a terrific beat.  Followed by “All I Need,” another fun track with a head-bopping appeal.  The album closes with “That’s All She Wrote,” which has a wonderful piano intro that is reminiscent of an old time jazz club sound.  Richard’s sax is slow and smoky.  It’s a gentle way to close the album.

This was a terrific way for me to be introduced to Richard Elliot’s music, which has only gotten better, groovier, funkier, and oh-so sultry and seductive over the years.