Norman Brown is back, just the way you like him, with a collection of ten original tunes in a CD called Stay With Me. On this, his Peak Records debut, he gives his fans more of what they’ve come to know and appreciate about his music; his foot thumping grooves, infectious guitar licks, and his vocalizing. At the same time, he stretches out on this release by doing more up front singing.
“Let’s Take a Ride” is a cruise tune, just as the title says. You’ll want to turn the volume up and the top down for this one. It is one of my favorites on this CD, and a good way to bring people into the music. “You Keep Lifting Me Higher” shows off some of Norman Brown’s guitar work against a funky groove and pleasing background vocal. “Pop’s Cool Groove” is a song written by Norman for his father. Norman goes back to his Wes Montgomery inspired roots, and pairs it with a Brazilian bossa nova groove on this mid- tempo piece. The result is a very interesting layered mid-tempo tune, and one of the standouts on this CD.
“It Ain’t Over” reunites Norman with his BWB cohorts – Rick Braun on trumpet and Kirk Whalum on saxophone. This funky tune evokes all of the musicianship and performance that you would see in the live BWB show. You can tell these guys like to play together. After that rousing tune, Norman takes it down a bit with “So In Love,” where he plays and sings with such ease through this smooth tune. Towards the end of the song when the singing stops, Norman lets his guitar playing carry the rest of the song. It’s classic Norman Brown. “Stay With Me,” reunites Norman with Brian McKnight, who sings the background vocals behind Norman doing the main vocal work. “Soul Dance” brings in the producing talents of fellow guitarist Paul Brown alongside Norman Brown. I would have guessed that this would be the first single from this release. It’s got that kind of radio friendly appeal that people enjoy. No doubt they’ll like this tune when they here it. On this song, Norman’s playing is nicely complemented by the sound of the sax. “Every Little Thing” again features Norman on lead vocals, as well as guitar. “A Quiet Place” showcases Norman’s talent very well. If someone were unfamiliar with his music, this is one of the tunes on this album I would choose as one that captures who Norman Brown the guitar player is. The final tune, “I Need You,” again allows Norman to sing lead vocals and supplement it with his guitar.
Norman Brown says that this CD is a return to his roots; a return to what he does best and what his fans want from him. I have to agree with him. All ten tracks on this CD are very much identifiable as Norman Brown. He’s got a style that’s easily recognizable. Smooth jazz guitar fans are going to like this CD, and Norman Brown fans are going to love it.
- Mary Bentley