There are countless shimmering stars that make up the glorious, glittering galaxy that is soul music. Carmen Rodgers is just one of those stars who shines in the soulful firmament. Which begs this question: where will her new album Stargazer fit in? Will it find a home in some far-flung distant corner of the galaxy, or will it be as bright and prominent as the Pole Star?
The most simple answer is that it will please her existing fans enormously, and may be the breakout album to endear new fans to her brand of soul. Being a part of The Foreign Exchange stable of thoroughbreds, Carmen Rodgers knows that at moments like this there is only one thing to do: Bare your soul and see what happens. And that is certainly what she does here. Lyrically she doesn’t hide. All manner of joys, failures, flaws and triumphs are revealed over the course of the 12 songs on Stargazer.
Opening track “Stargazing” has a satisfying thud of drum and deliciously scuzzy sounding bass, that together signal a sojourn into head-bobbing territory. This feeling is continued on “Beyond The Stage” a mid-tempo beauty of lyrical clarity and honesty.
Stevie Wonder-esque “Camille Leon” is a cautionary tale of a starlet's life and career choices and passes by amiably, as does the stuttering beat and funk bass of "Make A Way." “Charge,” featuring the gloriously warm tones of Anthony David, is a piano ballad that is sold with earnestness and passion. “Heartless” is a good example of the lyrical approach throughout, but here the music adds greater depth to the feelings wrought by those lyrics. The swirling, shifting atmospherics heighten the impatience when she sings, "You can see me standing here trying to make it clear / I want to be with you, but waiting I just cannot do."
Soul music is filled with woman-wronged lyrics, so it is entirely refreshing to hear a different angle on “Patience.” Here Rodgers is cast in the role of seductress and poses the question, "If I kiss you just one time, what harm will it do?" She patiently waits for her crush to be free from his existing relationship so that she can show her true colors.
“Not Sure” wanders back into head-bobbing territory with its throbbing heartbeat bass, while “Stay” showcases the strongest vocal delivery on the album. Expressive, beautifully delivered and unfailingly honest, it reveals Carmen Rodgers at her best. That this comes on the track most removed from synth sounds could be a coincidence, but undoubtedly the space is there to hear the malleable, adaptable and honeyed tones that she has to offer.
And thus does Carmen Rodgers' star shine. Lyrical frankness delightfully sung is the name of the game here, and on those terms she succeeds beautifully. But in other terms it does occasionally fall a touch short. The tunes don’t linger as long in the mind as she would wish for, but whatever she sings, she commits to wholeheartedly. Stargazer is an artfully constructed and earnestly performed album that deserves to be heard amongst the other works that similarly enliven and strengthen the soul landscape of today.