SHEPHERD EXPRESS REVIEW
Barbara Stephan: The River (Full Moon Productions)
APR. 10, 2018
“Barbara Stephan has been kicking around between Milwaukee and Chicago for several years recording commercial music for Full Moon Productions and singing with the Eddie Butts Band and others around the city. For her solo debut, The River, she revisits the brassy exuberance and passion of 1960s and ’70s R&B. Though pitched as a throwback to Motown’s glory years, Stephan harks more to the contemporaneous run of influential soul music at Memphis’ Stax label, with its lesser concern for pop crossover and looser-limbed rhythmic intuition than much of what was laid down in Detroit back when.
Regardless of geographic and stylistic distinctions, Stephan utterly sells the EP’s half-dozen songs, imbuing them with conviction commensurate to Dusty Springfield or Sharon Jones. Stephan’s vocalizing is lighter in timber than those of the aforementioned divas, but still redolent of vintage soul’s gospel roots and more secular longings. It would be no far stretch to imagine The River receiving play on today’s adult R&B radio and, at the very least, being the basis for a fiery concert presentation. Though Stephan has worked in a variety of styles, she could do far worse than to stick with what works so well for her here.”
“WOW! The music of Barbara Stephan is a breath of fresh air with a delightfully funky gospel twist and a most welcome addition to what is turning out to be a renaissance in popular music. Barbara’s vocals run the full range from pastel to fire and are always spot on. She also did the composing and orchestrating on this project! And then there is her tune “If Ever You Leave Me”. James Brown himself would be proud of THAT one! Sophisticated song writing with beguiling sticky hooks that are accessible and compelling for everyone. This is state of the art!
–Steve Wiest: multiple Grammy nominated composer/trombonist with Vinyl Hampdin.
“EXCELLENT! It is my esteem pleasure to give Barbra Stephan an outstanding review for her CD release “The River.” This is a great body of work that is refreshing to listen to with soothing melodies, and toe tapping rhythms. This CD would be great to perform in Theater venues. Hats off, and 10 thumbs up for Barbra Stephen, her musicians , and Producers , you have captured what is missing on the radio today , excellent job!!!!”
-Michael “Mikie mike” Sulcer, professional touring drummer with legends including Ms. Lauryn Hill, Ray Charles Orchestra, Saxophonist Mike Phillips, Nell Carter and Diane Schurr