Remy Shand's debut album, The Way I Feel, couldn't feel, sound, even smell more Motown if it had emerged from Marvin Gaye's basement or the lips of Stevie Wonder. While Motown is, in fact, the label that released The Way I Feel back in March, the album did not originate from Hitsville, USA. Not really. Instead, it was birthed in the bedroom of a 24-year-old home-schooled white kid from Winnipeg. In Detroit, where Teena Marie was one of the few white artists to make it through Motown's iron gate with her hits "I Need Your Love" and "Square Biz," the Canadian is fitting in nicely. Maybe that's because he is one of the few white singers to get away with calling his lover "mama." Or maybe it's because, like Wonder, Remy (pronounced Ray-me, as in "do re mi," thanks to his musician father) handles 95 percent of the instruments himself, wrote all the words and produced the entire thing. More than likely, it's because he has respect.
"Everyone who's fusing that old soul back into songwriting--D'Angelo, Maxwell, Shelby Lynne, Macy Gray and Erykah Badu--that's who I relate to," Shand says. (Shelby Lynne?) "I want to make my audience feel the magical feeling they do when they listen to Marvin and Stevie and soul music in general. That is the reaction I had listening to them, and that is the reaction I want to project."
Shand spent his teen-age years working in his parents' skate shop and in his room writing music and teaching himself to play anything and everything. He learned to play guitar from Steely Dan albums, keyboard from Herbie Hancock records and jazz from legendary bassists Stanley Clarke and Jaco Pastorius, and so on. You can hear it all on The Way I Feel, a neoclassic-soul-funk-with-a-little-conga-twist record that's pure Detroit lovemaking music. Shand's blend of wah-wah guitar and heavy bass, sublime falsetto croon (think Philip Bailey or Maxwell) and a little gospel organ is freakishly sexy, maybe more than it has a right to be. And he's wise beyond his years; although still in his early 20s, Shand writes confidently and bitterly about love and the lousiness that usually comes with it in songs like "Looking Back on Vanity," a tune he wrote when he was only 17. Although not solely about destroyed love, Shand's album has a close resemblance to Gaye's Here My Dear, the biting tell-all album of his divorce from Anna Gordy. You hope that Shand has better times ahead.
Gypsy Tea Room
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"This record is completely me," Shand says. "When you see me perform live, the words and music are mine. I love it. It is still just 1 percent of what I can do...but for this album the topic is love." Imagine what will happen when he unveils the other 99 percent.