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The latest work “It’s Soul That Counts” by Principles of Joy is an impressive proof that first-class, intense and versatile Soul Music does not have to come exclusively from the USA. On their third album, the French soul outfit skilfully blends elements of Northern Soul, Blaxploitation, Dance and Psychedelic Soul to create an irresistible fusion that honours its roots while staying effortlessly in the here and now.

On their third album, the band remains deeply rooted in their musical heritage, drawing inspiration from the Northern Soul sounds of the 1960s (as evidenced in tracks like “What Did You Mean”), the soulful midtempo vibes of the 1970s (“Soulmate,” “Tale of The Ghetto”), and the contemporary dance soul (“Girls Be Like,” “All That”). They also pay homage to blaxploitation (“No Justice No Peace”) and Charles Stepney’s psychedelic soul (“True Life”). However, this rich tapestry of influences and flavors wouldn’t be as impactful without Principles of Joy’s innovative reinterpretation through a post-hip-hop lens.

Ludovic Bors, the band’s composer and arranger, meticulously examines every harmonic, rhythmic, or melodic element with the notion that it could potentially serve as a sample. Bass motifs, Rhodes loops, drum breaks, and even brass and string parts are approached as both beatmaking components and classical compositions. Examples like the chorus of “Ablaze” and the break in “Soulmate” vividly illustrate this approach.

With a blend of strength and sensitivity, Rachel Yarabou flawlessly embodies the heartfelt lyrics and melodies penned by Christelle Amoussou, the band’s official songwriter. This album delves into themes of love (“I Was Wrong,” “Soulmate,” “All That Counts,” “Tale Of The Ghetto…”), political dissent (“No Justice No Peace”), and the perils of a world in turmoil (“Ablaze,” “Girls Be Like,” “True Life,” “Tale Of The Ghetto…”). Yarabou’s commanding vocal presence firmly places her within the esteemed tradition of Soul Sisters in this genre.

The band’s rendition of the feminist funk anthem “Your Thing Is A Drag” (originally by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings) serves as a testament to this fact. Through a high-octane reinterpretation, Principles of Joy pays homage to Daptone Records, the influential force behind the soul genre’s resurgence over two decades ago.

Throughout its 45-minute runtime, this third album weaves together a tapestry of themes and emotions, effortlessly intertwining them into a cohesive whole. These facets collectively speak to the core of every listener, resonating deep within where profound decisions are made. Because ultimately, as the album title suggests, “It’s soul that counts.”

Tour Dates

May 14th – South Central / SCHNEGA
May 15th – Lux / HANOVER
May 17th – Raum 2 / DANNENBERG
May 18th – Maschinenhaus / NEUGENSDORF
May 19th – AZ conni / DRESDEN
May 21st – Hansa 48 / KIEL
May 22nd – MonkeysClub / HAMBURG
May 25th – Gleiss 22 / MUNSTER

Photo: William Nothin