When you talk about UK Street Soul, and the sounds that define it, it’s impossible to look past Special Touch’s first and only album, Garden of Life. A shining example of this often retrospectively termed genre, which loosely categorised black, soul-inspired music with a DIY, bass-driven aesthetic from the late ‘80s to early-mid ‘90s, this impossibly rare record from cult label Top Secret Recordings weaves a unique brand of positivity and musicality across nine uplifting tracks. With original copies never having traded hands for below £100 on Discogs, this fully licensed, remastered reissue for Heels & Souls Recordings debut release will be a welcome sight for many.
A family affair through and through, producer and TSR founder Robert Charles Roper and his vocalist brother Duval created an LP that effortlessly married the rawness of underground hip-hop, R&B, reggae and early house with the sentiment and warmth of soul music.
The continuous thread over the nine tracks is a sense of optimism, whether on the house-flecked ‘It’s Your Life’, the slung-back ‘Tonight’ or the breakbeat-punctuated ‘Music’. And few, if any, street soul tracks hit the same sublime heights as the title track ‘Garden of Life’, a consummate encapsulation of the Special Touch sound, decorated with breathtaking synth melodies layered over crunchy drum machine hits and Duval’s soaring vocals.
A high-point of an underground street soul scene that caused vibrations throughout UK dancefloors, blues parties, soundsystems and pirate stations from Manchester, London, Leeds, Bradford, Birmingham and beyond, Heels & Souls Recordings are delighted to be working alongside Robert to present a relicensed version of Garden of Life for their debut release, remastering the record from the original DAT tape at The Bakehouse Studio.
Complete with a printed inner sleeve detailing the history of Special Touch and the record’s significance, label co-founders Ben Croft and Patrick Forrester, alongside Prime Direct Distribution, will also be donating their respective share of profits to The Black Curriculum, a social enterprise delivering Black British history programmes and teacher training to facilitate both national curriculum and wider societal changes.