Blue-eyed soulster Robin Thicke is currently riding high on the success of his latest album, Something Else. A fun trip through 70s soul, his recent release has solidified his status as an artist who deftly straddles current and retro R&B, adding just a touch of disco.
Before Robin Thicke, however, there was Remy Shand.
Around the same time as Thicke's modest debut, A Beautiful World, Shand entered the music scene with The Way I Feel, a superb collection of blue-eyed soul that paid homage to 70s soul while grounding the lyrics in modernity. Released, appropriately enough, on Motown Records, the album caused a small stir in R&B circles with its authenticity and catchy melodies. As a result, Shand received airplay on BET and many R&B radio stations, and eventually racked up Juno awards (Canada's equivalent of the Grammys) and Grammy nominations. He then promptly vanished from the music scene.
Shand's apparent disappearance has disappointed fans, as his well-crafted debut showed great artistic promise. Born in Winnipeg, his parents home schooled him, and ended up passing on their love of soul music to their son. According to his Motown artist site, after earning his GED Shand played in local experimental rock bands, but his love of artists such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock, and the Isley Brothers never died. At 19 years old he began composing songs, then started recording and mixing from home. Overall he played every instrument, sang all vocals, and wrote every song that would eventually comprise The Way I Feel. After four years of writing and recording, Shand's album made its way to Motown, who released the project in 2002.
Listening to The Way I Feel resembles taking a journey through soul's rich past; “Take A Message,” the first single, features Shand singing in falsetto over a lazy, funky beat. The title track speeds up the tempo slightly, with Shand playing the role of the tender lover: “I know what it takes to make it right for you,” he croons, taking a page out of the Teddy Pendergrass songbook. A shuffling beat punctuated by strong bass and a “wah wah” pedal, “Liberate” provides irresistible funk, as does my favorite track, “The Second One,” with its scratchy rhythm guitar driving the beat. He also pays tribute to the great “slow jam” tradition with tracks such as “I Met Your Mercy” and “The Colour of the Day.”
However, Shand avoids simply parroting R&B legends. “The Mind's Eye,” for example, uses unusual images for seduction:
Settle down, talkin' love,
Talkin' beauty of it all
I could pleet , I could make heads meet
Leave your value, Leave your virtue
Seize the makin' of some new company
If those words seem unusual for romancing a partner, “Burning Bridges” assumes a different perspective on breaking up. Describing why he is ending the relationship, Shand's narrator displays comfortable resignation: “Woman, feeling good about the choice I made/In so deep there ain't no judgment day/If there was I think I'd be okay.” Reasons for the breakup are unclear, as Shand uses abstractions to explain the couple's differences: “For when you wanna turn the day in/And I just wanna turn the day around,” he sings.
Track for track, The Way I Feel represents Shand's true love for soul, and this passionate album addresses love and loss with originality. However, the story has a strange coda; in 2003 he announced via his official site that he was hard at work on his next album. Shortly after that, he vanished from the internet as well as the music world. The official site was removed, his MySpace page discontinued; a Google search revealed many fans asking “what ever happened to Remy Shand?” but no answers. His Motown artist page remains, and some of his videos are available through YouTube, but otherwise he seemingly fell off the face of the earth.
Now that Robin Thicke has experienced success with his neosoul sound, it's time for Shand to reemerge. His sound could appeal to a vast, multicultural audience; pairing him with the right producer could make a great difference. Thicke took that approach with his second album, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, and watched his career skyrocket. It would be a great shame that such a promising talent may have only one album to his credit. Until Shand decides to reappear with new material, do not pass by The Way I Feel, a stellar example of the neosoul movement.Powered by Sidelines