Livin’ for Love by David Sparkman – reviewed by Chris Mann


Ohio-born David Sparkman began singing at the age of three and has never stopped. Since that age, his love of music and his religious faith have gone hand in hand. He has developed into a gifted singer, songwriter and producer as well as an accomplished musician who plays piano and guitar.

David’s influences include Andrae Crouch, Art Tatum, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone and Marvin Gaye. That’s gospel, jazz, rock, funk and soul in the mix right there. His influences extend right to The Beatles and Led Zeppelin.

David tours the United States as keyboardist with Smooth Jazz guitarist, Peter White. In 2003 he played keyboards/vocals on the Smooth Jazz Christmas Tour with Peter White and saxophonist Mindi Abair. He most recently played in England with Peter White and saxophonist Jaared. He can also be heard on Peter White’s 2004 CD “Confidential”. 

I’d invite you to look at David’s own website to marvel at his extensive credits. For now, let’s see what so many people have already got hip to… 

Trying to Live My Life Without You is a bubbling and uplifting slice of modern soul music.  That rhythm just cooks and the horn samples are tastefully used.  Sparkman’s lead and backing vocals are very strong. What a great way to kick things off! The vocal talent is more to the fore on the more laid-back Anytime. The backing is a very classy smooth jazz one – drums and percussion are courtesy of Alex Acuña, and veteran bassman Abraham Laboriel lends his usual tasteful touch. 

The romantic atmosphere is strong on In Your Dreams.  You’ll hear whispers of Peter White’s gorgeous guitar all over this song and they complement the string synth backing very well. I like that strutting drum track on the urban and funky I Wish That You Were Mine. The pace is slow and the backing feels sparse – but everything you need is there.  It’s so classy. 

Equally classy is the groovy Whatever Happened to Love with its light hip-hop beat. We’ve got tasty keyboards too and strong hooks. This is single material and should receive huge airplay. Peter White’s guitar is heard more prominently on Something I Said, which is a romantic ballad with a smooth, urban touch. The arrangement of this song is of very high quality and this is up there with the best R&B to be heard in 2004. 

Narrow is fantastic and it’s a modern gospel song with Sparkman going back to his roots. He’s performed and arranged the vocals to perfection. The chorus is very clever and the hook is strong. I’m no fan of rap but the rhyme on this song fits right in. Faithful is another gentle urban outing, which has a pretty piano and acoustic guitar backing. Film music – deeply romantic. Play it at your wedding. 

What a nice latin feel and hint of Santana-style guitar on She Loved Me! Acuña and Laboriel keep the rhythm moving and this is a very strong piece of songwriting. The guitar could have been pushed forward in the mix for even more drama in the fade. The strings on Two People are sweet and well arranged. Sparkman is a ballad arranger par excellence. He would be a great guy to call in to arrange vocals on R&B albums. He has a great ear for harmony and that’s particularly evident on this pretty song. The title song is a big-band shuffle blues number with a live brass section, the Acuña/Laboriel rhythm machine and Valerie Pinkston (whose credits are impressive) on backing vocals. This must be great live. The Hammond B3 organ has got to be the trendiest of old-skool instruments and it rocks on here. 

I am knocked out to hear a talent who is new to me release a CD which sounds like a seasoned performer on good form. Sparkman composes, sings and arranges brilliantly and provides a lot of the instrumentation himself. He understands the urban pulse but hasn’t distanced himself from the gospel, soul and jazz traditions. All of this is done with taste and I would not be surprised if his next release is a long time coming as other artists call upon his stunning ability as an arranger. 





Music from Sparks Heart – MFSH – LFL2004

Producers – David Sparkman, Scott Nickoley, Co-producer – Derek Jones

Executive Producer – Leo Bunnin