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Toronto’s Jacksoul formed in the early 1990s around frontman Haydain Neale, originally from London, Ontario. Incorporating a new age hiphop/funk sound mixed with R&B, jazz, and soul, the band was rounded out by guitarist Justin Abedin, bassist Dave Murray, Brent Setterington on keyboards, Adam Leo on saxophone, and drummer Roger Travassos.
During countless tours throughout southern Ontario, they sent out an independent cassette of demos to the labels, and before long they’d caught the attention of critics throughout the area, who were unable to peg the band under any specific genre, therefore they remained unsigned. Unrelenting, they continued on the road until finally landing a deal with Ariola Records.
Their debut album, ABSOLUTE, followed in 1996, produced by Justin Gray (Ennis Sisters, Sugar Jones). Success came practically overnight, with encouraging reviews pouring in from the critics as being something fresh yet vaguely reminiscent with true soul, and for the sensuality of the lead single, “Eastbound,” as well as other tracks like “Indigo” and “Got Your Soul.”
They signed with Vik/BMG and earned a Juno Award in 2001 for R&B Recording of the Year for their sophomore album, SLEEPLESS, released the previous fall. Featuring producer Jon “Rabbi” Levine,” he also wrote four of the tracks, including the #1 Canadian single “Can’t Stop.” It went gold amid much hype and even more airplay, and the video also received heavy rotation on MuchMusic. Other cuts included the cover of Hall & Oates’ “She’s Gone,” “Never Give Your Love Away,” “I Remember,” and the story of a three-year pain of having a loved one walk out on you in “Somedays.” All the attention sparked a national tour, which included Nelly Furtado as an opening act on one leg. The tour dates spilled over into the US, then Europe, keeping the band on the road until well into ’01.
2004’s RESURRECTED was eagerly anticipated by the fans and warmly welcomed by the critics. The lead single “Still Believe In Love” went gold and became the group’s second song to peak atop the Canadian charts, earning Neale the Canadian Urban Music Award for Songwriter of the Year. The moody atmosphere created by “Shady Day” followed it up the charts and again brought home some hardware, winning SOCAN’s award for R&B Song of the Year in ’05. Along with the infectious lead-off “Think You Show Know” that harkened back to the days of Motown, critics also ate the album up, praising the slick harmonies in tracks like “Merry Go Round” and “Ocean Pearl.”
They followed it up with MYSOUL in 2006, generally regarded by the critics as the band’s most ambitious album to date. Only a few of the 14 songs were originals, and ran the gamut of musical influences and inspirations, including covers of David Bowie’s “Ashes To Ashes,” Radiohead’s “High & Dry,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly,” and an ultra-sensual take on The Guess Who‘s “These Eyes” and Blue Rodeo‘s “Try.” Even though no singles were released, it still captivated audiences and critics alike, earning the group their second Juno for R&B/Soul Recording of the Year in the spring of 2007.
But after returning from a series of shows throughout Ontario, Neale was hospitalized that August, after being hit by a car while riding his motorscooter. He remained in a coma for several weeks, putting the band on the shelf for nearly three full years. Upon his recovery, they returned to the studios and MYSOUL was finally released in ’09. “Lonesome Highway” was released as the first single, certified gold soon after and pre-dating the album’s release.
They were once again showered with critical praise for lyrics that were more powerful than ever before, and with a renewed vigor in the music. Featuring ten new tracks and co-produced by Neale with his wife Michaela, the music was filled with simplistic passion, evidenced in the tender “You’re Beautiful,” “All You Need,” “I Surrender,” and “This Is Heaven.”
Tour dates were being set up, but that November, Neale was hospitalized once again, who’d been fighting a long battle with lung cancer. He passed away Nov 22, 2009 at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. Soon after, it was announced that all proceeds from the sale of SOULMATE would go to the Haydain Neale Family Trust. A CBC Radio special entitled, “Cant Stop Loving You A Tribute To Haydain Neale” aired a month later. A tribute concert was also held at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre, featuring performances from the likes of Jim Cuddy, Chantal Kreviazuk, and Nelly Furtado, among others.