Wolfgang Valbrun – Flawed By Design (Jalapeno Records)

Amongst the many superb records released in 2024, which is truly turning out to be a vintage year for music, I simply must highlight the recently released debut album by Wolfgang Valbrun, especially if you are a fan of classic soul. If you are, and I don’t use the term lightly, then I would have to say that Flawed By Design is an ‘essential’ album. A modern-day masterpiece of the era, in fact.

Am I exaggerating? Maybe, but not much. There are 10 songs here, each one a force of nature in their own way. There are shades of all manner of great artists all over this record, from Marvin Gaye to Robert Cray, from Otis Redding to Lenny Kravitz, from Stevie Wonder to, yes, even The Black Keys; Flawed By Design is a complete joy to listen to.

The emotion is real from the beginning, with ‘Sun Don’t Shine‘ introducing us to the set, seemingly a break-up song, before the brilliant Motown cap doffing of the fantastic ‘Cyclone‘ lets us know, if we were ever in any doubt, that Valbrun is one of the best (perhaps even the best) contemporary soul artists out there right now, and he’s clearly in this for the long haul.

The female gospel singers who back Valdrun on ‘Love Yourself‘ elevate this song to a higher plane completely, along with his impressive falsetto, while ‘Keep Your Head Up‘ is more in line with the smooth soul of the late, great Bobby Womack.

Every one of these tracks is not only well crafted and agreeable, but they touch your very being and carry you along in the air like you haven’t just chosen to listen, your psyche is simply compelled to do so. As an example, ‘Some Day‘ is half ballad, half lament, its opening verse sombrely announces: “Brass scolds the willow tree / We marched toward purgatory / The pain of the woman who carried me / subdued by her faith and her dignity” before the defiant chorus of “The sun’ll come out some day” is like a clarion call of positivity.

We’re only halfway through the album at this point, but the diamonds just keep coming. ‘Almighty $$‘ even begins like a lost ’60s gem, while at the same time acknowledging the slightly twisted guitar work of early nineties Happy Mondays. By the time we get to the closing title track – which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on What’s Going On – it’s clear that, despite all the apparent influences, Wolfgang is still very much his own man and a remarkably talented one at that.

I have no doubt that Flawed By Design will be in my own personal top 10 albums of 2024, come the year’s end, and quite frankly, any self-respecting soul fan who doesn’t do so needs to take a long hard look at themselves!


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.