A band only in the loosest sense of the term, the Young Disciples consisted at its core of club DJs Femi Williams, bassist Marc O. Nelson and singer Carleen Anderson, the deep-voiced young daughter of James Brown funk diva Vicki Anderson. If Soul II Soul found its niche in the sound system mix of early ’80s Island singles that merged street reggae and elegant disco, the Young Disciples seemed the logical extension of the British rare groove movement that mined southern American funk and jazz. Recorded in 1991, Road to Freedom is a masterpiece of understated soul, a seamless blend of samplers and studio musicians and a blueprint for the nascent acid jazz and trip-hop movements. (Around the same time, the group also helped Des’ree on her first album.)
Although the US edition contains mixes with Anderson’s vocals, “All I Have” and “Step Right On” appear on the original British issue only as instrumental dubs; oddly enough, these mixes demonstrate Williams and Nelson’s clever deployment of sampled and live sounds, presaging Britain’s turn toward abstract hip-hop-influenced instrumentals. Elsewhere, they make good use of a stellar supporting cast, including New York rapper Masta Ace, Paul Weller, Fred Wesley, Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker. By the time Road to Freedom appeared in America, Anderson (a prominent guest on two Bryan Ferry albums) had herself hit the road, and, working with full-service producer Ian Green, released True Spirit. a dull, mainstream solo dance-pop album the following year.
In 1999, after a second solo album, Anderson joined the Brand New Heavies for a spell.