Play With The Changes
Label: Milan Records
8.0 out of 10
By Norman Mayers
It’s been six years since London based duo 4hero released their last work, 2001’s Creating Patterns. They are known for their pioneering sounds that laid the groundwork for drum and bass and later soul, jazz, and electronica fusions. With such a wide palette to pull from the team of Dennis “Dego” McFarlane and Mark “Mark Mac” Clair have created another broadly appealing musical opus with their latest offering Play With the Changes. A majestic 14-track album of both forward-thinking and vintage soul, Play With the Changes is ambitious in terms of the compelling production and though-provoking lyrical content. Although it may seem soft compared with the group’s jungle roots, the album is an impeccable journey through progressive soul.
4hero is all about lush, dramatic orchestrations utilizing strings sections, complex drum patterns and gorgeous vocals. On Play With The Changes there are two distinct styles to be found: lush soul with a vintage slant and futuristic soul with an electronica feel. What makes the album so interesting is that the styles mesh together perfectly for a soul album that stands above most. The impressive roster of guest vocalists is the perfect compliment to the varied production with names like Jody Watley, Jack Davey of J*Davey, Darien Brockington, Phonte of Little Brother, and Ursula Rucker turning up.
The most sonically exciting tracks are of course the more electronica-tinged tracks such as the future jazz of “Look Inside” with its stuttering drum rhythms and soaring chorus. Jody Watley’s contribution is the drum and bass flavored “Bed of Roses” that skitters by on its complex layers of sound. But it’s Ursula Rucker’s socially conscious “Awakening” that stands above most of the album. With powerful lyrics stating “Into the awakening/Bring/It’s past time for you and your generation to put this universal chaos into order” the track is a defiant call to arms for the 9/11 generation that deserves to be heard for its sheer brilliance. Musically the track rides subtle marching band drums and gently rises on a cloud of bass, pianos, and strings into an emotional crescendo. Jack Davey displays her star quality on “Take My Time”, a slice of subtle future funk. Jack has an irresistible presence on record; her gruff delivery at once hard and feminine. Vintage soul is the obvious influence on “Give In” with Darien Brockington and Phonte as well as the Stevie Wonder-like “Superwoman”. There are even a few instrumental tracks that develop the electronica-jazz fusion hinted at in the vocal tracks.
Basically Play With The Changes is 14 tracks of soulful bliss; a journey through the many facets of soul music stretching back to the experimental 1970s and reaching into the future of contemporary soul. Anyone who digs eclectic soul will find much to praise here.
4 Hero website
Monday, January 29, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Monday, January 22, 2007
By Norman Mayers
Attempting to describe Mikel Kilgour is quite a daunting task. Throughout his life the man has worn many hats and continues to defy description. Fine Artist. Fashion Designer. Conceptual Art Director. Interior Designer. Writer. Lecturer. Model Scout. Image Maker. He is a great many things but he is never dull, predictable, or forgettable. From designing the red carpet attire of everyone from Magic Johnson to Will Smith to assisting minority fashion models with their first chance at success, Mikel is involved in all aspects of the creative world. His influences and inspirations read like an encyclopedia of tastemakers, the avant-garde, and the influential: Alek Wek, Naomi Campbell, Grace Jones, Josephine Baker, Pablo Picasso, Yves St. Laurent, Salvador Dali, Richard Avedon, Basquiat, Nina Simone, the Smashing Pumpkins, Herb Ritts, Christian Dior. To look into his achievements is to look into the life of a true artist.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
8.0 out of 10
By Norman Mayers
Somewhere between the soothing jazz inflected soul of Sade and the catchy dance rhythms and hooks of Deee-Lite lies the eclectic sounds of the Rurals. This married musical team hailing from the British countryside continues to make some of the most cosmopolitan slices of electronic soul on the market. Picking up where their 2005 release A Rural Life left off, Nettle Soul is an even tighter set of downtempo delights and deep house booty shakers.
The Rurals switch back and forth between their two styles with ease. Where many artists will shine on the uptempo tracks only, Andy and Marie are equally skilled in both arenas. The mellow saxophone fronted “Get It Right” is a beautiful track that floats by on an ethereal cloud of bass and lush instrumentation. Vocalist Marie can coo with the best neo-soul diva and her remarkably restrained performance on this track is among her best. Alternately, the house track “Up To You” is all sing-along verses, deep bass, and funky percussion recalling the days of Lady Miss Kier. Musically, the album is a perfect blend of live elements and electronic effects, but the live aspect definitely jumps out. From wailing sax solos to rapid-fire percussion this is music that will appeal to jazz lovers, yet there is just the right amount of kick to keep things dance-able. The album ends with two remix tracks from A Rural Life that fit in rather well with what has come before.
This is the sort of CD that can be played for a variety of occasions and will appeal to a multitude of listeners. If you are anxious during your wait for the next Sade album to appear, the Rurals’ Nettle Soul should be able to fill the void.
Monday, January 15, 2007
This weekend I attended the Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas with Pink Mafia Radio. Our goal was to hobknob with the players in the adult industry as we get ready to launch a second podcast called, Dirty Pink. It was a whole lot of fun just meeting all the various pornstars whose films I have watched in the last year. Most of them were quite friendly, open to snapping photos and ready to sign autographs.
The convention itself was really crazy with titties being the main focus of course but there was a small gay section in the back. Some of the companies on display were Hot House, Flavaworks, Channel 1 Releasing, Titan, Colt, and Naked Sword.
These are just the first pics. I will be adding more over the next week. Hope you enjoy. From top to bottom the models in the photos are Tony Mecelli, Benjamin Bradley, Sake, Jake Deckard, Marc Williams, Marco Paris, and Eddie Diaz.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Label: J Records
7.0 out of 10
By Norman Mayers
Fantasia is arguably the most impressive singer to win the American Idol competition and probably the only winner that didn’t need the show. Her gritty vocals are strong enough to garner comparisons to Aretha Franklin and Mary J. Blige yet original enough to allow her to create her own sound. On her debut, 2004’s Free Yourself, Fantasia struggled to balance her R&B roots with her pop stardom. The album was watered down by several pop elements aimed at securing her more mainstream acceptance. On Fantasia, the singer delivers an album that is 100% contemporary soul and the work is better for it. Gone are the cheesy Idol references, replaced by dancefloor anthems, bass heavy midtempo soul, and quality throwback love songs. The result is a solid soul release that will please Fantasia’s fan base and appeal to listeners of R&B and dance pop.
Fantasia is most definitely an aggressive album, with many of the best tracks being club banging R&B anthems. The album opener “Hood Boy” featuring Big Boi of Outkast stands along any Beyonce track with its blaring horns and Supremes sample. Many of the album’s best cuts follow this template fusing 60s vibes with hip-hop beats. “Baby Makin’ Hips” is all cascading percussion and bottom end, fronted by Fantasia’s furiously sexy vocal. The beats keep coming on tracks like “Not The Way That I Do” and “I’m Not That Type” with both tracks aiming to secure club diva status to Fantasia. Of the up-tempo tracks one of the most delightful and original is “Bore Me (Yawn)” with its handclapping 60s vibe. The track brims with classic Motown energy and has crossover hit written all over it. Despite all the dance tracks, many of the albums memorable moments are the slower tracks, most notably the midtempo “When I See U”, with its pulsing groove, simple piano keys, and assured performance. The song is quite simple yet succeeds because of Fantasia’s strong presence, which adds a layer of complexity and emotion to the evocative production. Ballads like “Two Weeks Notice” and “Nominate U” work because of their clever lyrics with the latter equating bedroom prowess to an Oscar nominated performance and the former describing a break-up through the terms of quitting a dead-end job. Some of the tracks are not as dazzling as others but overall the album remains very consistent in quality.
With her second release Fantasia steps further away from her American Idol roots and becomes more of a competitor in the contemporary soul genre. What she ends up with is another solid release that once again validates the genius of the machine that is American Idol.