Monday, January 29, 2007

4Hero "Play With The Changes" Review

4 Hero
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

1 comment:

Mervin Malone Jr. said...

It is a great album. I just received my UK import the day before yesterday – I LOVE it! Great review – I need to write mine. I'll be linking you at my blog.

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