Monday, November 22, 2010
Aloe Blacc - Good Things
Panamanian born Aloe Blacc brings the skills he developed as a rapper
(a decade in the hip-hop duo Emanon) to his second record as a neo/retro
soul singer on the Stones Throw label, and the results are splendid. His
vocal influences range from Marvin Gaye to Gil Scott-Heron, but over the
course of Good Things Blacc asserts his own soul vision. He may not have
the chops of Marvin, but he’s a soulful, supple singer whose hip-hop informed
phrasing gives him a clear identity.
The production by the Stones Throw crew evokes old school, Seventies soul
music, but it’s fresh enough to sound totally contemporary. Leon
Michels, on keys, guitar and sax, knows his Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye
(What’s Goin’ On), and Charles Wright and the 103rd Street Rhythm band -
bringing the funk and enhancing the songs. Nick Movshon’s bass playing is an
encyclopedia of soul and funk bass, endlessly inventive, moving the songs,
sometimes stealing the show by not trying to steal the show.
Blacc’s songs honor his heritage while extending it. If the catchy, arresting
capitalist critique ‘I Need a Dollar’ isn’t an anthem for these times, I don’t
know what is. And “Life So Hard,” with its There’s a Riot Goin’ On vibe isn’t
far behind. Blacc shows his stylistic range with a knowing, nuanced take on
Lou Reed’s ‘Femme Fatale.’ His ‘Mama Hold My Hand’ echoes both Bill Withers and 2Pac, while standing confidently in their esteemed company.
There’s a not so quiet revolution going on in contemporary rhythm ‘n’ blues.
Singers as diverse as Raphael Saadiq and Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed, or Mayer
Hawthorne and John Legend are going to the well of classic soul and drawing
waters of melody, invention and humanity that are bringing a genre thirsting for real human emotion back to life. Good Things absolutely lives up to its name; it’s a fresh, original collection of songs from a singer-songwriter who understands that modern black music has to look back in order to move ahead.