Marquis Hill – The Way We Play

Marquis Hill
Title: The Way We Play

Artist: Marquis Hill

Label: Concord Jazz

Formats: CD, Digital

Release date: June 24, 2016

 

Chicago trumpeter Marquis Hill, who studied under Ronald Carter at Northern Illinois University and earned a masters in jazz pedagogy from DePaul University, released several projects of his original music on Skiptone Music. In 2014, Hill won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition, which awarded him a recording contract with Concord Records. From this contract comes his debut album for Concord Jazz, The Way We Play, which pays homage to jazz standards reinterpreted by Hill and his ensemble, the Blacktet, featuring Christopher McBride (sax), Justin Thomas (vibes), Makaya McCraven (drums), and Joshua Ramos (bass).

The title track, “The Way We Play/Minority” is playful mashup of a Gigi Gryce tune and features spoken word by Harold Green III. It can be listened to as a manifesto (“the way we play is / the way we love”), or as Hill emphatically states, “this is the sound of my band, which is uniquely Chicago.” Green enters after the intro, claiming the music’s blackness, stating “the way we play signify from which we came/Black always in season.” Light and fast paced, Hill’s rendition never numbs a gut or unseats a listener as free jazz strove to do. This is a fantastic piece, which describes many of the songs on this release. It dances the spirit in a comforting way and is great at romancing the beings that this society has had us become.  The drumming is singularly superb and so the trumpet playing.

Other highlights are Horace Silver’s “Moon Rays,” which inspires idealism in its listener, and the Afro-Cuban take on “Fly Little Bird Fly” (by Donald Byrd), which also features spoken word by Harold Green. His prose asks “the descendants of sharecroppers” to “sprinkle black girl magic” and “rise and dance.” Are these songs politically romantic? Marquis Hill seems to intend to transform at least some of the tracks into statements of political activism or even protest. Also included on the album is an Afro-Latin version of “Smile,” the Charlie Chaplin tune, while “My Foolish Heart” is a love ballad with R&B influences featuring Christie Dashiell on vocals.

Marquis Hill’s The Way We Play is a delightful album that combines the best of two worlds: Archie Shepp without the jagged edges, post-bop with overt protest.

Reviewed by Adolf Alzuphar

Incognito – In Search of Better Days

Incognito
Title: In Search of Better Days

Artist: Incognito

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: June 24, 2016

 

I personally first heard of British group Incognito in the 1990s, when the acid jazz scene made its way to the U.S. Groups such as Fertile Ground and the Brand New Heavies gave Incognito a run for their money on who was going to be the big dog. Well, in 2016, I think it is unanimous. Brand New Heavies had a taste of mainstream success and Fertile Ground was strictly an underground favorite, but Incognito is still regularly putting out new material. Their latest, In Search of Better Days, is Incognito’s 17th album, and if you are even a little familiar with their previous work, then you know what time it is. Incognito is funk, soul jazz and house. Yes, you read it right, house!

The intro for “Better Days” starts off with a very trippy house feel. After a buildup of five minutes, vocalist Vula Malinga takes over and then the track begins to sound more like we expect from Incognito.  Different vocalists are showcased throughout, including Imaani on the opening track, “Love Born in Flames”:

Maysa is featured on four tracks, including “Racing Through the Bends.” Catchy lyrics, combined with Maysa’s vocals equals a winner. Maysa shines on all of her tracks, but hands down this is the ONE.  Vocalist Tomoyasu Hotai gives “Bridges of Fire” a very different feel, but without a doubt it’s still smooth. Incognito is just that, smooth. After seventeen albums, Incognito has proven they have staying power. That’s a good thing.

Reviewed by Eddie Bowman

Vaneese Thomas – The Long Journey Home

Vaneese Thomas
Title: The Long Journey Home

Artist: Vaneese Thomas

Label: Segue Records

Formats: CD, MP3

Release Date: September 16, 2016

 

Listening to The Long Journey Home feels like a night-long dance party as each song tests the boundaries of southern American roots genres. Vaneese Thomas celebrates her family and musical heritage in this latest album, following her most recent release Blues for My Father (2014). Raised in a talented and renowned musical family, Vaneese is the youngest daughter of Rufus Thomas and sister of Carla Thomas. R&B, soul, funk, and blues styles come naturally to Vaneese, and her ability to wield and experiment with these song varieties is evident in The Long Journey Home.

Vaneese demands complete attention in her performance using powerful vocals with a full band including harmonica, electric guitar, and a brass section. She kicks off the album with “Sweet Talk Me,” a rockin’ rhythm and blues song with a catchy refrain and a chorus of back-up singers beckoning listeners to the dancefloor. The album follows into “Lonely No More,” a song keeping with the Delta blues tradition about reclaiming self-confidence. The catchiest song of the album, “Sat’day Night on the River,” starts up with full energy and a swinging saxophone solo by Cliff Lyons. Perhaps one of the most surprising songs on this album, because of its unique blend of genres, is “Country Funk.” Demonstrating exactly what its title implies, Vaneese sings “I just can’t get enough of that country funk” while the percussion and brass section support elements of funk music, and dobro, banjo, and fiddle intertwine creating an intriguing mix of music traditions. The genres highlighted on this album convey Vaneese’s appreciation for the musically diverse reputation of Memphis.

Vaneese wrote songs on The Long Journey Home about her concerns on past and current social justice issues. Civil rights, imbalances of political power, and the need for love and kindness are common themes in songs such as “Mean World,” “Rockin’ Away the Blues,” and “The More Things Change,” during which she reflects on Sam Cooke’s timeless hit “A Change is Gonna Come”:

“Well, I’m still here waiting.

Hardly a damn thing has been done.

Well ain’t it funny? I said, it’s a shame

That the more things change, the more they stay the same”

Vaneese attempts to offer something for everyone on this album, whether they are songs about love and inspiration as in “Mystified” and “Prince of Fools” or songs with heavier blues and gospel roots like “I Got a Man in TN” or “Revelation.” The album closes with a cover of “The Chain,” originally written by Fleetwood Mac. It is a distinctive concluding track relative to the rest of the album for its minimalist acoustic instrumental section. Nevertheless, Vaneese sings out with her heart’s full power, which she sustains throughout the album.

Reviewed by Jennie Williams

Macy Gray – Stripped

MacyGray
Title: Stripped

Artist: Macy Gray

Label: Chesky Records

Formats: CD, Digital

Release Date: September 9, 2016

 

Macy Gray’s latest studio album, Stripped, displays the comfort of a veteran and the willingness to explore new territory at the same time.  Recorded in just two days in a Brooklyn church, the album’s 10 tracks are a combination of covers, originals, and new arrangements of Macy Gray songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7D28ssy4c0o

One such arrangement is “I Try,” Gray’s hit from her 1999 debut album On How Life Is.  This new arrangement allows for some flexibility that’s missing from the original, especially rhythmically.  The musicians featured on the record—Ari Hoenig (drums), Daryl Johns (bass), Russell Malone (guitar), and Wallace Roney (trumpet), provide Gray a freedom that allows her voice to function like the jazz instrument it has remained all these years.

Gray’s rasp allows the album’s covers to shine as though they were her own. She turns Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” into a convincing jazz tune, with the help of star solos from Roney and Malone.  Her cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” is relatively straightforward, yet haunting.

Besides Gray’s vocals, the other standout aspect of this project is the production quality. Produced by Chesky Records for their binaural recording series, this album comes to life in a pair of headphones.  This method of recording attempts to put the listener in the room with the musicians, which is ideal for the intimacy of the small jazz ensemble on this album.

Stripped is well paced, with grooves that complement each other, and a performance from Macy Gray that highlights her songwriting, vulnerability, and command of a voice that sets her apart from her contemporaries.

Reviewed by Allie Martin

Michael Franti & Spearhead – Soulrocker

Michael Franti

Title: Soulrocker

Artist: Michael Franti & Spearhead

Label: Fantasy Records/Concord

Formats: CD, LP, MP3

Release date: June 3, 2016

 

Michael Franti & Spearhead are known for their brand of upbeat, socially conscious pop and hip hop-infused reggae. In their ninth studio album, Soulrocker, they continue to experiment with genre and beat, introducing electronic music to their repertoire. Though most of their records have been largely self-produced, they worked on Soulrocker with Jamaican producers Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor, known for his dancehall sensibilities, and Swayne “Supa Dups” Chin Quee, who has worked with artists such as Bruno Mars and John Legend. Despite the new producers and beats introduced on Soulrocker, Michael Franti & Spearhead continue to find innovative ways to keep their organic instrumental and reggae sound that fans have come to know and love.

In a single more akin to past hits “Say Hey (I Love You)” and “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like),” the upbeat anthem “Once A Day” is about unexpected moments in life, whether they are beautiful moments or “unexpectedly challenging.” Featuring Sonna Rele and produced by Supa Dups, this reggae jam is an infectious celebration of life and all its ups and downs. Franti wrote on YouTube that the song originally stemmed from how his family came together in the wake of his son’s diagnosis of a rare kidney disease, and hopes the song and video (below) can help people rise up, sing, and dance:

YouTube Preview Image

“My Lord,” “We Are All Earthlings,” and “Get Myself to Saturday” play with heavy EDM beats and synth, inspired by Franti’s love for Kraftwerk since he was seven years old. “Get Myself to Saturday” embodies the main message of the album, that throughout life’s struggles and personal longings for success, true happiness is found in giving back to the community and working for the greater good. The track is full of determination and hope, as Franti sings, “There is a part of me that can’t go on today/and there is a part of me that finds a way.”

Michael Franti & Spearhead have never been afraid of making political statements and being forthright about social issues, true to the messages of peace and nonviolence that come from Rastafari beliefs and from reggae legends like Bob Marley. “Good To Be Alive Today” is an acoustic guitar driven track that tackles everything from climate change and police brutality to drone strikes and ISIS. True to form, Franti infuses this sorrowful song with hope, asking people to remember the little “moments of victory” in life.

A personal favorite on the album is “Crazy for You,” a song about the power of loving someone amidst a seemingly crazy world of violence and political difference. The romantic declaration is accompanied by bright, staccato horns and a full unison chorus, and is made sweeter by Franti’s reference to the song as an ode to his wife.

Though some may be wary of the EDM elements on Soulrocker, Michael Franti & Spearhead have always pushed the boundaries of reggae styles and popular music, and this album is no different. From joyful declarations of love to thought-provoking songs, Soulrocker at once fully feels the weight of a world prone to violence, misunderstanding and hate, while recognizing that joy and hope keep people motivated to create change. Franti’s hope is that everyone can become a “soulrocker,” what he calls someone who “lives from the heart with compassion for all, and who’s got tenacious enthusiasm for music, life, and the planet.”

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

Hard Proof – Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03

Hard Proof

Title: Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03

Artist: Hard Proof

Label: Public Hi-fi

Formats: LP, Digital

Release date: June 24, 2016

 

Live music tourists to Austin, TX will add Afrobeat to their show calendars in greater numbers if Hard Proof continues releasing solid albums like this summer’s Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03. Since 2008, members of Hard Proof have purveyed African funk, world music, and jazz inspired by sub-Saharan Africa, while also paying their dues in other notable Austin acts such as Black Joe Lewis, The Calm Blue Sea, Ocote Soul Sounds, Spanish Gold, Cougar, and The Echocentrics. Hard Proof adds Public Hi-Fi Sessions to nearly a decade of high-energy live performances and recorded output of albums and singles.

Recorded live to tape by Jim Eno between December 2015 and February 2016, each song on Public Hi-Fi Sessions packs its own punch while holistically showcasing the Fela Kuti-inspired group at a new level. Horn arrangements and solos captivate and weave freely in and out of the guitar, bass and drums that push the recordings forward and display the group’s ability to build hypnotizing, danceable rhythms.

Hard Proof has earned a well-deserved reputation as one of Texas’s best Afrobeat, funk, and jazz groups. Inspired by everything from a busted lip to painted flowers to questioning established religious institutions, this tracks on this album should impress those both familiar and new to Hard Proof’s live performances and recordings.

Reviewed by William Vanden Dries

Jimi Hendrix – Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69

Jimi
Title: Machine Gun: The Fillmore East First Show 12/31/69

Artist: Jimi Hendrix

Label: Sony/Legacy

Formats: CD, SACD, LP, Digital

Release date: September 30, 2016

 

For Jimi Hendrix, 1969 was a critical year of transition. With his British-American band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, he rode a 2-year explosion of popularity that culminated in the fall 1968 release of the 2LP set Electric Ladyland. After that, a combination of road weariness, musical restlessness and personnel squabbles led to the breakup of the Experience. By the time of the Woodstock festival, August 1969, Hendrix was playing with Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Billy Cox, an old friend from the Army and co-traveler on the early 1960’s Chitlin Circuit. The Woodstock band also included extra percussion and Larry Lee on rhythm guitar. Although the Woodstock performance was memorable—think of the electrified psychedelic performance of the National Anthem in the Woodstock movie)—the band was assembled just for that event.

By late fall 1969, Hendrix was rehearsing with Cox on bass and soul/blues multi-instrumentalist Buddy Miles on drums. The group, which Hendrix called Band of Gypsys, debuted in public at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve 1969. This new album is the first official release of the unedited first set, an audio record of Jimi Hendrix bringing forth something very new, at some risk to his career and popularity.

The concert is long known and yet not well-known. There were four sets that night. All previous releases have been edited together out of pieces of the four, with only some bits from the first set. The original LP, released in 1970, was mostly comprised of the later overnight sets. The multi-CD deluxe reissue pieced together a running order similar to the middle sets, with tunes picked from all four. The running order and vibe of these previous issues isn’t quite what the audience heard, although as stand-alone albums, the original LP—which reached #5 and stayed 61 weeks on the Billboard Top 200 chart—is especially powerful.

Band of Gypsys has been somewhat controversial with critics and hardcore Hendrix fans. Miles’ drumming is heavy and somewhat leaden compared to Mitchell, and the Gypsys was firmly set in blues and hard-funk music, whereas the Experience was more freeform and trippy-psychedelic. Also, Buddy Miles was a showman, and some critics and listeners at the time just couldn’t cotton to his sometimes heavy-handed vocal riffing; the feeling was that he was upstaging the star, Hendrix. In retrospect, Miles’ style fits the music that Hendrix and band wanted to put out, and the point was that it wasn’t a “new Experience,” it was a different direction for Hendrix and his music.

The first New Year’s Eve set was almost all new material, no nuggets from the Experience hit parade except a decent but not stellar rendition of “Hear My Train a Comin’,” a song Hendrix played live numerous times with the Experience. More Experience songs were sprinkled into the later sets, and showed up on the multi-CD reissue compilation. In this unedited release of the first set, we hear the band having some timing and rhythm issues, probably opening night jitters. Several long blues jams keep things in order.

Indeed, blues are the order of the evening. Hendrix used this band as a vehicle to dive fully into the blues music always at the core of his rock hits. His band mates are up to the task, all seasoned by years of playing in R&B revues. Miles definitely prefers a heavier and busier drum style than a classic blues stickman like Chess’s Fred Below. He worked closer to Stax’s Al Jackson Jr.’s backing of Albert King, which was contemporary to these recordings. With mostly rock-steady bass backing by Cox, Hendrix stretches out and explores the ranges of both his guitar and his voice. Particularly on “Bleeding Heart,” near the end of the set, slow blues is rendered with full tension and power, the heavier style of Cox and Miles deployed to perfection.

The album’s title track, “Machine Gun,” presented here in an unedited form (previous releases were edited together from all four sets’ versions) is a smoldering anti-war anthem as powerful in today’s world as the turbulent late 1960s. “Izabella,” based around a fictional soldier’s letters to his girlfriend from Vietnam, is also of the time, although the rendition in this set is somewhat sloppy and tentative.

The set closes with an up-tempo rock colossus, “Burning Desire.” Here, at the end of the set, we hear Hendrix let loose in a rocking manner more familiar to the Experience fan. Miles even displays some Mitch Mitchell-like fleetness at times, which is probably unfair to note since Band of Gypsys was resolutely not aiming to be Experience-like.

Sony says no other complete sets from the New Year’s Eve at the Fillmore East concerts will be released, likely because so much from the later sets is already out there. It’s also worth noting that this will be the first Sony release of Hendrix material in SACD and high-resolution digital downloads. This is surprising, since Sony has in recent years released a large trove of remastered Hendrix recordings, likely transferred and remastered in higher than CD resolution. For whatever reason, these studio and live recordings have been issued only on CD, lossy downloads and in some cases vinyl. This new release was mixed from the original 8-track tapes by long-time Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer, and mastered by Bernie Grundman.

After the New Year’s Eve sets, the Band of Gypsys played one more live set, a song-and-a-half misadventure at the January 28, 1970 Winter Festival for Peace. Hendrix walked off the stage, his manager fired Miles on the spot, and that was it for Band of Gypsys. Hendrix died from drug-related asphyxia on September 18, 1970; he was 27 years old.

Hendrix’s short-lived Band of Gypsys phase has always received mixed reviews. An informative listening session would compare this new release of the first New Year’s Eve set with Hendrix’s “American unveiling” at the 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival, and the August 1969 Woodstock performance. One might also listen to one of Hendrix’s 1968 Winterland shows to trace the arc of his brief career as a rock and blues superstar. His playing, singing and songwriting evolved greatly in that short time, and the Band of Gypsys’ New Year’s Eve performance was an important part of the journey.

Reviewed by Tom Fine

Lecrae – Church Clothes 3

CC3

Title: Church Clothes 3

Artist: Lecrae

Formats: CD, MP3

Label: Reach Records

Release date: January 15, 2016

 

Lecrae has never been one to shy away from controversy, from criticizing rappers who glorify violence on his Grammy-winning Gravity to his personal story about abortion on his last album Anomaly. His latest project, Church Clothes 3 (often abbreviated CC3) is no different. He dropped the ten-track album without warning on January 15, and it fully embraces racial politics in a new way for Lecrae while retaining his characteristic Christian messages.

The first two Church Clothes mixtapes were produced by Don Cannon (50 Cent, Ludacris), and CC3 was produced by S1 (Kanye West, Jay-Z). All three have excellent production with beats that sound typical of what one hears from mainstream hip hop. CC3 reached the number one slot on Billboard’s Rap/Hip-Hop Album charts within a week of being released, showcasing Lecrae’s tendency to cross genre boundaries despite being known as a gospel rapper.

Central to the album and its political messages is the short film that was released simultaneously, featuring the songs “It Is What It Is,” “Gangland,” “Déjà Vu,” and “Misconceptions 3.” The video follows a young gang member who gets shot:

The opening track, “Freedom,” frames the concept through two lenses: freedom as spiritual salvation and freedom from racial injustice. The hook, sung by Dallas vocalist N’dambi, is smooth soul and claims freedom as a mindset. The song samples a gospel chorus in the background, which is chopped up in the verses, creating holy syncopation. There are clear influences of Kendrick Lamar’s acclaimed To Pimp A Butterfly throughout the entitle album and video, but this song includes a direct reference to the Lamar’s “King Kunta.”

Gangland,” featuring Propaganda, is the most overtly political song on CC3. Referencing the New Jim Crow and the government’s role in allowing drugs to permeate African American communities, the track includes spoken narration in between verses that criticize the criminal justice system and explain the origins of gangs in the United States. Maybe most controversial to Lecrae’s white, Christian fan base may be the lyrics in Propaganda’s verse: “When American churches scuff they Toms on our brother’s dead bodies / As they march to stop gay marriage / We had issues with Planned Parenthood too / We just cared about black lives outside the womb just as much as in.”

The song “Can’t Do You,” featuring the rapper E-40, brushes off haters, encouraging the listener to “do you.” It’s backed by a standard hand-clapping beat and a R&B chorus sung by Drew Allen. Another standout track is “Misconceptions 3,” featuring John Givez, JGivens & Jackie Hill Perry. As the title indicates, it is the third in a series of tracks about misconceptions that appear on the first two Church Clothes albums. The beat is fast and hard, and indiscriminate chanting in the background helps moves the song forward. Lecrae lets these rappers shine on the track, with fast flows and witty lyrics such as “They shocked to see us like Donald Trump up in a taqueria.”

Lecrae, who marched with #BlackLivesMatter protestors in Atlanta last year, recently said on CNN that he wants to “educate and help” people who don’t see the reality of racism in the United States. Church Clothes 3 certainly makes a bold step in that direction, as Lecrae explains the complexities of racism, unashamedly continuing to change the way people view the world.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

Bri – Keys To My Heart

bri

Title: Keys to My Heart

Artist: Bri

Label: Marquis Boone Enterprises/Tyscot

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 25, 2016

 

Briana Babineaux, known simply as Bri, started singing at age five in the Lafayette, Louisiana church where her stepfather was a pastor. Now 21 years old and studying criminal justice, she never considered a career as a singer until one of her friends posted a video of her singing “Make Me Over” by Tonex on YouTube, which became a viral sensation.

Rising up through social media, Bri has become a full-fledged gospel star, releasing her debut album Keys to My Heart through Marquis Boone Enterprises and Tyscot Records. Her first gospel single, “I’ll Be the One,” came out last June and reached the top spot on Billboard’s Gospel Digital Songs chart. This heartfelt song includes a call and response chorus in which Bri offers her life to God:

Many gospel artists have encouraged and supported Bri on her debut album. Recording artist Bryan Andrew Wilson composed the warm, stripped-down ballad “Grace” especially for Bri, and Christian artist Reece wrote “Love You Forever.” The latter is evocative of ‘90s R&B girl groups, especially in the outro that features snapping, with Bri riffing both in melodies and speech as the song fades out.

Trying her hand as a singer-songwriter, Bri wrote her first compositions for the album—“Jacob’s Song” and its reprise “I’m Desperate.” They are both dynamic, with reverently quiet moments that build until the music swells and Bri belts outs skillfully embellished runs and high notes in the choruses.

In Keys to My Heart, Bri puts her soul into every song she sings, proving that she’s not just a social media star, but a rising gospel star with a lot to say.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick

Anglo-Saxon Brown – Songs for Evolution

AngloSaxonBrown

Title: Songs for Evolution

Artist: Anglo-Saxon Brown

Label: SoulMusic Records

Format: CD (expanded edition)

Release date: January 22, 2016

 

David Nathan’s SoulMusic Records frequently targets albums that have yet to be released on CD. Such is the case with Songs for Evolution, the 1976 debut album by Anglo-Saxon Brown—a soul and funk group formed in Richmond, Virginia. Formerly known as Ujima, the group (which included former members of The Manhattans, Sweet Inspirations, and the Harmonizing Four) recorded briefly for Epic in the early ‘70s before their careers stalled.

Soon thereafter they were rediscovered by Philadelphia producer Joe Jefferson, who also brought along his songwriting partner Charles “Charlie Boy” Simmons, to write new material (both were former staff writers for Thom Bell). The band then auditioned for Atlantic’s Jerry Greenberg, who agreed to sign them based in part on the strength of lead singer Debra Henry (now affiliated with Patti LaBelle). Since their old management company laid claim to the name Ujima, they had to decide on a new identity. The name Anglo-Saxon Brown came about after their costume designer heard a demo and asked, “Are they black . . . or are they Anglo-Saxon?” Though as the cover illustrates all members were indeed African American, the name Anglo-Saxon Brown encapsulated their new music which married the Philly sound with a bit of disco, rock guitar, and soul-jazz.

The roster of musicians on Songs for Evolution included lead guitarist Clemente Burnette, lead and rhythm guitarist Anthony Ingram, Carlton Robinson on bass, Debra Henry on lead vocals, plus a horn and rhythm section.  There are several highlights on the album.  “Call on Me” has almost a Broadway-style veneer, with Henry singing over a jazzy groove (the song was sampled on Action Bronson’s 2001 track “Larry Csonka”). The symphonic disco-jazz-funk “ASB Theme” is primarily an instrumental, segueing  between smooth vocal harmonies, a punchy horn section, funk guitar solos, and sections showcasing  pianist Dwight Smith.  Debra Henry is given an opportunity to shine on the ballad “The Man I Love,” a crowd favorite from the group’s live shows.

Despite follow-up promotional tours, Anglo-Saxon Brown’s new music and name didn’t take off with the public, and ultimately the short-lived project was relegated to a cult collectible, known primarily to soul music aficionados. However, the cross-genre approach marks an interesting chapter in the evolution of R&B music during the disco era of the mid to late 1970s, and now thanks to SoulMusic Records the album is widely accessible.

Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss

Silk – Quiet Storm

Silk

Title: Quiet Storm

Artist: Silk

Label: Shanachie

Formats: CD, MP3

Release date: March 18, 2016

 

The Atlanta-based R&B vocal group Silk originally started performing at churches, talent shows, and even in the streets, eventually becoming known for their “baby-making music” throughout the ‘90s. Now the five men of Silk are back with their first new album in a decade titled Quiet Storm.

Unlike their 2006 album which reinterpreted other artists’ R&B hits, Quiet Storm features ten original tracks. As suggested by the title, these are intensely romantic songs, such as “Love 4 U 2 Like Me” and “It Only Takes One,” as well as some characteristically sensual tracks such as “Slow Grind and “Baby Maker,” which they call a new brand of “grown-man sexy.” The group takes pride in their vocal arrangements and perfectly blended five-part harmonies, which remain as skillful and smooth as when they started.

Reviewed by Anna Polovick