Saturday, 2 October 2010
The second album from Aloe Blacc, the former hiphop artist turned soul singer, is a box of treats evoking memories of Bill Withers, Motown and the political activism of Gil Scott Heron.
Beginning this sophomore is I Need A Dollar, the worldwide soul come R&B hit that looked towards Gil Scott Heron’s The Bottle and even the bible in the line ‘I don’t know if I’m walking on solid ground because everything around me is falling down’. The record portrays the hard quest for money to pay the bills and reaching a hand out for help, Blacc asking if people would share their dollar with him. It makes a shrewd political point about modern America, draws empathy and shows Blacc at his absolute peak. Plus instrumentally, it’s some tune, produced along with the rest of the album by the Truth & Soul duo of Jeff Dynamite and Leon Michels.
Following this is a tough thing to do, so it’s a surprise that Dollar is followed by an opposite in Green Lights, which sounds like a record Bill Withers might raise a knowing smile to. It’s upbeat message “Something special happened today, I got green lights all the way, no red light to stop me” is accompanied by a west coast beat, an organ that punctuates and blaccs backing harmonies creating ever more texture. Good Things, the title track which crops up ninth in the run order, is to Blacc what Lovely Day is to Withers.
Hey Brother meanwhile is sheer blaxploitation soundtrack, with it’s Shaft-esque wahwah guitar and hammond working throughout. The melacholy of Life So Hard again shows Blaccs willingness stand on a soapbox, this time he’s on point about ‘bailing out the banks’ and a recession hit America. Femme Fatale, the perils of falling for a perfect 10 girl, contains a big hook, and shows the Motown influenced edge to the album. The simple message of Loving You Is Killing Me suggests that although this album is quasi-political, it is also about the writers personal stuggles with relationships.
Aside from I Need A Dollar, one of the other tracks proving a possible zenith is ‘If I’ , the record in which Blacc questions whether people would pray for him, cry for him, dance with him and if ‘I tell a lie, will you fall with me?’. There’s no doubt the intention is to have the listener hooked on each questioning word.
The album should end on the ballad about the artists growth from boy to man in the teary ‘Mama Hold My Hand’, but actually ends on a slightly odd Sgt Pepper esque 1m39 of instrumental. A glitch, but not enough to change the overall sentiment.
Overall this is a superb follow up, bettering his debut and quite possibly his best work to date. Good Things is tour-de-force lyrically, poetically, creates a sound political message and drips with Blaccs honeyed voice.
This year the only artist on the lips of soul boys and girls worldwide should be his.