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Aloe Blacc: Lift Your Spirits
Born to Panamanian parents, Aloe Blacc first achieved fame with hit single, 'I Need a Dollar', from his second album, Good Things. Interestingly, before he embarked on his musical career, university-graduate, Blacc, briefly worked in the corporate sector.
As a child, Blacc learned trumpet in school, which inspired him to explore jazz and classical idioms along with the Great American Songbook. While he was devoted to refining his brass sounds as a youth, his musical aspirations came to evolve and he changed direction as he developed a liking for Hip Hop.
His latest studio album, 'Lift Your Spirits', is an amalgamation of styles and textures that is unified by Blacc's distinct singing voice, which remains firmly rooted in a soul style. No matter how contemporary the accompanying tunes are, his vocal timbre carries a vibe of 70s Motown nostalgia.
The album's titular track is an uplifting gospel song, featuring impressive string arrangements and a groovy bass line with optimistic lyrics. It contrasts with the more sombre 'Soldier in the City'; a crowd pleasing tune, driven by a funky guitar lick to a story of an unemployed man, struggling to cope with modern urban difficulties.
'The Man' is the upcoming single from 'Lift Your Spirits'. While it's composed predominantly in the major key, it features a dramatic minor pre-chorus that's emphasised with fat, low notes of baritone horns. Furthermore, the song impressively features amateur choirs that add a sense of community and imperfection to the track as it fades out to a simple trombone solo.
Recorded in collaboration with Incubus guitarist, Mike Einzeiger, and Swedish DJ, Avicii, 'Wake Me Up' is the album's most popular track. While Blacc is credited as a co-writer of the song for his lyrical contributions, its success lies in the philosophical lyrics describing a quarter-century existential crisis, accompanied by a catchy blend of dance and country music.
Although production on the album includes contributions from Pharell Williams, DJ Khalil and Elton John, 'Lift Your Spirits' has thus far failed to garner the sales expected and achieved minimal success on international charts.
Commercial performance aside, 'Lift Your Spirits' is worth listening to for its creative blend of genres, along with the elegant string and horn arrangements laden throughout the album. As the album's title implies, this one will be enjoyed plenty so by those feeling slightly under the weather.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
His womanising ways adopt a humorous edge when you see him strutting his big man stuff. Gimmicky or not, you can’t help but love his fur coats and sleazy smile. Known to many as one half of Gnarls Barkley, which took the music scene by storm a few years back with the single 'Crazy,' Cee Lo Green is a legend in the making… or did he come from the past?
The collaboration between DJ/producer Danger Mouse and Cee Lo Green (real name: Thomas Callaway) was a raving success when the full-length album became a chart hit back in 2006. Loved by many, Gnarls Barkley didn’t stay around for long after the second album in 2008; but what matters more is the musical depth that Cee Lo Green has emerged from; finally letting loose for all to hear, experience and groove to.
This 34-year-old musical phenomenon has brought something new to the table with his solo album The Lady Killer. Returning to his roots, Cee Lo Green let Gnarls Barkley go and took on a slew of producers that infused this 15-track album with impeccable professionalism, a tight coherence and a smooth flow from beginning to end.
The more astounding matter here is that this album could possibly be a modern-day soundtrack, bringing together musical genres of the past like no one before. From Motown to funk, hip-hop to gospel; Green’s vocals have the unmatched ability to morph into the epic salutations that each genre pledged at their specific place and time. For a visual aid, check out this awesome video .
'Bright Lights Bigger City' is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s 'Billie Jean' with its opening bass line and popping 80s synthesiser. Green quickly turns it up, making this track a potential new dance anthem that you can’t help but move to.
Green’s gospel upbringing is ironically displayed in the delightfully profane 'F**k You,' the breakout hit on this album that reached top-ten charts around the world. The organ’s melody and the catchy choir girl chorus pair well with Cee Lo’s excitement a he spreads his up-tempo yet bitter message.
While the majority of the album only further emphasizes Green’s natural ability to both woo and disregard his women, a little regret and guilt come through on the track 'Please,' showing the singer’s sensitive side. Furthermore, the combination of Cee Lo’s powerhouse vocals with the backing femme fatale vocals make 'Please' sound as if it came straight off an Atlantic Record’s Motown collection.
'Love Gun' wraps up the album fantastically, featuring Lauren Bennett’s outstanding vocals and appropriate gun shots. The minor chords are haunting and the backing horns complement her gut-baring vocals and Cee Lo’s counter melody.
A high-energy album that is perfect for an all-night dance party, The Lady Killer takes you on a nostalgic musical journey. Did Aretha Franklin and Otis Redding ever have a one night stand that we never heard about?