There’s not a whole lot in the way of good, new R&B or Soul music these days. Alicia Keys isn’t too shabby. And everything on Daptone records is pretty much fabulous, even if it should really be filed under `funk.’ But then there are the white boy soul revivalists, who are nothing but disappointing — scratch that — downright embarrassing. Did anyone hear that Thicke record? Yeesh. And no matter Nic Harcourt’s opinion, Joss Stone is not good. Still, from time to time there is an exciting new entrant into the genre, one who truly shames the others. This year, it just happens to be a formerly unremarkable IDM producer by the name of Jamie Lidell, who made the peculiar, but strangely brilliant decision to forego the glitch and get into the groove.
After hearing Maxïmo Park’s guitar-heavy Warp debut, Lidell’s Multiply is possibly the next most surprising thing to hear coming from the renowned electronic music imprint. Lidell is a white dude, which may worry some about his funk/soul credentials. But Lidell’s the real thing. Multiply is, by no small margin, the best new soul record I’ve heard in a long time.
You wouldn’t expect such a soulful, smooth voice to be coming out of a cat like Lidell (check out his picture if you can find it), but somehow he managed to expel that presence from his pasty, IDM-bred body. Twinkly organs color the brief opener “Yougotmeup,” which finds Lidell sounding remarkably like one Sly Stone, while the title track is much more Otis Redding, stylistically. It’s fun, summertime soul, for sitting on the dock of the bay or otherwise, and hearing it again, I still have trouble believing what I’m hearing. For pure funk thrills, “When I Come Back Around” is the jam — a Prince-like hit of electro-grooves and mad vocal fire.
“A Little Bit More” sees Jamie trying his falsetto over a looped, repeating recitation of the title. Meanwhile, “What’s the Use?” is more in step with today’s neo soul, but, you know, better. The funky synths and horns of “Newme” are pure Stevie Wonder circa Songs in the Key of Life, which is about as good a reference point as you could possibly give someone. But still, Lidell’s take is a little more manic, with distorted vocals and high-speed beats and guitar riffs. In a way, it’s almost like a cross between Stevie and Fela Kuti, as just the slightest bit of Afrobeat finds its way in. There’s reverb aplenty on the bass heavy “The City,” one of the trippiest moments on the record, but, not surprisingly, also one of the best.
After hearing this record, so many questions arise. Why make the leap from IDM to soul? Why did Warp release an R & B record? How did he do it? But answering these questions isn’t necessary. Multiply is so awesome, it requires no explanation.
Prince – Dirty Mind
Stevie Wonder – Innervisions
Sly and the Family Stone – Stand