This is an alternative soul classic. There are many reasons this LP stands to push forward and through where previous albums have not gone. The creative mystically metered danceable loops underlying the dense sound waves and arrangements, the compact studio wizardry of the Buddhabug production team headed by Luqman Brown. But what really blows our minds is the emergence of Greg Tate has a lyricist!
From the spoken word proclamations of songs like My Black Uncertainty to the psychedelic funksdelic skunk-funk of Black Fros Black Gold, Mr Tate is doing what he does best. Cos though he is a master musician, his work as a Black music writer distinguishes him as our greatest music critic. Connecting the wordsmith Tate to the composer Tate is the best thing since George Clinton.
The LP begins with The Bent Arch featuring J.S. Williams. It’s a trumpet flashback track which sounds like Fred Fripp mixed it late at night after Miles left the studio to meet with Julio on the corner.
From there we are into The Charmer. A punky funky pop gem that was left in the dirt, picked up and put in the vocal pocket of Greg Tate himself, dueting with Shelley Nicole. This is my first known encounter with Tate as a vocalist. Fantastic!
The fourth track, Ride Ride Ride (Everybody Bout To Get Gentrfied) may be the funkiest Burnt Sugar joint yet. It might be the funkiest track yet period. It’s slamming! The lyric that delivers you is ‘Mercy ain’t what it looked like, when they rolled you down glory street.’ And what a treat to hear the legendary Mikel Banks lead in on this vocal.
The next track Young Black And Vague is led by the beautiful Abby Dobson with the chant ‘young black and vague are you gonna take the weight, young black and vague are you gonna ride the shock wave.’ It’s alarmingly good! It will skid and slid inside and into your swag.
Leon Gruenbaum keyboard work is impeccably off the hook on this track and throughout most of the album.
Track 6 – the aforementioned Black Fros Black Gold is really beyond words. Julie Brown’s vocal performance is commanding. The entire track lands you in the middle of Atlantic Avenue on a hot late Brooklyn night trying to get a bus after a Lil Wayne concert has just let out at the Barclay Centre.
At this point we should note Jared Michael Nickerson’s bass playing. Jared is the funkiest man on the planet. Every thing he plays on his bass sounds funky because he understands one thing – that a good bass sound is the most important thing. And his bass sound is how your mama’s behind would sound if it could talk. Rude but necessary.
And so the LP rumbles from track to track, seventeen songs in all! And from start to finish this is a cerebral soul masterpiece.
It ends with a bang, the final track titled RU Insane being our favourite to play on the Is Black Music radio show. It’s a head-banging rocker featuring vocalist Micah Gaugh.
Aas head nodding as this LP is, it still has that Burnt Toast freak-out vibe in tracks like Stop Tripping featuring the psycho-delic vocals of Justice Dilla and the great Mazz Swift on violin.
Indeed the whole LP has a free form fill that connects it to the Burnt Sugar discography.
It is quite incredible that despite the recording’s tightness the album was largely improvised!
In an interview during the Is Black Music Luminosity special that Resonance FM broadcast, bassist Jared Michael Nickerson stated that the vast majority of the music was created ‘off the dome’, meaning that they played what came off of the top of their heads or the first things that came fresh to mind.
This works well when you have a hand-picked roster of some of the finest virtuoso and funk musicians that walk the planet today. The Burnt Sugar Arkestra is made up of a eclectic lineup of musicians who have played with everyone from Parliament Funkedelic to Jeff Buckley, and from Butch Morris to The Roots.
In my opinion this trumps any previous attempts to orally account for the Black bohemian lifestyle of today.