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Aloe Blacc: Good Things [Digipak]

Track List

>I Need a Dollar
>Green Lights
>Hey Brother
>Miss Fortune
>Life So Hard
>Take Me Back
>Femme Fatale
>Loving You Is Killing Me
>Good Things
>You Make Me Smile
>If I
>Mama Hold My Hand
>Politician (Reprise)

Album Remarks & Appraisals:

Good Things is the fourth album by the Swedish hip hop group Looptroop Rockers. It was released in 2008 by Bad Taste Records and is entirely produced by Embee. It is the first album released after the retirement of band member CosM.I.C. and also the first one released under the name Looptroop Rockers. Despite leaving the group, CosM.I.C. does make an appearance on the track Al Mazika. Good Things also features the first cover song on any of the group's albums, Livin' on a Prayer, originally performed by Bon Jovi.

"With recession biting both sides of the Atlantic, there are tangible twinges of disquiet at the heart of Western living right now, tapped into with great effect on Californian vocalist Aloe Blacc's second album.

The anti-superficiality of left-leaning hip hop and the like has long represented a counter stance well trodden as the wealth-flashing rap it opposes. Indeed, a bunch of Aloe Blacc's label-mates on the ever-inventive Stones Throw have made cult careers mining such rich seams. Good Things is no mere beatnik projecting, however: Blacc was among thousands who saw their day jobs cut short by redundancy when the downturn hit.

A noticeable shift from 2006 debut Shine Through, Good Things mines an indistinct middle ground between hip hop, gospel, soul and RnB over 50 minutes of unrepentantly grown-man music. Money, or lack thereof, is unsurprisingly his chief concern: the bruised croon of self-explanatory opener I Need a Dollar immediately affirms as much. Miss Fortune propels the standpoint a step further, Blacc recalling a youthful choice "between riding in a bus or driving a new Rolls-Royce/ And I decided what I wanted was the bread" with admirable candour.

The uplifting manner in which he sets about detailing hardship is striking. Take Me Back, with its talk of getting "caught with your hand up in the cookie jar", is a slinky number one single from a parallel world, imbued with universally affecting qualities equalling prime Gnarls Barkley. And, much like semi-kindred Detroit spirit Dwele, there are timeless reverberations of Marvin Gaye here, too.

Protest songs polite enough to take home to your mother are where Good Things truly plays an ace card, though. The quiet drama in the refrain of Politician simply yet eloquently encapsulates the heart-sinking detachment from democracy that has troubled many disillusioned voters in turbulent times.

With Bilal and the aforementioned Dwele dropping similarly inspired albums this year already, 2010 is fast becoming a landmark year for thoughtful American soul craft. Good Things is sufficiently accomplished, in fact, to at least temporarily banish the clouds of financial doom and gloom to the horizon." - BBC

"In a previous life, LA soul songwriter Aloe Blacc was known as E Nathaniel Dawkins and employed by Ernst & Young, a period that inspired the striking credit-crunch anthem that opens this album, I Need a Dollar. Having experienced life on both sides of the social divide, Blacc writes affectingly of the damage caused ("These families in the street with nothing to eat/ Little baby boys and girls, no shoes on their feet", he sings in Life So Hard), mixing conscious lyrics and avuncular warmth in a way that recalls Gil Scott-Heron. He also turns his hand expertly to romance: Blacc celebrates the end of a relationship on the title track, breezily phrasing above pinging wah-wah guitar, while on a murky cover of the Velvet Underground's Femme Fatale, he's convincingly shattered. A real discovery." - Guardian

Album Reviews:

Mojo (Publisher) (p.106) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "Most striking of all is a bewitching cover of 'Femme Fatale,' recasting the Velvets' dark ballad as a slow-burning deep soul torch song par excellence."

Pitchfork (Website) - "GOOD THINGS is well-constructed and boasts some inspired touches..."

Album Notes

Personnel: Aloe Blacc (vocals); Leon Michels (guitar, saxophone, keyboards); Nick Movshon (guitar, drums); Luke Riverside, Thomas Brenneck (guitar); Garrett Devoe (acoustic guitar); Entcho Todorov (violin); Garo Yellin (cello); Michael Leonhart (trumpet); Aaron Johnson (trombone); Toby Pazner (piano, vibraphone); Jeff Dynamite, Homer Steinweiss (drums).

Audio Mixers: Clay Holley; Jeff Dynamite.

Recording information: Soul Fire Studios, Brooklyn, NY.

Photographer: Dan Monick.

All the promise of his debut comes true on Aloe Blacc's sophomore release, Good Things, a vintage sound meets modern problems release with a way too modest title. Right from the opening "I Need a Dollar" -- which could be passed off as unreleased Bill Withers, no problem -- the album offers grand things, providing listeners with that solid, but not polarizing, style of social commentary Withers perfected. On the following cut, positivity is pushed ("Something special happened today/I got green lights all the way") in a manner that's far from sugary, but this singer who offers such warmth and humility on his smooth soul tracks is well aware of sin, and can get slinky in a Al Green style when warning against loose women on "Hey Brother." An even better example of this is his cover of the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale," which becomes much more than a clever choice, thanks to a convincing performance that suggests he's been there. The organic production, real horns and all, is left up entirely to the Truth & Soul Productions crew (Jeff Dynamite and Leon Michels) but Blacc's delivery is less traditional with phrasing and some slang left over from when he was a 24-7 rapper. Anyone with a taste for neo-soul should try Good Things unique flavor. It comes on familiar and comfortable and becomes more rich and rewarding with every return visit. ~ David Jeffries


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