Recording information: Red Bull Studios; Sound Emporium; West Air Studios.
Jamie Lidell's first solo album away from Warp, Building a Beginning was released on the singer and producer's Jajulin label. It retreats from the early- to mid-'80s electro-funk moves of his self-titled previous full-length and is relatively old-school, often hewing close to gospel-tinged Southern soul. When the material is rooted in approaches and sounds of the late '60s and early '70s, it's still fresh, never verging on replication. Lidell sometimes seems a little too in tune with his admired figures, but he outdoes himself here. Some of the lyrics are so direct that they scan as trite, yet they're expressed with soul-stirring, serve-the-song conviction, and he's in the top tier when it comes to pure skill. Moreover, the songs are of undeniably high quality, filled with joy, gratitude, and devotion. A strong cast of studio associates that includes drummer Daru Jones, bassist Pino Palladino, Pat Sansone, and smartly utilized background vocalists is involved, while additional songwriting collaborations with Lindsey Rome, Lidell's wife, add to the album's familial feel. (Among the funkier numbers is a bouncy jam dedicated to their son, who appears at the end.) This is one of those rare albums that ends as strongly as it begins. In fact, its last two cuts are as moving as anything in the side-one sweet spot. The splendid "Precious Years," an inward-looking ballad graced with harp and other stringed instruments, recalls Terry Callier's work with master arranger Charles Stepney. "Don't Let Me Let You Go," the finale, melodically recalls prime early-'90s R&B -- though it's strictly family man, not bad boy, business. ~ Andy Kellman