July 13, 2006

Aloe Blacc: Shine Through: Review

Aloe Blacc
Shine Through
[Stones Throw - July 11 2006]

*Sixeyes Score: 9.5 out of 10

Review by Thomas David

Shine Through opens with "Whole World"; an earnest neo-soul run-down of almost every great music figure imaginable; like a checklist of his influences. One listen to the album from end to end shows this isn’t an understatement. Aloe Blacc touches on neo-soul, classic soul, RnB, Reggae, Hip Hop, Jazz, Blues, Salsa and Samba. I think there’s more in there, but honestly I can’t remember/place it all. Aloe Blacc plays most of the instruments, sings, raps, toasts and speaks fluent Spanish. This does not mean his album meanders through so many styles that it can’t possibly hold a listener’s attention. The album's cohesive unit IS Aloe Blacc; his musicality and undeniable soul reign supreme in a world of flat, commercial, uninspired and insipid musicians.

"Long Time Coming" is actually a cover of Sam Cooke's swan song "Change Is Gonna Come". I’ve never heard the original but the way he layers the harmonies himself is amazing. Mr. Cooke would have to be proud. "Busking" reminds me of Janis Joplin’s "Mercedes Benz" in style and substance. It is an acoustic (except for the sounds of traffic and sneezing in the background) southern blues ode to a bus coming to get him "... and take him where he needs to be".
"Are You Ready" shuffles over a driving reggae bass line over which he croons and toasts this sexy audio romp. I think I heard my roommate shuddering in ecstasy after listening to it. She continued shuddering through "Bailar (Scene I)" and "Nascimento (Birth) (Scene II)" a two part (obviously) latin flavored jam. In "Bailar" he approaches a beautiful woman at a bar asking her to dance. When she replies that she speaks Spanish, he finishes the conversation (song) in Spanish. The song is very danceable and his voice is very good, I think she says yes. Things must go after that because, even though my Spanish is 2nd level at best, "Nascimento" is a beautiful guitar serenade to the beginning of their love. Although the album lists 14 tracks, there are actually two covers at the end of the album. The first is a Spanish cover of John Legend’s "Ordinary People" and the second is an old Latin song sung in whatever style it came from.
Shine Through grabs a hold of my soul making me smile, even when he’s being serious (political rap "Caged Birdsong"). The reason is... Aloe Blacc is like the incarnation of the spirit of music. He performs any soulful style with such palpable integrity it is truly awe-inspiring.

+ i'm beautiful

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