Owing to mixed reviews of St Elsewhere, I borrowed a friend's copy and at the end of my first listen I thought what a weird mix of styles and songs. But I played it again and by the third play I was hooked. This is a real mix of soul, funk and hip hop and it shouldn't really work but it does, mainly because of Cee-Lo's smooth vocals! At only 35 minutes it's quite a short album, but the most interesting thing will be the next release from this duo to see if they can sustain their new found fame.
Much of the reviews for St Elsewhere evaulate all the tracks in relation to its mindblowing single 'Crazy'. While it is probably pertinent to mention that there are no other tracks that reach the sublime level of that song, it may also pertinent to say that Crazy is one of the best songs of the last five years and would dwarf most tracks on most albums by most artists. Putting Crazy aside, there is much to enjoy here, from Dangermouse's dynamic, shapeshifting - but not fussy - production, to Cee-Lo's powerful singing, nursery-rhyme raps, clever word-play and general explosive charisma. Fans of Gorillaz should love this for its humour, its sonic invention and its unique hybridity (soul, gospel, hip hop and electronica - amongst other things). There are some throwaway moments - mostly cartoonish sketches expanded out unsuccessfully to song length, but I will set those aside to focus on the highlights...
The title track brilliantly marries suurealist hip hop in the mold of CLOUDDEAD with bursts of Curtis Mayfield soul to devestating effect. Like Quannum stalwart Lyrics Born, Cee-lo cqn shift vocal ranges dramatically at the drop of a hat, constantly stimulating and surprising. Smiley Faces is the closest the album has to repeating Crazy's winning pop formula, all surf-guitar and gospel and great hooks. 'Just A Thought' continues Crazy's theme of mental illness to a darker, more uncomprimising extreme over thunderous, DJ Shadow-patented beats: "When I was lost I even found myself looking in the gun's direction / Well i've tried, everything but suicide / But yes it's crossed my mind". Necromancer is creepy but cartoonish hip hop about defiling dead bodies, while Storm Coming apes Latyrx's similar Storm Warning but they will be forgiven because it is so good. Finally The Last Time throws a little sex into the equation with Cee-Lo crooning over production that reminds me of Tricky's masterpiece Maxinquaye. Overall, it holds together nicely, and I hope that - like Gorillaz - this is not a one off gimmick and that they can surpass this with a sophmore effort.
Received this long before the expected date, can't complain with that! Came in great packaging with absolutely not damage to the sleeve at all. 10/10 album, sounds even better on a great quality vinyl.
For the first time in ages I have been assualted and challenged by an album....Gnarls Berkley manages to pull in the past, twist it, reinvent it, and come up with a new mix, a new challenge to our ears. This is a real achievement in the age of crank-the-handle-spit-it-out-for-the-proles age.
We are at a time when everything seems to have been done, dusted, and T-shirted. Gnarls makes a wonderfully brave attempt to re-mix and re-discover it all. Some of the songs are instant masterpieces, others are an adventure, some an experiment. Finally, real artists having a go....
We can only stand aside and applaud, every song is engaging and, a new thing for these days, both entertaning and challenging.
I think this is a wonderful laboratory, and can't wait for the next three albums...it can only get better....something new for once!
P.S. great musicianship, lead singer excellent, backing superlative, and if nothing else, it is ALIVE!!!!
Buy, feel, discover what energy is again, listen to the lyrics and agree.....gagging for more! (4 stars as I know more is to come......)
In conjunction with the Gorillaz producer Danger Mouse, Cee-Lo has hit upon a proper soul masterpiece. 'Crazy' looks set to be the single of the year and with good reason. The combination of soul, R&B and a little funk is brilliant and fresh.
Danger Mouse assembles a wide range of settings for Cee-Lo's engaging vocals, with the cautionary 'Smiley Faces' offering an updated take on Motown's swingy charm, 'Go-Go Gadget Gospel' harnessing a sped-up horn riff to a garage beat, and 'Gone Daddy Gone' building a powerful techno-rock groove on a descending synth-line. Subjects covered on the album span from feng shui to transformers, but perhaps the best surprise on the album is 'Boogie Monster' - cleverly described by some as a new genre 'horror-soul' (listen out for the twist at the very end!).
Not for the faint heartet is the great track, 'Necromancing' ("It's very naughty, necrophilia/ Without a care, I'm compassionate about killing her/ I have my way with what's left of the will in her").
All in all a great album which actually hangs together (unlike some albums you buy when you like one of the singles). A great addition to any CD collection.
I am hugely impressed by this album. Cee-lo's voice is immense - it's worth buying the album just to enjoy it.
But this is just one aspect which makes the album great. Dangermouse's work is great too - great samples, music and production. The two artists combined have made a modern soul masterpiece...hats off to them both.
And the album also manages to be both musically and lyrically amusing! As other reviewers have written, try to keep still whilst listening to this album - it's impossible! In terms of the lyrics, there are well deserved swipes at those dreary sorts that embrace anything remotely foreign and mystical to enliven their own bland lives (Feng Shui) and the misery of real-life-substitute websites such as Myspace (On-line).
If you are a fan of artists such as NERD/Pharell Williams, Outkast, Curtis Mayfield or any kind of soul, hip-hop, funk etc...you will love this album. The standout tracks for me are St Elsewhere, Feng Shui, Just A Thought, Storm Coming and of course Crazy.
I am lucky enough to be going to the o2 wireless gig in Hyde Park on Friday and will see Gnarls live...can't wait!
I can't remember the last time I liked a whole album this much. I've been playing it over and over since I bought it and it grows on me more and more. It's an interesting mix of humour, passion, melancholy, depression, sex, and insanity. The vocals are gorgeous (both lead and backing) and each song has something to offer the soul and/or mind and/or body. Some took time to grow on me, but grow on me they did. Favourites are: Go Go Gadget Gospel, Crazy (of course), Smiley Faces, Just a Thought, Storm Coming and the incredibly sexy Last Dance. And after seeing Gnarls Barkley in concert the other night, I love this even more. Think, Dance, Enjoy!
This is a good solid album. The now infamous Crazy is arguably the highlight but the other songs are more than just fillers. It is exceptionally upbeat and more than a little funky at times. The album has had some bad reviews, I think, because people were expecting 11 Crazy matching songs but that was not possible. It has much more variety than that and should apeal to people with a strange sense of humour. There is a little bit of rap and a lot of soul. Good stuff.