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on 23 October 2010
I knew literally nothing of Aloe Blacc before buying this album. Every so often I'll take a punt on something new or unfamiliar just to see of I like it - I have a relatively eclectic taste in music, but do have a soft spot for soul.
I have never been so happy with a purchase. From beat one of 'I need a dollar' this album had me hooked. It was powerful, original and yet somehow familiar in a sense that the music felt 'real' for want of a better word.

As other reviewers have stated, this is something of a retro album in that it could easily have been recorded during the 60's / 70's the decades of great soul - this isn't 'trying to sound retro', its been recorded by musicians - not "performers" - and thus happens to sound like real music (something of a rarity in this day and auto tune age...). So much so infact I had to check the web to confirm it was recorded this year!
Highlights of the record for me have to be the uber catchy 'I need a dollar' like a modern 'inner city blues', the sublimely awesome 'Miss Fortune'- a fantastic cautionary tale of the price of fortune and the amazingly heartfelt 'Mama hold my hand' - which made me actually cry in my car. True story.

However, I can tell you I love the album, others may tell you Aloe Blacc's voice sounds like a real person and not a robot (for some a positive, for others a confusing source of fear) - the only thing I can say with any certainty is that it is seriously worth giving a try!

Comparisons have been made to legendary artists like Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield, I'm going to throw in a distinct flavour of Bill Withers in a number of places (particularly 'Loving you is killing me' and 'Mama hold my hand'). The comparisons feel justified to this listener and I feel this album deserves to sit alongside the greats. There's something special about it. Don't believe me? Give it a listen.

"The only problem with having everything you want is you never really know what you need"
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on 27 May 2011
Fantastic album. If you first heard of Aloe Blacc via Jools Holland's 'Later', as I did, you'll be expecting very funky tracks. I Need a Dollar and Your Love Is Killing Me are standouts and the album versions, though more 'sedate', are brilliant none-the-less. The album is excellently produced and it's good to hear highly skilled musicians offering something new and memorable; instantly 'classic' in the sense that you will go back to this album time and again. I defy you to not sing the standout tracks in your head until you border on obsessional! Check out Aloe's interpretation of Billy Jean via You Tube. Clare
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on 13 October 2010
Good Things are happening at the "Soul Fire" studio in Brooklyn. Truth & Soul's family of musicians stride alongside Daptone as a stable of quality output with its roots in the great foundation of American soul music. Perhaps unlike their contemporaries though, Truth & Soul it seems aren't necessarily trying to make records that sound dusty and vintage. Their production is as modern in its outlook as it is retro in its influence, a successful marriage of the two that is creating a new wave of authentic classics. I offer as testimony 2009's "My World" by Lee Fields & The Expressions, a timeless album of warmth and depth that soars at its many heights. For his second album on the Stone's Throw label, Aloe Blacc teamed with the Truth & Soul producers and their stable band, featuring members from both the past and current line-up of the Dap-Kings, Antibalas and the Mighty Imperials, to create "Good Things". The result is an extraordinary record of mainly sociopolitical commentary set to a cinematic, orchestral and of course, funky backing.

"My purpose for music is positive social change," states Blacc in his Stone's Throw artist profile, who refers to the project as his "report on present conditions - joblessness, homelessness and a universal lack of compassion from the capitalism at-large under which we all function, but some struggle to survive." As a fine example of this, the album opens with "I Need A Dollar", the story of a man who is losing everything in financial hardship. Since albums like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" or Curtis Mayfield's "Curtis" seem to only grow in stature and relevence, it is appropriate in these times that an artist steps up to fill the void the world is missing from the absence of these great men. After all, the music industry has been guilty of excess too, with the bling inspired aspirations of mainstream R&B and hip-hop now looking distinctly unfashionable in today's climate. It may seem ambitious to even mention that level of greatness here but Good Things does a fine job of delivering with authority, a credible sermon of weight for our times.

The subject matter covers much from injustice, joblessness, poverty, alcoholism, misfortune, disloyalty, redemption, loss, etc. but also has upbeat positivity too in the bright optimism of "Green Lights", "Good Things" ("Look at all the good things that I made") and "You Make Me Smile". And like Curtis and Marvin, it is the delivery which transcends the weight of the subject matter to make this an uplfting listening experience. Special mention also for the album's stunning cover of "Femme Fatale", originally by the Velvet Underground and Nico, with its gorgeous, cinematic orchestration.

A landmark recording for our times, the musicianship and production on Good Things is first class throughout and just as timeless as "My World". Two stunning albums in a row from this production team. I look forward to the next and to enjoying these for the next 20 years or so at least. Good things? Great things.
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This is a really smooth album with a nice mix of soul, funk and even a little swing. Blacc is an effortless performer and brings a nice laid back, chill out, style to the whole production. To top it all I love the crisp sound of the band with a bass line not heard since the 70's.
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on 28 September 2010
THis is THE album of 2010! Nuff said. Shades of Al Green, a little John Legend,snippets of Womack,a hint of Anthony Hamilton, yet ultimately Mr.Blacc.The cover gives a clue to expect some retro style soul music which is what this is. Truly wonderful stuff.If you likes Raphael Saadiq's set a few year ago (as I did),you simply must but this!Grammy Awards here this album comes.I read the Amazon blurb and comparisons where made to Marvin's 'What's Going On'." A bit overboard" I thought but actually they might not be far off taking this album in the context of the 21st. century.Thoughtful poetic love songs sung beaytifully well over some marvellous authentic sounding funky instruments.I always get emotional when I think I can hear real strings on a modern recording! I am sure you get the picture.Buy this and make it a HUGE,HUGE,HUGE hit ,it really is timeless material and worthy of your hard earned cash.
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VINE VOICEon 21 December 2010
Hey - can this guy carry a song.
West Coast - sweet Cali-soul - gospel, soul, R'n'B, ska, jazz, folk...a genre mix.
And this man has a social conscience - singing the fallout songs of the New Depression.
But no downward trip this - the delivery is uplifting - a spiritual high.
Thoughtful and thought provoking...' wrote Ronnie Rees for Stones Throw records and who am I to disagree?
The band of players - the Grand Scheme are really mature and keep it so tight in a minimalist kinda way.
The whole production is hot.
Some comparisons have been drawn - Gaye, Mayfield, Withers and Legend, and some have labelled it retro-soul.
But this ain't no copycat songster or backward work from this or a previous recession - this is the new soul for the new decade.
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on 6 May 2011
There's a fine line between imitation and inspiration. When you decide that you want to make your music more ready for vinyl than iPod, more American Bandstand than American Idol, you really have to be careful that you don't take too much from those you look up to for fear of being a copycat. Those who are best at doing the time warp add their own personality, whether it be through lyrical experiences or slight tweaks in sound, and make it clear that they got in the business to be an artist and not a product.
Aloe Blacc may sound like he belongs on AM radio, but you won't be having deja vu upon listening to "Good Things", as it's a truly personal, cathartic mixture of social commentary and bruised romanticism.
The first thing that immediately may hit you about the record is how sad it really is. Even songs like first single "I Need a Dollar", stacked with staccato keys and bright horns, are pretty lyrically dark; this Marvin Gaye-ish ode to a troubled economy and plea for salvation may possess one of the catchiest hooks on the record and an even sweeter groove, but its topicality is too strong to ignore.
Filled with very strong imagery and being wrapped in Blacc's weary vocal, "Dollar" is a shining example of timeless music.
"Loving You is Killing Me" goes even more toward the early 70s Curtis Mayfield/Billy Paul sound, trading in the modern bounce of "Dollar" for some organ and fleet footed percussion. It may not hit the emotional depths of some of the other songs on the record, but it still has an impact and Blacc's performance is dogged and complex as enough to be worth a listen without being a distraction.
"Life So Hard" sounds almost exactly like something that Anthony Hamilton would have on one of his early albums, the type of uber southern sweltering soul that manages to massage Blacc's falsetto in just the right way.
You may like hearing different shades of his considerable voice and this gut punch of a lament on lost dreams, class differences, and political apathy brings out even more vocal grit.
Lyrically articulate and heartbreaking, this blue ballad is well arranged, laced with truly beautiful strings, and a true album highlight. Something else you may notice about the record was that it is filled with songs specifically addressing females.
"Mama Hold My Hand" wisely changes the structure of the record in terms of volume and structure; here you have an organic ballad about his relationship with his mother from childhood through having his own child. This isn't your typical cheesy ballad about learning lessons from your parents and only coming to appreciate them after they're gone; it tackles aging, insecurities, and comes full circle in a rather poignant way that doesn't feel as emotionally manipulative as one might expect.
Cross all this with some tender piano and gospel overtones and you have the best song on the whole record, a song that relies on the power of family and Blacc's sublimely expressive vocal.
"Femme Fatale" may not be as sexy or dangerous as the title implies, but that doesn't mean that it's not a good song. On the contrary, it's quite solid, the type of understated warning about a no-good woman that surprises you with how well it's written. Though said lyricism is negated a little by a slightly stagnant melody, the song itself is still worth a listen, mostly to hear yet another well put together, technically exquisite take on retro soul music.
"Miss Fortune" actually embraces reggae, which is not something you would have initially thought. And you know what? It's a pretty darn credible stab at the genre, adding some sonic diversity and even a little more edge to a record that needs it.
If there's anything which can be said about Aloe Blacc as an artist, it's that he has such a captivating gift for storytelling and even if a song isn't blowing you mind (this is another very very very good but not great track), you can't click the skip button because you want to know what happens at the end of the song.
I only recently heard of Aloe Blacc thanks to reading a few best of 2010 lists and I am still kicking myself for not being more in the know. Not only is this music extremely topical, but it's a devastatingly personal vocal clinic put on by the unlikeliest of voices.
The only real downside to the record, if you could call it a downside, is that it's quite sad and if you're not in the right frame of mind, it could be more impactful than one might think.
However, when the songs are this magnetic and intelligent, it's hard to turn it away, no matter how crushing they may be.
There may be a fine line between imitation and inspiration, but Aloe Blacc has the paintbrush in his hands. Shilo Adams

The Very Best Of Marvin Gaye
The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield
To Grover With Love
Baby Come To Me: The Best Of Regina Belle
Only the Strong Survive: the Best of Billy Paul
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on 17 December 2010
Almost every tune on this album is fantastic. Mellow grooves, quality lyrics and a unique sound.
beautiful stuff
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on 8 November 2010
A woman of a few words, me. This album is brilliant! I haven't stopped listening to it since I received it on Saturday, reminiscent of 70's soul, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, but contemporary enough to stand up to the likes of Bilal ( buy both his albums) and John Legend. I think I have said too much already.
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on 2 December 2010
I first heard this on Gilles Peterson's World Wide show on BBC radio 1, the track featured: Take me Back has a rare groove feel to it, very much with a Marvin Gaye, Cutris Mayfeild influence.......Soul with a social conscience.
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