on 29 June 2013
2010 saw the release of 'Sunstorm' by Lorenzo Ferguson (known affectionately to the world as Zo!) a well regarded album that sounded distinctly different to much contemporary soul and R&B music, clearly inhabiting the sound world familiar to fans of the Foreign Exchange (both group and the Wilmington based label). Three years later and 'Man Made' is with us, featuring an impressive roster of guests including Sy Smith, Phonte, Eric Roberson, Choklate, Anthony David, Carmen Rogers, Carlia Durrand, and label mate Jeanne Jolly. For fans of independently minded soul some of the names will be enough to attract attention, hopefully signalling a quality driven listening experience.
The album opens with 'The Train', a vocal count of 1,2,3,4 launching the propulsive, driving beat, over which a simple piano driven melody weaves, soon joined by the voice of Sy Smith. Immediately the listener notices that the core of the track is the melodic interweaving of Sy's voice, presented in an entirely traditional song format. 'Count To Five' (featuring Gwen Bunn) moves along with a jerking rhythm track (over which the album intro 'count track' returns), but again attentive listeners will be rewarded with the intricate details that can be heard winding over and through the music. 'New In Town (Happy)' continues this approach, eschewing an extended instrumental introduction and launching immediately in to lovely duet between 1-O-A-K and Carlitta Durand, with the vocal lines taken allowing each voice to shine (listen especially to the vocal lift at 2.38). The pace slows considerably for 'Making Time' (featuring Phonte and Choklate), and Foreign Exchange fans left disappointed by Phonte's 'Charity Starts at Home' (2011) will be very glad to hear the man returning to singing duties, rather than concentrating on the lyrically driven concerns of Hip Hop, and he takes up the album's title track, the questioning (in every sense of the word) 'Man Made'.
'We Are On The Move' (featuring Eric Roberson) is clearly designed for the dance floor, and the bass driven track will appeal strongly to fans of the early to mid 1980s production sound (in terms of musical structuring), but listen closely and the roots are deeper, this could easily be transformed in to a lushly orchestrated gem, or a Jazz and Funk orientated workout (hear this from 3.31). Anthony David and Carmen Rodgers take on 'Show Me The Way', a bittersweet tale of hope for a love unlikely to be saved, whilst 'Tina' takes the same musical material and serves as a short instrumental coda. Smith takes the lead vocal for the final track, 'Body Rock', a satisfying conclusion to the album.
So. Do you buy?
This is a carefully crafted work, with all the production undertaken almost exclusively by Zo! resulting in a tangibly flowing musical experience that can encompass the harder edged electronic drive of 'The Train' to the slow jam pace of 'Body Rock'. The song writing, especially in musical terms, is very melodically orientated, and underneath the lovely array of vocals provided by guest artists is a deceptively simple yet effective counterpoint, resulting in an album that has instant appeal whilst also holding deeper reward for extended and repeated listening. Arguably some listeners might find such a concentrated (and instantly identifiable) electronically driven sound world limiting, but there is no doubt that this is an album that will grow in stature, the songs are good enough to warrant (and withstand) exploration within multiple musical contexts, with alternative instrumentation and through reworking and remixing.
Quite simply, this is a very good album that can be enjoyed from beginning to end, without the need to hit the 'forward' button, and how many albums can that be said of?
on 2 July 2013
I can't believe i didnt review this album when i first got it. It was back in the early summer but it still sounds as good now as it did then. Simply put, every track on here is great. Zos albums have just got better and better. Sy Smyth, Gwenn Bunn, Eric Roberson, Phonte... I could go on but all you have to do is have a read of Music Lover's review, then buy it. Job done.
The only thing i would say , Music Lover gave it 9 out of 10. I would have given it 1 more. Love it.
Keep the Faith