We got it from Here . . . Thank You 4 Your service
nolead ends We got it from Here . . . leads the way by a long distance in 2016's "better than it has any right to be" sweepstakes. The first album in 18 years by the early 1990s Native Tongues rappers, who seemed to be out of commission even before rapper Malik "Phife Dawg" Taylor died in March, turns out to be an effortless-sounding, acutely intelligent, joyful offering that never comes off as overbusy or cluttered even as it packs in cameos from Busta Rhymes, Elton John, Jack White, Kanye West, André 3000, and Kendrick Lamar.
The latter three fit into the category of rappers influenced by Tribe's expansive musical palette and Phife, Q-Tip, and Jarobi White's dexterous verbal gymnastics, which are fully on display here on an album the group was working on in secret before Phife's death. Serious matters are discussed, starting with the opening tour de force, "We the People . . .," in which both Tip and Phife rhyme about police violence and intolerance. But the whole album floats with Ali Shaheed Muhammad's light-as-a-feather throwback beats. We got it from Here . . . arrives with a sense of purposeful optimism that's most welcome and surprising on an album the surviving band members say will be their last.
- Dan DeLuca
nolead begins Various Artists
nolead ends nolead begins Feel Like Going Home: The Songs of Charlie Rich
nolead ends nolead begins (Memphis International ***)
nolead ends Now here is an artist ripe for rediscovery. The cover of this tribute features a quote from Sun Records' Sam Phillips: "I don't think I ever recorded anyone who was better as a singer, writer, and player than Charlie Rich." The silver-haired piano man went on, post-Sun, to achieve big country-pop success in the '70s with such hits as "Behind Closed Doors," but he's not as well-remembered as he should be.
This album could help rectify that. Focusing on Rich's early, Memphis-era music for Phillips, it highlights his exceptional talents as a writer across a stylistic spectrum. It ranges from rocking and rollicking ("Lonely Weekends" by Jim Lauderdale, "Rebound" by Shooter Jennings) to bluesy balladry ("Who Will the Next Fool Be" by Holli Mosley), to raw blues ("Don't Put No Headstone on My Grave" by Johnny Hoy), and bar-stool country ("Sittin' and Thinkin'" by Will Kimbrough). And it concludes with Kevin Connolly's ultra-spare take on the supremely moving country-gospel of the title song.
- Nick Cristiano
nolead begins Emeli Sandé
nolead ends nolead begins Long Live the Angels
nolead ends nolead begins (Capitol Records ***)
nolead ends Everybody loves a good breakup album, whether it's Dylan, Gaye, or once-married Tammy Wynette and George Jones' dueling divorce recordings of the mid-'70s. The stress of romance gone asunder parsed through a series of songs is a delirious proposition. Then there's Scottish-raised, Zambian Brit crooner Emeli Sandé, whose winning brand of buoyant soul documented her new, still-struggling marriage (2012's Our Version of Events) and now her bruised bust-up, with Long Live the Angels.
Rather than salt wounds with the skittering drum-and-bass grooves of her debut, Sandé seeks down-tempo rhythms and stirring theatrical melodies to tell her Angels' tale but rarely goes over-the-top diva. After the grandeur, heartbreak, and belted-out soul of "Highs & Lows" and "Every Single Little Piece," Sandé treats the broken promises and skunked passions of songs such as "Hurts," "Give Me Something," and "I'd Rather Not" with a quiet jazz, soul, and folk nuance that's something between slow Sade and spare, nuanced Sarah Vaughn.
Grab your handkerchiefs.