RH Reviews: Front To Back Vol. 7
How many times has an artist, regardless of genre, age, and skill said something that resembles, ‘man, you can just listen to this album front to back.’ We’ve all heard it, and here at Ruby Hornet, we don’t trust anyone. So, instead of taking these artists at their word, we’ve come up with a way to measure an album’s front-to-back ability. We went out and got a new stereo system with a multi-disc changer, and loaded it up with the new arrivals to see which can actually be enjoyed throughout, and which ones were better off as EPs. In this edition we check out new releases from Madvillain, Jazmine Sullivan, East Coast Avengers, /Passenger, and Doomtree.
The rating system is as follows.
Let It Ride: Just press play and relax…A near perfect LP
Breathe & Stop: A couple joints here, a couple joints there…But overall a solid LP
One & Done: There maybe a hit single here, but not much else…
Album: Madvillainy 2: The Madlib Remix
Rating: Let It Ride
Synopsis: The story goes that Madlib was getting ready to go to Tokyo and needed something new to listen to for the 10-plus hour flight. Going purely for his own headphone pleasure, Madlib reworked his seminal 2004 release with MF Doom, Madvillainy. The original release received mass critical acclaim, leaving heads fiending for a re-up that has yet to surface. While this release is not completely new, it is a more than fresh update that encompasses the minimalist and innovative qualities that endeared the original release in the hearts of so many. The real reason that Madvillainy 2 works is because one does not need to be familiar with the original release to enjoy it. While some may be put off by this statement, I really wasn’t on the original too-too tough, yet can enjoy this cut with or without knowledge of the original. In short, Madvillainy 2 is somewhat the best of both worlds, as Madvillain diehards will most definitely dig on tracks such as the flute-heavy “Space Ho’s Coast to Coast”, while newcomers will be provided with a perfect opportunity for more research as tracks such as “Running Around With Another” and “Borrowed Time” illustrate Madlib’s knowledge of, and skill with, soul samples. Also clearly evident is the way in which MF Doom’s gruff vocals beautifully tackle a less is more approach to emceeing. The album is available for $9.99 on itunes, but if you’re down to shell out $125 you get a the full Madvillainy Box that includes the album, the demo cassette, a 7-inch of “One Beer”, a t-shirt, comicbook, and of course the collector edition’s box.
RH Favorites: “Borrowed Time”, “Never Go Pop”, “Drainos”.
Artist: Jazmine Sullivan
Rating: Breathe & Stop
Synopsis: 21 year-old Jazmine Sullivan has built a solid buzz with the success of “Need U Bad”, a tune rife with regret, and a frighteningly addictive hook. The fullness of her voice may draw some comparisons to Alicia Keys or Mariah Carey, which when you really think about, isn’t too shabby. Needless to say, expectations are high for her debut LP, Fearless, an album filled to the brim with songs about falling in and out of love. There’s no doubt that Sullivan is a very talented vocalist and songwriter. Much of the material on Fearless is very palatable, providing a much needed female perspective that is perhaps best on tracks such as “One Night Stand”, “Switch”, and “After The Hurricane”. The album also includes a range of low-tempo heart-jerkers, break beatish jams and up-tempo feel good tracks. There’s even a 1940’s detective vibe on the album’s opener “Bust Your Windows”. While the majority of album tends to drift into the relationship realm, “Fear” offers a unique break, as Sullivan opens up on some illogical fears, many of which maybe shared by the listening audience. As the whole, the album is very well-rounded, and Sullivan clearly establishes herself as someone to watch in the music industry. The album slows a little bit at times, and we got a little tired of the continuing love theme. This was real close to a Let It Ride, and after a few more listens, the rating may very well change.
RH Favorites: “Fear”, “One Night Stand”, “Switch”
Artist: East Coast Avengers
Album: Prison Planet
Rating: Let It Ride
Synopsis: You won’t see East Coast Avengers’ lead single, “Kill Bill O’Reilly” on youtube or Myspace, as the video has been banned for its all out invasion of “The No Spin Zone.” The intensity and verbal marksmanship demonstrated on Prison Planet’s lead single only gets stronger on the full LP. The trio of Estoteric, Trademarc, and DC The Midi Alien seemingly came together with one objective in mind: get to the heart of the issues by exposing fake medias. The fellas accomplish their task, and make it sound dope along the way as their own intricately woven lyrics match perfectly with DC’s thick beats. The album is also helped by standout guests spots by Termanology and Apathy (“Vengeance”), Freddie Foxxx (“Prison Planet”), and Celph Titled (“East Coast Overdose”). “Too Much To Ask” perhaps best translates the mission and vision of ECA, as they spit, “my frustration is American born/and I’m frustrated with American truth/ and my frustration is American worn/ but I’m umoved by tabloid news” before going into simple requests that seem to be beyond the wealthiest nation in the world. “I’m disappointed with what schools teach/and I’m disappointed with how schools perform/and I’m disappointed with how schools preach/and I’m disappointed by school reform.” The density of the album truthfully warrants multiple paragraphs on each track, and given the quality of the sound, I’m sure someone, somewhere will bring forth something like that. Till now, I’ll leave you my recommendation to pick up ECA and take a long car ride.
RH Favorites: “Vengeance”, “Let It Knock”, “Kill Bill O’Reilly”
Album: Wicked Man’s Rest
Rating: Let It Ride
Synopsis: /Passenger’s latest LP, Wicked Man’s Rest hit the states towards the end of the summer, and the album’s melodies and tones are somewhat reminiscent of a fall night. Singer Mike Rosenberg waxes poetic about lost loves, lost worlds, and lost opportunities as the listener can easily become lost in the stories presented on tracks such as “Girl I Once Knew”, “Walk In The Rain” and “Things I’ve Never Done.” Rosenberg’s voice may not be for everyone, and it definitely sounds like someone else’s voice that I can’t remember right now. The familiarity also matches the LP’s title track, a song in which Rosenberg states, “I’m the beast in you/the beast in me.” /Passenger will soon be returning to the United States, if this album gets its just due, they should expect a larger audience waiting to greet them.
RH Favorites: “Wicked Man’s Rest”, “Walk In The Rain”, “Needle In The Dark”
Rating: Breathe & Stop
Synopsis: The new LP from Minneapolis’ Doom Tree collective rounds out this week’s very strong edition of Front To Back. Doom Tree is a very deep crew comprised of a diverse group of emcees, producers, and DJs. This album is meant to shine the light on the full crew, and pave the way for solo success of the artists involved. The album is 21 tracks deep, something that gets somewhat tiring by the time the listener gets to “Liver Let Die” a gem of a collaboration between P.O.S. and Paper Tiger. “Dots & Dashes” featuring Dessa, and P.O.S. is another standout track that is made by MK Larada’s smooth beat. It is around this point in the LP that Doomtree really reaches its stride, as “Game Over” witnesses Mictlan remove the wool rapping, “rap can’t save you.” With so much content on the LP, listeners have the option of skipping around. If you don’t like one track, it’s fairly likely that you will like the next one. Not every track is a hit, but there is more than enough material to make this a very solid posse album.
RH Favorites: “Game Over”, “Dots & Dashes”, “Liver Let Die,” “Popgun War”