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The Soul Express Album of the Month

December 2000

ERYKAH BADU
ERYKAH BADU
MAMA'S GUN
Motown, 2000
1) Penitentiary Philosophy 2) Didn't Cha Know 3) My Life 4) ...& On 5) Cleva 6) Hey Sugah 7) Booty 8) Kiss Me on My Neck (Hesi) 9) A.D. 2000 10) Orange Moon 11) In Love with You 12) Bag Lady 13) Time's a Wasting 14) Green Eyes
Produced by Erykah Badu, James Poyser, Ahmir Thompson, Pino Palladino, Jay Dee, Jah Born, Stephen Marley, Shaun Martin, Geno Young, Braylon Lacy, Gino Iglehart, Vikter Duplaix
Whoever found Erykah Badu's highly successful debut set Baduizm to his or her liking four years ago, will have no trouble enjoying Ms. Badu's sophomore set (or her third one, if you count the live CD). Lazy retro jazz-soul, cool, relaxed, laid-back: familiar words from earlier reviews, and they still apply to the queen of nu classic soul. What does seem different is a more liberal use of live instruments and acoustic arrangements, and I'm certainly not complaining about that. James Poyser with his Rhodes and minimoog, Ahmir Thompson on drums, Roy Hargrove leading the horn section and D'wayne Kerr on flute are frequent contributors, and Roy Ayers and Betty Wright also lend a helping hand.
The massive single hit Bag Lady is a good example of Ms. Badu's style: it's all very down-played and minimalist, but somehow the groove and oddly fascinating atmosphere creep into your consciousness and stay there. Erykah is not a great singer, neither in the R&B nor jazz sense of the word, yet she has managed to create her individual musical style where the different aspects, including her voice, seem to work in perfect unison.
There's a host of typical magical EB mid-creepers here, and I personally can't get enough of them. Just listen to the infectious bassline and wandering percussions on Didn't Cha Know, the easy combination of real strings and lazy funk/soul groove on My Life and Time's a Wasting, the wonderful jazzy bridge on ...& On, the understated horn riffs on the more decidedly funky Booty... Great stuff! Yet, my favourite cut would have to be the super-mellow acoustic groover Cleva, which is aided by Roy Ayers' vibes soloing.
There are also a couple of stylistically more conventional slowies, and among them you find one of the absolute standout cuts of the CD, Orange Moon; it is quite simply an utterly beautiful, atmospheric soul ballad.
The only tracks I don't care too much about are the opening rock-funk romp Penitentiary Philosophy, where Jef Lee Johnson's guitar is far too evident for my tastes, and In Love with You, a pop-folk duet with Stephen Marley.
I am at a loss to come up with a more succinct description of Erykah Badu's music than what can be found in the ramblings above. Suffice it to say that I find it essentially important for the future of black music that Erykah Badu exists and enjoys chart success. (9) -PR

Other Albums of the Month in 2000
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Albums of the Month in 1998
Albums of the Month in 1997

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