Moodymann - Taken Away Music Album Reviews

Following a 2019 episode of police harassment in front of his own building, the Detroit house legend’s latest goes hard on depth and funk, but there’s often an ache where the fun used to be.

If you’re black in the U.S., anything from shopping for prom clothes to being a firefighter to minding your own business in your own home can prompt people to call the cops on you. When people call in the police, the force might drag you half-naked into the street; they might pull out your tampon during a cavity search in the middle of that street; they might well kill you. In 2019, according to the Los Angeles Times, “Getting killed by police [was] a leading cause of death for young black men in America.”
This shouldn’t happen to anybody; it shouldn’t happen to one of the most gifted musicians to come out of Detroit. But because this is America, it happened to Kenny Dixon, Jr., better known as deep-house hero Moodymann, whose career spans 25-plus years and an influence that can’t be overstated. Dixon was sitting in a van outside his own building in Detroit when someone reported “suspicious behavior” and the cops rolled up with their chaos. He made it out alive. Echoes of the conflict are all over his new album.

Taken Away dispenses immersion therapy like last year’s woozy beaut, Sinner, and stinks of George Clinton like 2014’s self-titled long-player. But there’s often an ache where the fun used to be. There’s funk, in both senses of the world. “Goodbye Everybody” summons Lowell Fulson’s “Prison Bound,” swapping the original’s bluesy stomp for a roiling swamp of what sound like detuned bells and percussion that hisses like tasers. It’s closer in spirit to Erykah Badu than, say, boompty house. The crisp breaks and comfy swing of “Let Me In” could be legit Badu, or even Mary J., but Moodymann counters the grace of the (uncredited) female voices with spite: “You’ve never been a good soul to anyone/Especially me.”

Some tracks are plush. “Let Me Show You Love” is maybe the most flat-out gorgeous thing he’s made to date, a velveteen expanse of sparkling melodies and little sequin-bright effects and blissed-out whispers. The purple chords and compressed tumble of “I Need Another ____” are horny as hell, but the “relief” that Dixon and his female companions call out for sounds as material and existential as it is sexual. “Just Stay a While” lights up the room with a fiber-optic bassline and irresistible beat; a quiet-storm interlude blows through every now and then, increasing the humidity without relieving it. If the vocals were glamorous, the song could be Luomo. Instead the sentiment is: “My back’s against the wall.” And not because nobody’s dancing. “Slow Down” does just that, buoyed by overlapping vocal vamps and a warm piano riff, and it’s just the sound of summer, complete with kids enjoying themselves. Until sirens interrupt.

Most of Taken Away is fascinatingly ambivalent. A couple tracks lose their balance altogether. “I’m Already Hi” is a person-to-person skit backed up with some light jazz and scatting. It’s fine if what you want from one of the greatest house producers alive is a skit; if not, well, it’s over soon. Less funny are the album’s opener and closer, two versions of “Do Wrong” built on Al Green’s “Love and Happiness” but without much of either. Mixed deep in a midtempo shuffle of organ and tambourine and preacher calls, Moodymann sourly brings receipts to a no-good ex. “You’ve got me back in church,” he sneers, in a way that sounds more like he’d been punished than redeemed. Green was perhaps the most tender of soul singers; he also, among other cruelties, beat his pregnant wife with a boot when she refused to have sex with him. Moodymann chants, “You better find a way to love me/’Cause if you don’t, somebody else will,” while Green eggs him on with wait-a-minutes and yeahs. The groove might get your head bopping with a bad taste in your mouth, wondering if she’s better off without him.

Regardless, Moodymann remains a master of repetition as a form of challenge. In his 1996 epic “I Can’t Kick This Feeling When It Hits,” he takes a quick hit of Chic (“What am I gonna do?” from “I Want Your Love”) and copies it over and over in a feat of disco endurance; the expression shifts from ecstasy to paranoid chant to paralysis and back. He’s also an expert at tension and release. His 1999 classic “Shades of Jae” holds back the kick so long that the samples of crowd cheers seem to shimmer in desperation. Title track “Taken Away” uses both strategies—but to ruminate. Moodymann shatters the crystalline grief of Roberta Flack’s “Sunday and Sister Jones” like a brick through a window. In Flack’s telling, a reverend’s wife wails and warns God not to let her husband die, or she will too: “Lord, if you take him away,” she sings, “I don’t want to live another day.” They both pass. “Sister Jones was taken away,” Flack mourns. Moodymann picks up her phrasings and lets each one glint in the cold glint of his groove, closer in tempo and timbre to Massive Attack’s “Unfinished Sympathy” than his usual hedonism. The “taken” brings to mind the endless chain of handcuffs, stretchers, coffins; the “away” becomes prison and beyond. Sirens again disrupt focus. When the hi-hat finally opens up about halfway in, it’s less a longed-for exhalation than just a moment to breathe. If you can.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Moodymann - Taken Away Music Album Reviews Moodymann - Taken Away Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Thursday, June 04, 2020 Rating:

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