Steve Arrington - Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions Music Album Reviews

Steve Arrington - Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions Music Album Reviews
On his first proper comeback album, the funk legend displays his unmatched vocal chops over polished, modern production.

Steve Arrington is a true funk legend. At age 64, the singer-songwriter and producer is now on his third go-round in the music industry. Following a star-making stint as the lead vocalist and drummer in Slave, Arrington produced ‘80s hits like “Feel So Real” and “Weak at the Knees” as a solo artist before he left music altogether to become a minister. Though he technically returned at the beginning of the 2010s, Arrington’s new album Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions is his first proper solo comeback. Don’t let the retro cover artwork fool you—there are no “soul revival” or fake-funk tracks here. In fact, the polished, modern production flourishes throughout the album serve to highlight how unmatched Arrington’s voice and vitality remain.
Recorded entirely at the Stones Throw studio in Los Angeles, Down to the Lowest Terms also doubles as a who’s who of the city’s notable beat scene producers. Label boss Peanut Butter Wolf brought together established figures from the roster (Knxwledge, Mndsgn) and rising talent like versatile bedroom producer Shibo to contribute to the album. Arrington’s voice becomes the banner under which these various musicians ride. They bring a remarkable sonic cohesion to the record, and Arrington rarely contorts himself to fit into these tracks, even though they run the gamut from R&B ballads to crushed lo-fi beats.

The best songs give Arrington the room to sprawl out and flex those ever-charismatic vocals, nearly untarnished by the sands of time. Just listen to the cascading background parts on the gleaming slow-burner “Keep Dreamin’” or the tightly-knit scatting passages near the end of “Lord Knows,” one of two tracks that Arrington recorded drums on. Down to the Lowest Terms, especially its first half, is peppered with these kinds of awe-inspiring vocal moments. Hearing him is like watching a veteran tightrope walker take to the slackline for the first time in years and breeze their way through a complex routine.

Arrington’s songwriting also remains refreshingly free of cynicism. It doesn’t matter that the stakes are so low on “Good Mood,” once he drops into a wavering, theatrical timbre just to describe how merely thinking of the sun can put a smile on his face first thing in the morning, you’re hooked in. By contrast, the ruminative “Make a Difference” carries on a lineage of political funk by touching upon the legacy of racial oppression in America. “My great-great-grandmama was a slave,” he murmurs at the start. Not every song is so compelling—the dissonant house number “You’re Not Ready” feels like a cutting room floor loosie—but Arrington’s performances have enough swagger to them to carry him through.

Elsewhere, the two Knxwledge contributions—“Love is Gone” and “Make Ya Say Yie”—envelop Arrington in crunchy slo-mo soul textures à la NxWorries, and the latter’s loping horn melody lets the soul singer commit to some stellar falsetto runs. The mid-album cut “My Favorite Swing” taps into a style of frenetic jazz similar to that of Thundercat, who Arrington worked with on last year’s “Black Qualls.” In the same way Prince cultivated and collaborated with up-and-coming talent throughout his career, Arrington’s willingness to garner inspiration from a younger generation that considers him a formative influence creates a powerful feedback loop of creativity. The songs themselves mostly cover well-trodden ground, but the chemistry and musical dialogue between the funk forefather and his collaborators make Down to the Lowest Terms feel wholly new.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Steve Arrington - Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions Music Album Reviews Steve Arrington - Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Monday, September 28, 2020 Rating:

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