In 2010, Stevie Wonder is a slightly schmaltzy, singalong stadium filler who invites Michael Eavis to sing – sing, not dance, sing – on stage at Glastonbury. While still a legend as a result of a number of classic albums in the Sixties and Seventies, his edge is long since gone and his musical style paused somewhere in the mid-Eighties. Thankfully, there are others now looking to wear his crown and the finest amongst them is Aloe Blacc.
‘I Need A Dollar’ was the lead track from this vigorous collection and regular readers will recall me banging on about the track at the time. Repetitive, outrageously catchy and downright funky (achingly hip, me) it warrants the spending of a tenner on its own. There’s a spellbinding stripped back version available here.
The effortless, oozing guitar sound beloved of not just Stevie but also Al Green, Bill Withers and the magnificent Curtis Mayfield is present on the gorgeous title track, while ‘Take Me Back’ comes on like one of the latter’s more dramatic numbers. All of the above influences have their part to play at various points on ‘Good Things’ and the result is as warm and accomplished a soul album as you could wish for. Yes, it’s a 2010 release, but it can happily sit alongside its influences in the racks comfortable in the knowledge that nobody’s going to say it doesn’t belong there.
‘Politician’ opts for the repetitive epic approach so keen used by a certain Liverpudlian foursome and it even has a reprise at the end of record, which thrills me more than I should really admit in public. It really does have a full on ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ feel to it and I’m not just using a Beatles comparison because it’s the only reference point I’ve got – it genuinely does. Add in the drawn-out ‘Femme Fatale’, stripped back ‘Hey Brother’ and swaggering ‘Miss Fortune’ and there’s plenty to recommend. And that’s all without mentioning my favourite track on the album.
‘Momma Hold My Hand’ is delicate, sweeping, heartfelt and just unutterably touching. As the strings emerge in the build to the chorus and Blacc’s voice is unleashed, it’s one of those hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck moments that are far rarer than such a commonly used phrase would suggest. The story of a child’s relationship with his mother, from his infanthood to her descent into old age is perfectly captured and it has been known to make me misty-eyed. But, it is simultaneously utterly euphoric in that way that truly immaculate music sometimes can be. You really must hear it.