This week was not a very impressive one when it came to the number of new albums being released yesterday, especially considering one of the albums on my short list, had already been released. Normally, nine new releases wouldn’t be enough for me to do a review, but there were a few quality options this week, with fresh material from Aaron Neville, Michael Kiwanuka and The Earls Of Leicaster, so I decided to carry on as usual. Though all three seemed like excellent choices, I was specifically grabbed by two songs on “Love & Hate”, so Michael Kiwanuka got the nod, this week. I have heard his first full-length studio album, “Home Again”, and was impressed with the mix of classic soul and tropical ease, that made the music comfortable, but not complacent, so I was hoping for the same from this release.
The album opens with the longest track, “Cold Little Heart”, which clocks in at close to ten minutes. It has a broad start, that is reminiscent of Pink Floyd or millennial Peter Gabriel. The guitar playing leans more toward the first. About half-way through, Michael adds his vocal stylings, and the song turns soul folk. Good track, but you won’t be hearing it on the radio.
As one of the tracks that intrigued my ears, “Black Man In A White World”, brings the influences of Bill Withers to the fore, while dealing with issues that have plagued society for ages. The use of strings to add layers of sound is a pretty classic soul approach, and a good one at that.
Strings begin the slower relationship drama of “Falling”, which deals with the sometimes revolving door of a relationship that neither is willing to end, while keeping both on an emotional yo-yo.
“Place I Belong” has an urban 70’s vibe and confronts the need to figure-out how to change in order to keep up with the world changing around you. It isn’t an upbeat tune, but it does have its peak in the middle.
“Love & Hate” is the other tune that convinced me to go with Michael Kiwanuka for this week’s review. It instantly reminded me of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues”, along with a vibe that tipped the hat toward Bill Withers. The strings are a huge piece of the power on this cut.
There is a folky island blues quality to “One More Night”, which is similar to his first album, with just a little more of a rock angle.
“I’ll Never Love” is comfortably desperate in the idea of being alone for the duration of this life. It is like Ben Harper and Gary Clark Jr. writing a song in Hawaii.
“Rule The World” is a little too modern to be vintage, but it has too classic a sound to be brand new. It is a sincere plea for guidance, which is given a kick by the backing vocalists, the strings and percussion.
The piano makes an obvious appearance on the beach bound singer/songwriter vibe of “Father’s Child”. The strings include the lower end of the spectrum, which assists in the melodic time-warp that evolves during this track.
“The Final Frame” is another track that spans a long time period in music history. The song has an early rock ballad feel with early 70’s vocals and the more recent sounds of fuzzy electric guitar.
This may not be a contender for album of the year, in my opinion, but it is still an extremely solid sophomore effort by Michael Kiwanuka. It is a continuation of much of the music from his first album “Home Again”. There does seem to be more of a Marvin Gaye influence on this album, “Love & Hate”, than on the last. The strings are used fairly liberally and they only enhance the songs, in my opinion. I also appreciate, what seems like, Michael’s lack of concern over making radio hits, considering a couple of the best tracks, are over seven minutes long and probably won’t hear themselves on the airwaves. If you are a fan of Michael’s, this album will keep you happy, but it is also an appropriate move for those who love the music of Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and Otis Redding. It isn’t a classic soul album, but the best influences from the past are apparent on “Love & Hate”. That’s What I Know, So That’s What You Know!! Enjoy!!
HAPPY LISTENING!!!! 😉