I promise I will try to stay on tangent during this post. I have to get this out though. This is HOW I SEE THE ALBUM. If we usually agree on music, I would suggest you give it a shot (there is a music player up top if we don't know each other that can give you some hint as to whether would or wouldn't agree if you don't know me..) I will not call you out of your name, question your musical tastes, or any of that other immature stuff if you don't agree/like the album. We can agree to disagree. It is okay. Oh....and THIS IS NOT A REVIEW per say. People who review music usually don't get this 'personal' with the it. Call it that if you must but those words NEVER came from my mouth. People who 'review' things tend to stand in judgment of people when they don't agree with what they think of an artist's product. I am not here to do that.
Let me start off RIGHT FROM THE BAT and say this is GROWN FOLKS MUSIC. Pure and simple. Much like a high school/college/early 20's to early 30's relationship tends to differ from a real LIFE GROWN UP RELATIONSHIP, this album does that when compared to what is out now. Succinct and to the point. No pussy footing around. Wrought with emotions and no hiding of the hands. So if you are in a certain stage in life, this might not move you like that honestly. Especially if you are still in the fantasy part of 'the game' so to speak. (You know where you get what you want when you want it with no compromise on your end even when you are dead wrong? That part of the game? I digress..) In retrospect, it may move you LATER on in life though so I wouldn't toss it aside and dismiss it. The album is not your MOTHER & FATHER'S R&B all the way but it is DEFINITELY influenced by it. So if you are looking for that over produced, over 'sang', can't be replicated on the stage when you see them live, type of music, this album is probably not for you. If you ARE a lover of this type of music, you should love this album. You might even be a little upset at the run time simply because you ARE enjoying it so much.
Let me also take this time to remind you AGAIN (as I did in that link provided) that the songwriter of the group, Phonte Coleman, told you about his approach to music when he was a full time rapper. The albums will change and sound different. That's the point. Good but different. So any comparisons/expectations of this being Connected or Leave It All Behind's 'musical twin' should be not be 'connected' and should be 'left behind'. At least when listening to this album. This album should be standing alone. None of the other projects were like anything else out. This one is in that same vain and should be treated as such not only when being thought of in regards as to what is out now but in regards to past products. Expecting quality product and yet the 'same' product is a little unfair in my eyes so I don't. For if they did that, you would feel cheated wouldn't you? I know I would. I would want them to take me places where even THEY thought they would never go musically. I feel like I should allow them to grow as I have from '04 when the first one came out to now.
Just like the last album, and Zo's album, you get introduced to some acts that may be new to you like Chantae Cann, Jesse Boykins III as well as being wrapped in the silky sounds of Darien Brockington and YahZarah. The young man Median even makes an appearance. Other than that though, you are treated to the evolution of the boys with the help of Zo! (Fight For Love, Maybe She'll Dream of Me, Don't Wait, Everything Must Go), Chris Boerner (All Roads, The Last Fall, Authenticity, Don't Wait, on guitar, Lil John Roberts on the drums (Everything Must Go), John Teer (Everything Must Go) and Allyn Love (Laughing At Your Plans) on the pedal steel. Nicolay handles the instrumentation on all the tracks not listed with Phonte on the lead and sharing as listed.
At the first couple of listens of the album, I felt it was pretty dark overall. Which actually wasn't a bad thing to me. I thought it flowed nicely and every song fit in the order that it was presented. (I am a stickler for song order on an album. I feel the album should flow even though I won't be reviewing the tracks in order. Sue me.)
After double digit listens, I began to notice the lighter sides of the album and they balanced out the 'dark' records that I initially caught my attention. Songs like the lead single "Maybe She'll Dream of Me" (which caught everyone's attention I would hope since it was ...well..the LEAD SINGLE!) balance out the 'Full fledged'/none of that Joanie love Chachi type relationship that songs like "Just Don't Make Me A Fool' ft. Jesse Boykins III & Median or the equally as truthful 'Everything Must Go'.
The Last Fall....I think the comparison 'talk' really gets fanned here..With the VERY BEGINNING of the song (which was brilliant to me). Stand out line in the song for me was '..feel like a fool for missing something that was never there...' Loved guitar and keyboard play on this one and the break down in the middle that showcases chorus...Straight and to the point.
The title track 'Authenticity' has a VERY DEEP Prince influence with a very MODERN TWIST. It is one of those joints that you can definitely feel if you have ever been at that point in a relationship. I can see many a person (male or female) repeating the chorus in the heat of the 'battle'....
....'She wants me to fill her needs. She begs for authenticity. You don't want truth from me. YOU JUST WANT WHAT YOU WANT.....'- Authenticity.
'Eyes to the Sky' is one of those joints that will have you thinking about a lost loved one, your job, or anything else that is wearing heavy on your heart. It is the track that everyone says is 'too short' but honestly, it is JUST RIGHT. It is straight to the point. Beautifully written and sonically appeasing and appropriate.
Don't Wait.....Like the 'closer' he is, every time Phonte brings Darien on a track, he takes it to another level. This time is no different. This song's message is simple. If someone loves you back, don't wait. Straight and to the point. Many a person could use this message. Seen many a person lose person 'getting in the way' of it by trying to sabotage it, being hesitant due to what they think others will think of it and all of the other things that make one 'wait'. Tough message. Zo! gets on the talk box and REALLY PUTS IT DOWN...That is that 'your mother & father's type of R&B' sound I was getting at....
All Roads...is a just a perfect Fall song. The kinda joint that you want to get into your car, watch the leaves swirl as you move along on your way to life's journeys. Phonte's voice just flows over the production by Nicolay. It is a perfection description of just how life flows when you are involved with someone (family included) or something (your career, your life in general) See for me, music can be interpreted in many ways. Especially tracks like this one.
Fight For Love....It is pretty self explanatory. This is usually the part of a relationship that people tend to just 'hope works itself out' or ignore until things EXPLODE. Which makes this song even more special to me. I UNDERSTOOD everything that was being laid out in this song. Been in that place. Had someone feel like me too. So it makes sense to me. To others? I can understand why it may not 'move' them like that. Unlike in a fairy tale or soap opera, in real life, it gets like this. It is the pink elephant in the room. Finally, a song, by someone in my age group, that expresses it. It is refreshing to me lyrically and sonically.Phonte even goes PHILIP BAILEY at the end of the song....Which I really felt.
(The aforementioned Philip Bailey with EWF)
Don't Make Me A Fool ft. Jesse Boykins III & Median......This is another one of those, "If you have been in or past this chapter of the book of relationships' songs. Meaning, if you have taken TRUE STOCK in how things really go down, you get the song. If you are still living in Fantasy Land, where all relationships are perfect or just end when they are not, you probably don't get the song or feel it. I understood it. Seen it. Done it. Been on all sides of it. Four or five times a piece. Much like Biggie had the Ten Crack Commandments, this is one of the Commandments of a 'Big People Grown Up' relationship. I know you, what I signed up for and I am EVEN going to let you be who you are but don't make me a fool doing it.
The track that STOOD OUT TO ME FROM THE BEGINNING AND EVEN RIGHT NOW, is the Chantae Cann featured 'Laughing At Your Plans'....It is a DIFFERENT TYPE OF TRACK. It is everything that I 'thought' Hootie (Darius Rucker, who can GO BY THE WAY IF YOU DON'T KNOW...) would do and never quite gave us. Something along that line. The young lady that is accompanying Phonte on the track from ATL by way of Chicago, laid it down. Effortlessly. Like a silkworm spinning a cocoon. Layered and smooth. Just like she did when she was backing up India Arie...(Yes, that is where you have heard that voice before if she sounds familiar to you and you have seen India Arie live before..) I truly feel this track could garner the group a nomination in more than ONE CATEGORY of many of the prestigious awards that are given out if people open their ears and listen. This song makes me want to get on this PARTICULAR STRETCH OF ROAD and just ride....
(This a personal picture of mine. With my Blackberry no less. No professional cam or photoshop. Coming down off a North Carolina 421 just before you get to Boone to turn down to come back DOWN THE MOUNTAIN to Lenoir..A TREMENDOUS hint for some of you who have wonder just WHERE in NC I am always alluding too & YES it is my background picture on my personal Twitter page.)
City Ain't The Same Without You - This is vintage Foreign Exchange to me. Great lyrics. Beautifully arranged song. YahZarah breathing life into the lyrics with Phonte providing the background vocals. Nicolay providing the cinematic musical backdrop.....It is almost unfair when they do songs like this 'cause it seems effortless like they could do this in their sleep. Which apparently is what some people want. One song like this is good for me. Give
Sounds like a lot for an album that is only 38 minutes long? That is because that is how The Foreign Exchange does it. Gives you everything you need in a nice package. No filler. Can't wait to see them perform these songs along with the rest of their catalog when they go on tour next year.