Thursday, October 7, 2010
Album Review: B Slade: A Brilliant Catastrophe
It's certainly been an interesting journey for B Slade, the artist formerly known as Tonex. Last year he became the first gospel singer to come out of the closet, a decision that effectively ended his working relationship with the mainstream gospel music industry. However, with wardrobes consisting of multi-colored mohawks, furs, scarfs and platform boots, and music that embraced everything from R&B to electronica-inspired pop, B Slade never fit the mold of a traditional gospel star. Even Kirk Franklin never strayed that far from the format.
A Brillant Catastrophe is anything but a subdued affair, containing splashes of funk, R&B, pop, house, soul and gospel, and hip hop. The album's opener and title track finds the singer in an experimental mood, with the music gliding easily between smooth soul and tribal beats, while B Slade sings a few lines from Soul II Soul's classic "Back To Life." The ecstatic "FREEDOM," full of triumphant, choir-powered background vocals, and rolling bass, simultaneously channel gospel and funk.
On the too short "One Love" the singer gives an idea of the constraints of growing up a preacher's kid. "Never had the chance to live or breath/Never had the chance to be free/ The microscope/Almost made my family lose hope."
"Going Away," with its bright chord progressions, also recall the singer's church roots. Meanwhile guest rapper Mom criticizes the current church establishment, a place with the "Same sermons/Same altar to prayer line/Same sick folks actin' like they feel fine." "I told the truth and look at where it got me/ Excommunicated, labeled with hypostacy," he raps. The traditional church is portrayed as a place where duplicity and betrayal have replaced compassion.
On we go/To a place where there's still nonbelievers" B Slade wails on "On We Go," backed by old-school harmonies that morph into hard knock hip hop. On this track as well as several others, the lyrics suggest a call to spiritual revolution, be it on an individual or mass level, breaking down archaic traditions and journeying into unknown territory.
A trio of ballads bring the focus to matters of the flesh. The other-worldly "Back," full of loopy samples, synthesizers, sparse drums and eerie minor keys, sets the perfect atmosphere for B Slade to a spin tale of love drama, crafting lyrics that are brutally honest and comically sharp. "You had the best of me/My secret recipes/I gave them all to you and you used them on him/You bastard." In case the ex-lover doesn't get the picture, B Slade makes it crystal clear: "The thought of you makes me limp." On the flip side, the robotic "Tempo" gets its heat from the singer's trademark falsetto, heavy breathing and spoken word, with lyrics full of sexy double entendres.
B Slade ends the album on an upbeat note, ripping through a fantastic nine-minute cover of Sylvester's disco classic "Mighty Real" and the frenetic house track "Get Over You,"which references the best of late 70's/early 80s dance music. With A Brilliant Catastrophe, B Slade crafts an album that liberates both the mind and the body.