Friday, February 17th, 2012

Esperanza Spalding – Black Gold

2011’s Bon Iver, according to the Grammys….


[Video][Website]
[5.30]

Iain Mew: “Black Gold” is a gorgeous sounding record, but most of all it’s the warmth and generosity which courses through it which makes it such a joy to listen to. It’s not aimed at me but it still gave me a warm glow, even before watching the video.
[8]

Anthony Easton: For something called “Black Gold,” one would expect something stickier, or at least a little filthier. The Up With People lyrics and the anemic jazz singing doesn’t convince me of anything but its own mediocrity.
[4]

Jer Fairall: Unfailingly tasteful, wholly respectable, nimbly performed, lyrically admirable and damn I was really hoping this’d be a cover of my favourite Soul Asylum song.
[5]

Alfred Soto: Woof is this tasteful — she really digs Jill Scott and Mama’s Gun-era Erykah Badu. Hell, I really dig the guitar solo at the 2:10 mark. To triumph with something this deliberate, however, requires more gumption than Spalding can command; besides, unlike Scott she’s not that schooled in R&B verities, and unlike Badu she’s not weird.
[5]

W.B. Swygart: This… is… nice? Just a bit, y’know… frumpy.
[5]

John Seroff: God bless Esperanza for her transparency; what other artist would have the chutzpah to name the follow up to her breakout, Grammy-winning album Radio Music Society and then release so obvious a cash-in crossover, Jill Scott-lite bit of NPR bait as a first single? “Black Gold” does little to showcase Spalding’s strongest suits but it is, at least, unlabored and creamy and if the residuals from the eventual Tyler Perry royalties keep us supplied with more “Mompouana”-esque tracks over the next decade, it’s a small price to pay.
[6]

Brad Shoup: In tailoring her jazz-funk for putative acceptability — dialing back the rhythm section, enmeshing her bass with the organ — I worry Spalding has underestimated her audience. She and Algebra collude on a vocal that’s nothing but generous, but the track is pretty penned-in. Do we really want kids to grow up to form fusion bands when they could be getting urban-mystical or just as free as they can imagine? The guitarist’s hushed scatting is a Kirkian touch, but stacked up against Rahsaan’s vocal slurs and exclamations on the flute, his running-over humanity, it’s pale. But hey, some lives are changed after the teacher wheels in the DVD player.
[5]

Katherine St Asaph: A warm electric blanket to comfort everyone rockist about music generally and R&B in particular. (Funny how that works.) “Black Gold” is what people mean when they say the Grammys are irrelevant.
[5]

Sabina Tang: I hear the Conservative government is slashing our national public broadcaster’s budget again, so an alternate source to Radio 2’s drive-time jazz show would be no bad thing. I don’t particularly care for this track, but I can see myself warming to it in the context of a playlist emulating one of the more eclectic Cowboy Bebop soundtrack albums. (“Radio Song,” also available on Youtube, is not only better, it’s one of those recursive songs that seem to describe the experience of listening to itself… on CBC Radio 2’s drive-time jazz show, presumably.) 
[6]

Michaela Drapes: Though I can’t fault Spalding for her desire to bring more jazziness to pop, and vice versa, this can’t possibly be the way to do it. It’s very troubling when you find yourself facinated by the fact that every single performer’s delivery is oddly tired, limp and clichéd for all the good intentions. Not that everything has to be flashy and bright and bold to be noticeable, but there are ways of being smooth and light and sublime without being mind-numbingly dull.
[4]

One Response to “Esperanza Spalding – Black Gold”

  1. At the risk of sounding jazzbo pretentious; i STRONGLY recommend anyone familiar with Esperanza solely through the Grammys give that Mompouana youtube link I have in my blurb a listen and maybe spin Junjo, her debut album, a time or two. She’s a hella talented performer.