For those unfamiliar with British soul man Omar Lye-Fook, his new album, The Man, will prove to be quite a revelation. And for his existing fans, it will serve as a reminder why the classically trained musicianwho has worked with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Lamont Dozier, Leon Ware, and David Frank of The System and was, in 2012, appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to musicis often considered the father of British neo soul. The Man is Omars first long player in seven years, one that makes the case, and does so quite successfully, that he is indeed The Man.
The album is aptly titled: this is no collection of bump n grind anthems or tales of wanton vulgarity and materialism. The Man exhibits a maturity sorely missing from modern-day soul, and serves as a blueprint for which Omars contemporaries (especially those in the States) should follow.
Theres Nothing Like This is an impossibly smooth re-working of his classic early 90s hit, a sublime cut that features renowned bass guitarist Pino Palladino. Strong vocals make palpable Omars longing desire on the dreamy Eenie Meenie Myni Mo. The lovely Carol Wheeler (of Soul II Soul fame) lends sweet, alluring vocals to the charming, romantic duet Treat You. Steel drums sneak into the house bounce of the spacey, dancefloor jam When We Touch. And theres no hiding the infectious groove of the Hidden Jazz Orchestra-assisted High Heels.
The Mans overall theme of love extends into the non-romantic songs as well. Take, for instance, the anti-violence screed Bully, which combines big band horns with old-school turntablism courtesy of The Scratch Professor. Theres also the jazz-funk of Fuck War, Make Love, which shows that even protest songs can swing.
The musicality of The Man is, simply put, flawless. Jazzy arrangements, soulful orchestral flourishes, unmitigated funk, Caribbean flavors, and hip-hop touches all come together with an effortless aplomb; its an organic mash-up, one whose sounds dont clash but blend into one another in sonic harmony. It is at once both nostalgic and progressive. But then again, thats usually the case with great albums.
“Theres Nothing Like This” (feat. Pino Palladino)
“Treat You” (feat. Caron Wheeler)
“High Heels” (feat. Hidden Jazz Orchestra)