James Blood Ulmer

America: Do You Remember the Love?

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    8
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An odd but very effective album, this release under Ulmer's name could almost have been issued under Bill Laswell's, so strong is the producer's (and bassist's) presence. With Ronald Shannon Jackson in tow alongside Laswell stable regular Nicky Skopelitis, this sounds more than a little like several of Laswell's late-'80s multicultural discs. The gorgeous pre-chorus line in "Show Me Your Love, America," for instance, sounds like nothing previously written by Ulmer and makes one wonder. Although one would think that this would play against Ulmer's strengths (his rawness and irregularity, for two), it makes for a strangely satisfying effort, corralling the guitarist into a somewhat more relaxed mode where the concentration is more on his vocals and song structure than on his guitar work. His singing here is perhaps the best its ever been, still very indebted to Hendrix in both the soft texture of his voice and, especially, in the casualness of his phrasing, but he injects more than enough of his own persona to create a perfect match to his harsh guitar. Jackson and Laswell are both in fine form throughout, providing a rich, varied underpinning for Ulmer's excursions, even if those excursions are a bit more reined-in than listeners had come to expect. The album ends up sounding polished but not slick, each composition standing solidly and offering varied pleasures. Different from Odyssey but situated alongside it as one of Ulmer's best.

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