Masters at Work

Our Time Is Coming

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Even after ten years of club hits and dozens of the best house tracks of the decade, Masters at Work, the duo of Little Louie Vega and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez, kept a surprisingly low profile -- especially for such grand achievements. (Even their side project, Nuyorican Soul, is probably more well known than their day job.) Finally putting together a second "proper" LP almost ten years after the first, Vega and Gonzalez don't do much to surprise fans, though the subtleties inherent in the way they do it ably demonstrate their staying power. Like a latter-day Salsoul Orchestra -- though with far more bite to their backing tracks -- Masters at Work set up some gorgeous productions for guest vocalists like Stephanie Mills and Billie: track after track of smooth, lush house music with impeccably tight arrangements, impossibly precise playing, and just enough energy to get the reluctant out on the dancefloor. The duo also does well when expanding the house blueprint; granted, nearly the best work of their career came on the Latin record Nuyorican Soul, but that's where their heritage lies. The Afro-beat attack of "MAW Expensive" (a quasi-cover of Fela's "Expensive Shit") drives with the force of the original, and "Pienso en Ti (I Think of You)" has all the subtleties of a classic late-'70s production from the Fania label (home to salsa stars including Vega's uncle, Hector Lavoe). The duo also salutes their roots in the urban R&B of the '70s and '80s, recruiting James Ingram, Patti Austin, and Roy Ayers for powerhouse workouts. And best of all, La India, one of the most expressive talents in contemporary salsa (also Vega's wife), guests on the highlight, the extended house jam "Backfired." Though it may not quite reach the heights after ten years of expectations, Our Time Is Coming does bode well for the second decade of Masters at Work.

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