The early reports on Compass trumpeted the fact that Beck was involved (his credit is additional production), but Jamie Lidell is hardly a musician who needs the expertise -- he has a voice that's soulful and spirited like few in contemporary music, and his production skills were knocking out fans and critics before they even knew he could sing. If anything, the magic that Lidell & co. create on Compass is a more varied trip through music-making than on 2008's Jim. If that record could be criticized (and it wasn't, not much), it could be said that Lidell and co-conspirator Mocky created an excellent soul record -- and just that. Compass is not a neo-soul record by any means. Its productions crank and wheeze like Lidell's work with Super_Collider, and although there's a long list of musicians on each track -- including Feist, Nikka Costa, and Chilly Gonzalez -- the result sounds more like a pick-up session in an alleyway than a studio super-session. Lidell's also grown as a songwriter, creating introspective material on "Completely Exposed" and virtually the entire second half of the album that goes well beyond what he was capable of earlier. As on any good Beck record, Compass finds time for everything from R&B to hard rock to the type of gut-bucket experimental rock that Tom Waits would be proud of. The big difference is in the vocal performances. It's clear that Lidell is wearing his heart on his sleeve here, and we see a portrait of a person, not a personality.
by John Bush