Mint Condition

Music @ the Speed of Life

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In terms of content and quality, not much differentiates Music @ the Speed of Life from 7..., Mint Condition's previous album. The most noticeable distinction between the releases is the greater amount of collaborative work on this one. Eric Leeds (Prince, Madhouse, Fdeluxe) plays saxophone and flute and arranged the horns. On four songs, unobtrusive talkbox is provided by Bobby Ross Avila, a longtime Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis associate who (like Mint Condition) recorded for Jam & Lewis' A&M-affiliated boutique label. The presence of the talkbox, not to be confused with Auto-Tune, is no random authenticator; in the sleeve, the band acknowledges innovator Roger Troutman, as well as his son, "co-conspirator" Roger Troutman Lynch. Leeds and Avila's contributions give the album a funkier, slightly bolder edge. Otherwise, this is standard-issue Mint Condition. As ever, the band's unmistakably live sound is in effect, and all of the material is relatable, from "Believe in Us" (fostering faith in love) to "Blessed" (remaining positive in the face of conflict). What initially sounds like a lull during the album's middle third eventually reveals some subtly affecting material, reminding listeners that Mint Condition don't have to be flashy to shine. Additional bright spots come from DJ Jazzy Jeff, whose turntables add color to "Girl of My Life," and Brother Ali, who drops a nostalgic and hushed verse on the finale. The musicians are on a roll; this is the shortest span of time in which they have released three studio albums, and each release should be heard by anyone who has enjoyed the '90s output.

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