Lewis Taylor

Stoned, Pt. 1

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The release of Stoned, Pt. 1, the third album under his own name, proves beyond doubt what an astonishingly talented musician Lewis Taylor is. It also begs the question, so often asked but seldom more appropriately, of how such talent can go largely ignored. Taylor, after parting ways with Island, decided to take control of his music, together with co-producer/mixer/songwriter Sabrina Smyth. Stoned, Pt. 1, is an exceptional accomplishment, demonstrating Taylor's ability to compose, play all the main instruments brilliantly, arrange, and produce in such a way that it inevitably brings to mind comparisons with Stevie Wonder. Taylor is apparently comfortable with his low-key profile, but this album provides plenty of evidence for his private passions. The title track, which opens the album, overlays deep funk with truly sweet vocals, complemented by wah-wah guitar and electronics. The complexity he strives for could result in muddiness in the hands of lesser producers, but this has a beautiful depth and clarity. "Positively Beautiful" follows, and it's perhaps the standout, its richly layered harmonies propelled by a simple but driving beat. The angst that was never far away in his earlier work, reportedly occasioned by his breakup with the person he calls "the one," is not so obvious this time, except in terms of the pain that comes from pure lust and romance. After his deeply soulful voice, the electric guitar is his best instrument, so much so that it invites more obvious comparisons (the name Isley instantly comes to mind, and sometimes also Hendrix). Taylor is a natural musician with genuine soul, and the obvious potential criticism -- that he's a purveyor of derivative ersatz black music -- should be thoroughly dismissed.

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