The Midnight Hour / Ali Shaheed Muhammad / Adrian Younge

The Midnight Hour

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    9
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Picked five years after the seeds were planted, The Midnight Hour was cross-pollinated by Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge, who on this project synthesize orchestral soul and post-bop jazz as approached by golden-eared cratediggers augmented by numerous vocalists and musicians. The creative chemistry of the duo -- both of whom write, produce, and play multiple instruments -- was heard first on Souls of Mischief's There Is Only Now, Bilal's In Another Life, and the score for the Web television series Luke Cage. Work on the latter necessitated the suspension of work on this double album, parts of which did reach the public prior to finalization. The Karolina and Loren Oden duet "Feel Alive," a torrid ballad with a level of sexual tension that rivals that of Rotary Connection's version of "Respect," appeared on Younge's Los Angeles compilation. A demo of the bossa-soul hybrid "Questions," featuring CeeLo Green, later formed the basis of Kendrick Lamar's "untitled 06." More remarkably, a reinterpretation of Luther Vandross' "So Amazing" applies the original 30-year-old vocal recording to astonishing effect, consequently leaving a gap in the late singer's discography for a wholly analog LP of classic ballad vocals recast with a harpist, string section, and electric pianist. These highlights are well placed within an astutely paced sequence of short and bittersweet love songs and instrumentals, all substantive and ripe for sampling. Compared to Younge albums dating back to the Black Dynamite score, this isn't as intentionally funky or as darkly psychedelic. Piano, strings, and horns have greater presence, providing a lighter, often joyous touch that complements the mostly muscular drums and chunky basslines. Various singers familiar and new to Younge sessions, including Bilal, Raphael Saadiq, Marsha Ambrosius, and relative newcomer Eryn Allen Kane -- a standout who enchants sweetly one moment and emits fire the next -- generally don't sound as tormented as they do on the Something About April albums. The freer moments are almost as stimulating as the deliberately composed numbers, epitomized by "Dans un moment d'errance," where drummer Questlove's rolling groove is ideally matched with singer Laetitia Sadier's carefree do-do-dos and saxophonist Keyon Harrold's sinuous punctuations.

Track Listing

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