Uptown Music for Downtown Kids

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Artists with highly eclectic tastes can frighten radio programmers and marketing people, but when evaluated on a creative level rather than a sales/marketing level, those artists have much to offer. Fredalba's debut album, Uptown Music for Downtown Kids, is a perfect example of a CD that is fun to listen to but difficult to categorize. Combining alternative rock, funk, hip-hop, soul, and reggae, Fredalba vocalist Eric Balfour (who is also an actor) makes it clear that he identifies with music's genre-busters -- a list that includes, among others, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prince, Faith No More, the Beastie Boys, and G. Love & Special Sauce. All of those risk-takers are influences on this 2004 release, which is consistently funky but is probably too rock-minded and guitar-friendly for most urban contemporary stations in the United States. Whatever happens at radio -- whatever formats are receptive or unreceptive -- Uptown Music for Downtown Kids is a generally promising debut. That isn't to say that the 47-minute disc is perfect; some tunes are stronger than others. But when Balfour and his colleagues hit their creative mark, one realizes how much potential they have. One of the best tracks is the compelling "Revelation," which describes a tragic auto accident Balfour was involved in. Long story short: the vocalist/actor's car was hit by a drunken driver, which forced him onto a sidewalk (where his car struck and seriously injured a young boy). The accident was in no way Balfour's fault; even so, one hears the pain in his voice on "Revelation." Another memorable track is the sexually charged "Slide Your Breath," which isn't unlike something Prince would do. Not everything on this album is as memorable as "Revelation" or "Slide Your Breath," but overall, Uptown Music for Downtown Kids indicates that Fredalba is well worth keeping an eye on.

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