Thursday, September 21, 2017

Album Review: Lord Echo - Harmonies (2017)

Following on from Melodies and Curiosities, Harmonies is the third album in a Lord Echo trilogy which spans more than a decade for ex-Black Seed multi-instrumentalist and producer, Michael August, aka Mike Fabulous. And while it would probably be technically correct to call the 10-track release a “solo” work, Harmonies is all about collaboration, with the album being all the richer for the key contributions made by Electric Wire Hustle’s Mara TK (vocals), Fat Freddy’s horn man Toby Laing, with Lucien Johnson on sax, and cameo appearances from Leila Adu and Lisa Tomlins. Which is something close to a mini “Who’s Who” of the local funk scene, and all have featured on previous Lord Echo releases. Naturally enough, the whole thing oozes warm vibes, as a hybrid disco-meets-reggae-meets-afro soul concoction of knee-buckling sweetness, with all manner of instrumentation on hand to keep things fresh and always interesting. Recorded and produced at August’s Gracefield (Lower Hutt) studio, and released on the London-based Soundway label, it would be no stretch to contend that this is the best offering yet from Lord Echo. Mara TK’s vocal gymnastics on the sublime 'Just Do You' is one of the more obvious highlights, while Tomlins’ star turn on the Philly soul classic 'I Love Music' breathes new life into a much loved old banger, and it works as an ideal album closer. In addition to standard forms, the release also comes in a double vinyl edition specifically for the discerning club DJ.

(note – this review was originally intended for publication on the NZ Musician platform (magazine/website). Usually I try to give NZM a period of some exclusivity on the album reviews they ask me to write, before publishing the review on the blog at a later date. Given that on most occasions the chance to review comes courtesy of a CD sent via the post, it feels like the right way to go about things. However, this was written and sent to the magazine for publication ten weeks ago, so I can only imagine it has somehow disappeared into the ether … hence sharing it here while it still has some degree of “new release” relevance).

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