April 1, 2006

CD Review: Speech - Vagabond

Wow, I haven't anything from this guy since the early days of Arrested Development, not that I ever really followed his career. I do remember really liking that Arrested Development album, 3 Years 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life of --. After that, though, I never paid them much mind. I do know that Speech had put out a few solo albums over the years, but never really went out of my way to listen to them. Why is this release different from all the others he had? Well, the answer is pretty simple, it arrived on my doorstep, so I decided to give it a spin. If not for that event, I am pretty sure I would have been left, uh, speechless.

Vagabond is a strong, mature work that is likely to appeal to a wide variety of R&B and hip hop fans, possibly even expanding out from there. His music is not offensive, there is no gratuitous rapping about bling, or violence, or sex, or using vulgarities rather his songs contain word about relationships and personal responsibility, family, and spirituality.

Speech's music is at the crossroads of R&B and rap, and even a bit of funk and jazz. He blends laid back beats with his smooth rapping style, and some guest singers, to create a relaxing album that you can put on and just relax too. This not something that is usually in my realm of expertise, well it isn't in my realm at all, but I am willing to give all of it a chance. Vagabond is just an enjoyable album from start to finish.

Despite the smooth, easy to listen to style, there is something that is slightly gnawing. Speech doesn't seem to be taking any chances with the music. Content to just tell his tales, without making any waves. It would be nice to see an intelligent well spoken artist, of which Speech appears to be, take his styles and take it to the people. Take the socially conscious lyrical skills and seek to spark changes. I find someone like Michael Franti to be more along that route. Those thoughts slip away as easily as they have come, as the music flows so smoothly. It is the kind of album you can put on and expect pretty much everyone to enjoy. This is feel good music at its finest.

The album opens with "Braided Hair," where life is compared to the twisting of hair. A fun track, which is followed by the equally fun "Scandal." Other highlights include "Walking in the Sun" which has a fun original sound, and I have to mention "Have Fun," which features guest player Victor Wooten on bass. There is even a John Lennon cover song in the form of "Across the Universe." Closing out the album is "Gone Away," a tribute to his brother, and a touching end to the album.

Bottomline. It may not forge any new ground, it is still a nice listen. Smooth rapping and singing with nice beats. Speech has delivered a fine album here that will most likely be overlooked as the marketplace has moved on from this style of music. If you are looking a mellow album to groove to, this just may fill the bill.

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