When the HBO series “How to Make it in America” premiered earlier this year there was a lot of buzz—and it was mostly about the theme song. “I Need a Dollar” is the first track off of Aloe Blacc’s 2010 release Good Things (Stones Throw Records) and it’s certainly noteworthy. The swanky beat paired with Blacc’s vocals about the struggle to earn a living undoubtedly resonated with more than a few of the viewers who tuned in and caught the opening credits. I still don’t know much about the show, but I do know that this album is stellar.
His sound is vintage R&B, and his voice is sincerely soulful. While he could have
easily used lyrics to put a modern shine on the rhythms of the album, his language
stays true to the classic genre. He tells stories on the tracks “Miss Fortune”
and “Mama Hold My Hand” with a startling, sorrowful presence. “Hey Brother” is a
warning to a friend about his two-timing lady friend and the approach to this tried
lyrical premise is funky and refreshing.
Surprisingly, what brings the album home is Blacc’s cover of the Velvet
Underground’s “Femme Fatale.” The song was originally released on the The
Velvet Underground & Nico in 1967 and is famously based on Edie Sedgwick, the
ill-fated socialite who ran with Andy Warhol in his prime. An iconic song, I could only imagine it being forcibly sculpted to fit the flow of the album with butchered results. In actuality Blacc re-imagines the tune, coming at it with a soulful touch and arranging pregnant pauses alongside a few extra eighth-notes. He brings a new and impressive drama to the song.
Good Things easily sounds like it was recorded 35 years ago. His old school
sensibilities make this album a narrative that has been absent from popular R&B for far too long. I recommend this album to fans of Bill Withers, Bobby Womack, and Raphael Saadiq. As always it will be available at OZ music on my employee picks.