Esperanza Spalding continues to take the world by storm! She is releasing her third CD, RADIO MUSIC SOCIETY on Heads Up Records. This is the first release since she shocked the music world into reality when she won the GRAMMY® Award for Best New Artist in 2011.
The enormously talented bassist/singer/composer gets an opportunity to really shine on these 12 expansive tracks, each one its own fully contained story. She manages to successfully take her jazz ambitions and wrap them accessible song-craft with smart lyrics and themes.
The opening track, “Radio Song,” sets the tone for the entire project. It starts out as a simple song about that feeling you get when you hear your favorite song come on the car radio--you know--when you say "that's my SONG." Then things change up, and Spalding's jazz instincts smoothly take over as the tempo changes and the vocals become scat-inspired, before returning to the familiar opening.
The lovely "Cinnamon Tree" is a an ode to the nature that is as intriguing as it is beautiful.
"Crowned and Kissed " is a love song to her noble "King," which starts with a nice fanfare and continues with a great horn arrangement, layered under her declaration that she is there for him.
"Black Gold" is an inspirational nod to the "builders of civilization" -- an anthem of pride. This song features guest vocalist Algebra Blesset. The two share the vocals, encouraging a young man to "hold your head as high as you can," and prodding him toward the realization that he is descended from greatness. [See the moving video on this page]
The Stevie Wonder composition "I Can't Help It," first recorded by Michael Jackson, is one of two songs on the CD not written by Miss Spalding. The arrangement expands on the songs’ natural jazzy foundation, and Spalding’s vocals are warm and swinging.
"Hold on Me" is a big band torch song, with clever lyrics. This songs really gives the musicians a chance to shine, with a wide open arrangement supporting Spalding's sassy vocal delivery.
"Vague Suspicions" is one of the most beautiful and evocative songs of the collection. It begins with Spalding's bass setting the somber mood. Lyrically, it is a haunting exposition of the way casualties of war are handled on "the Neon News." This is a very ambitious undertaking, but coupled with the next track, it is evident that she is not afraid to be controversial. Wayne Shorter's "Endangered Species" has been given original lyrics here by Spalding, and she is joined by Lalah Hathaway in the creative delivery. The fellow Berklee College of Music alumni make a formidable team here, delivering a not too subtle parable about our tenuous relationship with Mother Nature herself.
"City Of Roses" is an audio postcard/love letter to Spalding’s beloved hometown of Portland, Oregon.
The final track on the CD "Smile Like That" is probably the best indicator that Esperanza Spalding is creating her own lane in the music world. She is a masterful musician, a thoughtful lyricist, and a sensitive vocalist of increasing confidence. A fine assemblage of additional musicians participated in this amazing project including Joe Lovano, Terri-Lynne Carrington, Gretchen Parlato, Lionel Loueke and Q-tip. There is a freedom of expression espoused here, that is rare and uplifting. She is a revelation and a breath of fresh air.
Prepare to be wowed by the level of artistry on this collection.
About the Writer
Michael Lewis is a long-time associate at SoulMusic.com. His industry experience includes Sony Music, Motown and La Face Records, and a tenure at HEAR Music. He is grateful to contribute to sustaining the legacy of R&B and soul music.