José James | Black Magic – [Brownswood Recordings, 2010]I have been living with “Black Magic” for the last two weeks and for me the challenge was letting go of my attachment to “The Dreamer” and letting “Black Magic” introduce itself to me on its own terms. In many ways “The Dreamer” is a hard act to follow – it is a nearly flawless debut carefully crafted to be a timeless classic. The challenge with “Black Magic” is that it is concerned with the “now’ enlisting cutting edge producers and collaborators from the global dance underground like Moodymann, Flying Lotus, DJ Mitsu the Beats, and Benga to give an identity to the project. Such a strategy begs the question of whether or not it will hold up in the coming years or become dated. IMHO I don’t see this happening because underpinning the project is a dedication to high aesthetics and a reinforcement of the qualities that initially attracted me to Mr. James’ music – there’s quality writing, musicianship and production all on offer here.
The album is sophisticated but still retains the hazy-lazy flow of “The Dreamer” . You can put on “Black Magic” and just go where it leads. Repeated listening reveals the depths embedded in each track, each listen makes clearer the cohesion of the whole project. Highlights abound – Promises in Love, Code, Black Magic, Love Conversation, Save your Love for me, Made for Love, and more.
Overall, a smart update of Mr. James’ approach and sound; one that I am glad to be around to hear. I hope there’s a vinyl edition. Highly recommended. —Jetrocket
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