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Jamie Lidell - Multiply

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Artist: Jamie Lidell

Album: Multiply

Label: Warp

Review date: Jun. 7, 2005

It’s extremely tempting to give Jamie Lidell a really wide berth. Covering the entire spectrum of what he accomplishes on Multiply, his first solo record in five years, would warrant comparisons as obscure as Memphis producer Willie Mitchell, to names as household as Prince, Beck, or (cough) Jamiroquai. Recommendations could range from Wire readers to Maxim voyeurs – and it’d all apply. Multiply is that rare album that can be all things to all who care to listen.

Lidell’s steez, as it was in Super_collider (his collab with Cristian Vogel, which bore two highly esteemed albums of its own), is to funk things up digitally. And both have been polishing the act for years since their split, to the point where both artists are at the tops of their collective games with new releases; Vogel (who we’ll talk about in a later review) pointing towards the future with new seamless sounds and directions, and Lidell with an unflappable reverence for the past. Both of these are good things, and in Lidell’s case, he identifies a mastery of form that few if any contemporary musicians have managed to tackle. Hometapers, even with the most sophisticated digital gear on the market, would likely break their glasses trying to duplicate what Lidell’s created here: a silky, bright, singing-in-the-shower masterstroke of joy and elation.

There have been one-man bands before, to be sure, but even as a solo performer Lidell’s got a reason to smile, because he is so totally in control of the technology behind his game. He wears it on his sleeve that he and he alone can do this, as well he should. He makes all the gear transparent with his music. His confidence works to such a great advantage that it alone could sell the performance.

The music’s laid its roots in funk and soul, a satellite from the P-Funk mothership sneakin’ out the backdoor wearing Black Moses’ sandals. The temptation would surely exist for Lidell to cannibalize the parts of music he liked and just copy and paste them out; he certainly has the skills to do so, and fuck history over in the process. Which is why it’s so surprising and exciting to hear the guy’s genuine streak beaming through the whole record.

On the ballads, he brings to mind Al Green and Willie Mitchell’s classic “Memphis Sound,” Isaac Hayes’s sterling arrangement and musical abilities of his ‘60s tenure with Stax, the late Charles Stepney’s hit streak with Earth Wind and Fire, and the heart-rending blue flame that fueled Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett, and Percy Sledge alike. When he picks up the tempo, it’s all Prince, Stevie Wonder, George Clinton; elastic-framed world-beaters programmed for maximum action, excitingly arranged and with no presets in earshot. That he could so masterfully bounce between styles is cause enough for consideration as a major talent; that he can pull them all off with a dynamite three-octave voice that can alternately soar to the studio ceiling, screech like a slammed brake, and melt like ice cream in a hot car, is some sort of minor miracle.

All of these things put together make Jamie Lidell a star. Superstar status will have to wait to see how he develops over the next few albums and wins over audiences with his live set. He doesn’t display any of the pain, sadness or dark corners that built up the underside of soul music’s nature with your Norman Whitfield, Carl Davis or Bill Withers, for one, and he also strikes out on one track, “Newme,” with a breakneck tempo and kitchen sink arrangement that sounds more like a demo reel for all his toys than a bonafide album cut. All the same, it’s about as perfect an album 2005’s going to see, and one of the best offered up this year so far. Lidell’s love keeps lifting you higher.

By Doug Mosurock

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