Human (Words and Sounds Vol.2) by Jill Scott Ė reviewed by Chris Mann
Jill Scott began her performing career reading her own poetry. She was
heard by Amir,
drummer in the
Roots, who invited her to join the band in the studio,
resulting in the co-composition "You Got Me," a Top 40 pop hit
later collaborated with Eric
Smith, and Common
and broadened her performing experience by touring Canada in a
production of the Broadway musical Rent. Signed to Steve
McKeever's newly formed Hidden Beach Recordings label, she
released her debut album, Who
Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds Vol. 1, in July 2000.
This, her second studio album, was released in late 2004.
Up is just that Ė a run through of some
Eastern tonalities and vocal percussion.
The monumental Iím not Afraid grabbed me immediately
with a heavy hip-hop bassline, a snapping snare keeping it moving and
other-worldly keyboards. Once
the clarity and power of the lyrics hit me, that was it!
ďIím not afraid to be a lady Ė Iím not afraid to be your
whoreÖĒ are lines which pin you to the chair and make you listen.
Jill really preaches on Golden. This is the type of vocal
and arrangement that makes guys like me into soul music fans.
There is not a dull moment on this upbeat, finger-snapping
totally optimistic track. You
can, you should, you must dance to it!
vocal is softer, sexier and really appealing on the dreamy The Fact
Is (I Need You). Youíll
already be getting used to the fact that Jill creates an atmosphere
within 4 bars of a song and this is no exception.
I love the harp and the sexy backing vocalsÖ
The slow rhythm and elegant string section create all the beauty
thatís needed on Spring Summer Feeling but of course that
breathy vocal gives you more and you should just let go and let this
wash over you. I almost
believed that people had stopped making vocal music this goodÖ
Minnie Ripperton is cited as one of Jill Scottís influences and
this track, to me, shows that.
piano riff will hypnotise you on a tale of love remembered, Cross My
Mind. That and the
simple drum and cymbal pattern are all thatís needed to keep you
spellbound as the vocal enchants once again.
The bassline is almost not there but because of that itís really
there! Bedda At Home
kinda shocks you out of the reverie.
It chugs along purposefully and has a crazy 60ís rhythm guitar
sample in there.
To Me is another strong, very relevant
lyric laid over an ominous rhythm that opens out into a really classy
big-band tune with sparkle and style.
You will not hear anything like this in the near future.
Youíre hearing the early work of a performer who will be
knocking you out in years to come.
The arrangement is fabulous.
Thereís a lovely old-fashioned feeling on Family Reunion,
with party noises in the background and a Mizell Brothers-type string
arrangement. This is from
the heart and really old-skool.
adore the Isleys-style heavy bass and sparse production on Canít
Explain. Producers of
slick music with every keyboard you can find Ė please listen to this.
The horns and string synth are used perfectly. This timeless soul sound carries on with Whatever.
Itís the story of a liberated woman who still wants to please
her lover Ė itís sexy powerful stuff.
drum sound dominates on Not Like Crazy and the bass is used very
effectively, as it is on earlier songs.
Maybe itís too heavy but it doesnít matter because the
heavier the backing instrumentation is, the sweeter that voice sounds in
contrast. Itís a
testament to the guys who engineered this CD that the
instrumentation/vocal balance is never lost.
Nothing (Interlude) is a great example of this Ė a
spoken lead vocal over a huge drum sound with whispered backing vocals
panning very wide.
is a very intense urban fable which calls for repeated listenings Ė
itís very sobering. The
mood lightens with the pretty piano and acoustic guitar backing on My
Petition. This is
possibly even a better example of Minnie Rippertonís influence than
Spring Summer Feeling. Itís
certainly a good example of how less can be more in music production.
Think of some of the old Herbie Hancock tunes of the mid-70ís
and then imagine them with some inspirational lyrics from a true
poetess. Thatís what you
get on I Keep, which has the sparsest rhythm guitar and drums
with soft female backing vocals which provide gorgeous accents
throughout. Still Here
is separated from I Keep by 30 seconds of crackly vinyl record sound and
though itís part of the same track itís really a poem set to music
Ė itís a heavy, urban lullaby.
To my shame, though I bought Jill Scottís first CD about 18 months ago, I have only listened to it in passing. I have to go back and revisit it because the latest CD is a modern classic. I keep referring to ďsoul musicĒ and ďsoul soundĒ. I know that the modern term is ďR&BĒ but Iíll make no apologies for staying with terminology Iím at home with. Musically, this is as classy as anything you could hear in the 1970ís and lyrically itís as good as anything you could hear at any time. Itís not as shocking as, say, Millie Jacksonís music but I promise you, this is more than just a grooveÖ
Hidden Beach Recordings Ė HBR00012 Executive Producers - Jill Scott, Steve McKeever, Jazzy Jeff Townes, Lyzel Williams