Monday, 25 October 2010

Matti Roots - Beatroot - 2010 - Otherway Records

There have been a number of solid, essential albums over the past few years...albums that take you by surprise; grab you totally with mind, heart and soul and is uncompromising in soul and quality. Albums by the likes of Jazzanova, Liquid Spirits, Paul Mac Innes and T.B.O.I., Basement Soul Band, Richard Earnshaw and so on have been such recent monsters and so I am proud to add another modern day monster to the list...Matti Roots' sublime "Beatroot" set, due for release November 22nd. EVERY track is superb, well crafted and laid down with love. A young, British artist previously known for his remix work - Justin Timberlake springs to mind - this is an artist that many connoisseurs may regard with caution and choose to pass over. MONUMENTAL ERROR! Being of that nature I easily could have looked at this and turned up one's nose but one listen had me hooked within less than 30 seconds.

It's definitely in today's groove yet encompasses all that is decent, good and honest about the best of our music. In other words, the connoisseur will buy into this as much as the fly-by-night less informed 1-Xtra radio listener. It flows with a savvy tightrope of quality soul with a commercial - but uncompromising edge. It's both fresh and warmingly familiar. Encompassed in this set I hear sounds such as Brian McKnight, Stevie Wonder, Paul Mac Innes, and Mario Winans (the Motown set, before he went down the toilet with P Diddy.) There are no standout tracks. Purely and simply as ALL songs are standout tracks. That said, one song in particular touches me more than the others. More on that in a moment. From the vibrant opening, "Let's Get Back Together" with it's 70s guitar and live drum line and soulful delivery to the unashamedly programmed 80s uptempo Stevie Wonder type number "Lust" - I can even imagine better contemporary talents such as Justin Timberlake working well on this kind of groove. The current single, "OCD" is exactly what I had in mind when i talked about the crossover between the connoisseur groove and the popular radio song. Forger R&B crassness - this is the real deal.

The funky "What Am I Gonna Do", complete with sitar is essential and will definitely please, but I can guarantee one track to floor you is "Dope" featuring none other than ex-Supreme Susaye Green. This downtempo number gives me chills, and although many could not imagine Susaye singing a song with a young artist such as this, the result is devastatingly wonderful. Sounding as good as ever, and Matti stood shoulder to shoulder at the mic sounds soulful, self-assured and totally within his creative comfort zone. Both compliment each other perfectly, and Susaye gives me chills when she let's her more than ample vocals fly. Fans of Paul Mac Innes' "Welcome To The Bunker" album from 2007 will instantly fall in love with "Rough Love", and the classic "See You Again" will take you back, stylistically, to a better, halcyon era. Remarkable. The eerie and sensitive "I Miss You" would not be out of place on Mario Winans' superb 1997 Motown set and the tones and piano changes are more akin to, say, Brian McKnight's "Anytime". If this concept sounds tasty to you then please check this out. It gives me chills. Enough said.

I mentioned earlier about one particular track. "Don't Worry" is a compositional masterpiece. I have played this over and over and over and over again. Within 20 seconds of first hearing it I was welling up. We open with 90-odd seconds of beautiful forest full of birdsong, and ice-cold piano playing that would make Bob James proud. THEN we have some spine-tingling harmonies that are straight from the book of Mario Winans. If that wasn't enough Matti introduces some subtle yet amazing steel guitar - used to devastating effect by Lalah Hathaway and Chris Walker in 2005. Now, I'm in pieces by this time, then Matti suddenly changes up the groove into a wonderful and joyous warm, summery west coast number which Basement Soul Group used to their credit on their "Soul Talkin'" set. A track that would make a great cruising song down the coastal road by the beach. This song is beyond perfection. Sobering us up is the superb "Closure" with it's continuing, joyful, west coast flavour but it's the closing track, "Raw" which again gives rise to the jolly old lump in the throat. This is intelligent, grown-up soul / R&B of the highest order. It's so wonderful to not only have a musical rollercoaster these days, but an emotional one, too is also more than welcome. In these days of depression, austerity and gloom, albums and artists like this are a beacon of light. Matti Roots is a modern-day genius and for my money easily one of THE albums of not only this year but recent years.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe