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Jamie Lidell - Compass

Jamie Lidell, Compass

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THREE albums in and Jamie Lidell continues to push himself vocally and instrumentally with Compass… an LP that’s gleefully content to shift direction at every opportunity.

A busy mix of funk, blues and soul that showcase Lidell’s expressive vocals, as well as his instrumental ingenuity, it also chronicles a year of change, love, longing and arrival at a new place.

Recorded in Los Angeles, New York and Canada, Jamie’s fellow travelers on Compass include Beck, Feist, Gonzales, Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear and Pat Sansone of Wilco… and influences of one and all abound.

It serves to make Compass Lidell’s most eclectic album yet, with songs shifting, chopping and changing, while mutating genres and forms before your very ears.

Sessions began at Beck’s Hudson Studios in Los Angeles, where he gathered Jamie together with Wilco, Leslie Feist and veteran drummer James Gadson (who’s hit sticks for Bill Withers, Quincy Jones among many others) for Beck’s Record Club project (where a group of musicians cover an album in a day).

Inspired by the chemistry of those jams, they shifted to the legendary Ocean Way Studios.

There, they were joined by producer/keyboardist Brian Lebarton, singer Nikka Costa, and Justin Stanley.

All would have an important impact on the album.

Pat Sansone, from Wilco, and Chilly Gonzales (who’s played on both Multiply and Jim) were present as “musical meta-spirits”, recording their parts remotely and delivering them via the internet.

Back in New York, Lidell then began to make sense of this “great big mess on the hard drive”.

Then it was up to Feist’s ranch the Niagara Escarpment, Canada with Chris Taylor, producer and member of Brooklyn avant-pop sensations Grizzly Bear.

As you might expect from such an epic journey and a wealth of talent, that “great big mess” occasionally sounds like one. But this says as much about Lidell’s desire to continually surprise listeners (often in the same track) as it does the approach to building the LP.

When he hooks it up, though, the results can often be thrilling. Album opener Completely Exposed drops some early distinct beats, before taking you through a funky early workout that’s invigorating to say the least.

While there’s a bluesy, folksy, Beck-like element to Your Sweet Boom, during which Lidell’s vocals come over all BB King.

She Needs Me is Al Green-esque soul, complete with flutes and piano backing (a late night seducer in waiting?), while I Wanna Be Your Telephone drops another slice of funk spliced with animal sounds and DIY synth loops. It’s one of the album’s weaker points, though.

Fortunately, he rediscovers an appealing groove with the Jackson Five strut of Enough’s Enough – a proper gem – and contines the feelgood vibe across tracks like You Are Walking (OutKast anyone?), title track Compass (a banjo-infused moment of intimacy) and the blues-rock stomp of the down and dirty Coma Chameleon.

Admittedly, tracks like It’s A Kiss and The Ring don’t bring much to the overall picture, and occasionally feel like over-indulgences.

But in the main, Lidell’s third offering is a smart performer that thrives because of its steadfast refusal to pander to the mainstream. He’s well worth discovering if you like to take your musical kicks with a keen sense of adventure.

Download picks: Completely Exposed, Your Sweet Boom, Enough’s Enough, Compass, Coma Chameleon

Track listing:

  1. Completely Exposed
  2. Your Sweet Boom
  3. She Needs Me
  4. I Wanna Be Your Telephone
  5. Enough’s Enough
  6. The Ring
  7. You Are Waking
  8. I Can Love Again
  9. It’s a Kiss
  10. Compass
  11. Gypsy Blood
  12. Coma Chameleon
  13. Big Drift
  14. You See My Light