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Us3 - Questions


Review: Jack Foley

THE world's of jazz, funk and rap collide for a fourth time in Us3's fourth album, Questions, which is described by the outfit as their most personal work to date.

Whereas An Ordinary Day In An Unusual Place dealt with socio-economic issues, Questions looks inward for its inspiration, tackling issues such as stress, positive thinking and that uplifting moment when you know that you just have to dance.

Not that dancing is difficult around Us3, given the quality of their jazz influenced urban sounds, which lean heavily towards a latino R&B vibe.

Tracks such as What Does That Mean? and Can You Feel It? certainly ensure that you'll be getting into the groove at some point, while an updated take on an old favourite, Cantaloop 2004, contains enough freshness about it to feel worth the trip, especially since the original acid-jazz melodies and piano underscores remain as timeless as ever.

Joining the Us3 fraternity this time around, however, are two new vocalists - London-based singer, Mpho, and Brookyln-native, Reggi Wyns.

Mpho is a vocalist and songwriter with infuences as far reaching as her South African background, which include Joni Mitchell, Sly Stone and Rick James.

While Reggi is a multi-faceted artist, who recording credits include two independent albums with highly-acclaimed New York rap crew, LIB, and film credits, including roles in hip-hop drama, Brown Sugar, and romantic comedy, Serendipity.

Mpho's contributions come in the form of the R&B-heavy Whatcha Gonna Do and When She's Dancing, which provide an excellent showcase for her distinctive vocals, and which contain plenty of latin influence, as well as a smattering of South American percussion and the montuno piano riffs of Neil Angilley (especially When She's Dancing).

Reggi, meanwhile, lends his vocal expertise to Can U Feel It?, which once more taps into the acid hip-hop groove, complete a delicious slice of funky flute from Ed Jones.

World issues do get a look in as well, especially during another of the album's highpoints, What Does That Mean?, which again finds Reggi questioning the meaning of the word, 'peace', amid a moody, bass-line heavy beat, and some funky cuts from DJ First Rate.

The flute returns with a vengeance for another gem, Why Not?, which features several outstanding interludes, while final track, The Healer, wraps things up in suitable style, while also serving to underline the personal nature of the album.

The track is dedicated to Geoff's baby daughter, Asa (which means 'the healer'), who recovered from a serious illness last Summer.

The Fela Kuti-inspired dedication features the funky Us3 horn section of Ed and Chris, joined by the Nigerian guitarist, Femi Temowo, who also plays a very George Benson-like guitar and scat solo.

It is a celebration of life, which sums up the feeling you get from listening to the album as a whole.

Us3 have never been so darn funky, it seems...

 

 

 

Track listing:
1. A New Beginning
2 Whatcha Gonna Do?
3 Get it Together
4 What Does That Mean?
5 Believe in Yourself
6 Cantaloop 2004: Soul mix
7 Can u feel it?
8 When She's Dancing
9 Why Not?
10 The Truth
11 Goodbye
12 Give Thanks
13 The Healer

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