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The Stereo MCs - Paradise


Review: Jack Foley

IT'S been four years since we've heard anything from The Stereo MCs but their 'comeback album', Paradise, is a strong return to form and the funk-hop sound of their roots.

Released on their own label, Graffiti Recordings, Paradise is as socially aware as it is dance-orientated, touching upon some extremely relevant issues while also tossing up some feel-good anthems.

Opening track and album highlight, Warhead, is immediately recognisable for blending bass, horns and keys that sit in sharp contrast to Rob B’s laconic rhyming style.

It bears all the hallmarks of the band’s trademark sound while providing something that remains fresh and politically-relevant in these troubled times - and the use of horns and strings are particularly effective against the driving beat and authoritative vocals.

Former single and title track, Paradise, is similarly impressive, brimming with the laconic, loose-limbed funk of old, some shimmering brass stabs and more of Rob B’s call-and-response vocals.

In contrast, First Love offers a slo-mo glimpse of a rarely-seen side to the band, complete with a genuinely soulful chorus and a more song-led structure that once more demonstrates their growing maturity.

It’s a genuine eye-opener, courtesy of the Shirley Bassey-style vocals, and its immaculate beat. It is another of the album's instant highlights.

Strings combine with Spanish and electric guitar on the melancholy, blues-tinged The Fear, which drops in some really sassy female vocals.

While there's a distinctly acid jazz vibe to Don't Know, one of several funk-driven numbers that look certain to raise the temperature on the dancefloor.

Just occasionally, there's even a nod to the vocal style of Ian Brown in some of Rob B's vocals - especially during tracks like Don't Know.

While some good flute work ensures that Float On, with its gospel-tinged chorus, rises above the norm, even if, as a whole, it lacks the ambition of some of the album's better material - much like Prime Time and Set If Off.

That said, Paradise impresses more than it disappoints and remains one of the best albums the Stereo MCs have assembled in ages.

It's well worth checking out.

Track listing:
1. Warhead
2. Set It Off
3. First Love
4. Sun
5. The Fear
6. Don’t Know
7. Float On
8. Paradise
9. Prime Time
10. I Feel You
11. Breathe Out
12. Out Of Control

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