Growing up, I was exposed to the music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson from the albums my cousin had in his large music collection. Some of my young discoveries turned me on to albums such as Winter In America, Secrets and Bridges. As I got older, I dove deeper into their catalog, where I learned even more about the late Scott-Heron’s messages and poems set to music. It was this music I thought about when I received the new album from Soul Basement from Fabio Puglisi, When We Leave Behind.
Another thing that I noticed is that the music has that ’70s feel, much like Scott-Heron’s and Jackson’s. Whether that is because this particular album was cut live in the studio, or just the instruments used (a lot of electric piano, live percussion and horns, although there are touches of synthesizer throughout as well) isn’t quite as easy to tell, but it pulls off the feat with ease. Also similar but not exactly the same, is the voice of vocalist Jay Nemor. Nemor deserves his featured credit on the album; he sings and/or performs spoken word throughout all eight songs on the album. His baritone voice sounds quite a bit like Scott-Heron’s, and it carries each tune to its preferred destination. His smooth baritone gives each of the song’s messages the necessary weight they deserve.
There aren’t many albums out today that endeavor to speak positive and timely messages in the way Scott-Heron did back in the day, but this one certainly gives it a great effort. These songs speak of love, the hypocrisy of politicians and of keeping a positive attitude. On songs “Noise Pollution” and “It’s Time,” Nemor rails against politicians and our need to find leaders, respectively. Nemor notes particularly on “It’s Time” that most of the change that comes to fruition in the world comes from the people themselves; not from “leaders.” On standout song “Love Will Find You,” Nemor makes sure to mention that we need to find ourselves first before we can truly have love find us. And on album closer “Future Reminiscence,” Nemor’s spoken words reflect back on his younger days while having a positive outlook toward the future.
For reminding me of music from my childhood that I learned to appreciate far more as I grew up, this is a very solid effort from Soul Basement and Nemor. I’ll be interested to see if the duo continue to pursue this direction or move on to something else together or separately.
Review Grade: B