There is something deeply satisfying with the mixture of deep house and jazz, neo-soul and pop. Ben Jacobs, known as Crackazat, has come up with the perfect album, combining all those elements and more on his new album “Evergreen”, to be released this Friday on Freerange Records, the label co-founded by Jimpster (Jamie Odell), whose own catalogue was released on vinyl last year on the brilliant “Anthology” albums.
His four-track EP “Beacon Of Light” came out about a couple of months ago and its title track reminds me of the best of Larry Heard, circa “Back To Love” (1994), including the warm and inspirational vocals. The soulful underground house mixed with jazzy piano and really mesmerizing keys all add for the irresistible and effervescent title track, a piece with a melody which won’t leave your head for weeks. Great vocals here, too. Another exciting aspect of this album is its songwriting power. Whereas a lot of deep house or underground house pieces put the focus on groove and mood only, Crackazat comes up with actual songs which really make the difference. Perfect example: “Everybody Talks About It”, where Masters at Work meet Mr. Fingers on a song which could have been written by the late great Rod Temperton for one of Quincy Jones’ productions. “By far the hardest part was getting my vocals to a standard I was happy with”, says Crackazat in the press release for the album. The hard work has really paid off. Great horn arrangement on this one too.
There is more great stuff to explore here, like the Tom Misch-inspired “I’m Easy” with very compelling handclaps supporting the reiterating chorus. There is a live feel throughout the record, like on the moody and jazzy “Simple Things”, another MAW-influenced track where the vocals and melody remind me of the still brilliant “Return To Forever” album by the much missed Jimmy Abney. More stuff for the dancefloor can be found on the trippy “It’s All Different” and the soulful vocals on the housey “True Power” – excellent stuff. Some Latin influences grace the powerful “Save Something”, a track which comes right out of the Kenny Dope Gonzalez/Louie Vega corner.
I really like the funky groove and keys on “Nominee For Love”, another contender for song of the year, which also has some mean brass arrangement harking back to the glorious funk days of the 70s. It seems as if the last three tracks on this masterpiece will accompany me forever. We get more Larry Heard-style vocals and keys on the dreamy, atmospheric “Good Enough”, one of the slower tracks on offer. Current highlight of the set is the celebratory and instantly gratifying “Thank You”, a boogie monster that saves my day each time I listen to it. What a relief! And don’t forget to pre-order the double vinyl at your local record dealer!