After two albums with Durand Jones & The Indications, vocalist and drummer Aaron Frazer has just released his debut album, produced by Dan Auerbach, frontman of The Black Keys. One of the rare treats of this album is that it actually works from start to finish. I mean, you can really listen through both sides of the album and the 12 tracks in total without ever needing to put the needle off the record.
That’s a rare feat since Aaron’s falsetto vocals are featured here on the entire album which, according to Auerbach in Billboard, “opens you up to a whole new world. It’s so unique and so singular, especially now in this day and age. I think it can really transfix people — really cut through all the mess. That frequency is so rare.” The album’s tracks are full of Motown, Gospel, even some Hip-Hop and Pop/Rock, with the soul numbers actually reminding me in style and mood of the 1970 LP “Tasteful Soul” by The Main Ingredient. On a couple of tracks, Aaron puts on a Smokey Robinson hat. “Lover Girl” and “Girl On The Phone” both sound as if they’re right out of the Smokey & Miracles book circa 1967. Other pieces remind of the good old Philadelphia International days, especially “Ride With Me”. Oozing soul and class!
I recently came across a list of Aaron’s favorite albums where he mentioned Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, and Carole King. Illustrious role models, indeed. But not at all overstated. Accompanying Aaron’s traditional songwriting and vocals is a superb engineering and mixing work, courtesy of Auerbach and M. Allen Parker (who recorded the album in Nashville). Also, the heavy use of the Wurlitzer Electric Piano, Mellotron, Harpsichord, and brass flatter the overall sound of the album without placing it anywhere near the nostalgia mold. Curtis Mayfield shines through on “If I Got It (Your Love Brought It)”, sparse background vocals adding to the excitement. More Curtis influences and one of my favorite tracks on the album loom behind “Bad News”, putting it into the instant classic category, that kind of song which you simply can’t get enough of. Cute flute on this piece.
On slow numbers, like the wonderful ballad “Have Mercy”, the background vocals by Mr. Auerbach and Pat McLaughlin are mixed so fittingly in retro style, making this another standout track. Sparse vibes and percussion only add to the consummate elegancy of the tune. And “Done Lyin'”, another sparsely arranged deep soul cut with gentle Rhodes and more of those irresistible background vocals (Ashley Wilcoxson), has the drums mixed right up in your face and helps to quickly establish this album as a more than welcome distraction from the current lockdown.
The LP is available on regular black vinyl, but also on translucent pink glass vinyl. So who needs a download link?