So many years have gone by since his still incredible debut album, but the wait was more than worth it. There were a couple of tunes from “Be The Change” (to be released on Dome Records, October 30th on double vinyl and CD) circulating in the past weeks: the highly infectious title track with gentle percussion by legend Sammy Figueroa and socially conscious lyrics, and the unbelievably soulful “Embrace What We Are”, with a groove to die for and more pleas for a better society: “It breaks my heart to see this rampant inhumanity”, a tune inspired by the long lineage of police brutality in the US. Combine all this with all the ingredients we have learned to love by Jarrod Lawson over the years: there is hardly any other artist around with a vocal prowess like his, and the heavy use of keys, often Rhodes and Moog, to underscore his intricate, but always moving compositions, is another surefire treat to his immense artistry.
Just one listen to the very beginning of the gracefully opulent soul ballad “Love Isn’t Always Enough” (they don’t make them like this anymore) is proof that here is one of the best soul singers at work. The only comparison which I think would be legitimate to make, is the Stevie Wonder of the 70s.
We also get a wonderful track with one of my favorite artists, Moonchild. On “I’ll Be Your Radio”, Amber Navran’s voice meanders over and through a heavenly moogish keyboard stream and I think both hers and Jarrod’s voices just gel perfectly. Here’s a quick video how this collaboration took shape. There is a simply hard to resist funkiness on “Battlefield”, high on percussion and an assortment of keys, topped off with Jarrod’s amazing vocal range. Sort of a sequel to “Gotta Keep” from his debut. But it’s on the midtempo swayers where he simply gets us excited, like on the brilliantly lush flow of “Universal Chord”, an instant classic with Jarrod’s hovering vocals and overdubs shaping the wonderful melody. I simply can’t get enough of this.
There is a lot more to discover: the intro to “Why Don’t You Call Me Baby Anymore” is worth the trip alone here. The tune reminds me of some of the best early 80s George Duke productions, circa 1983 Jeffrey Osborne. A wickedly funky soul trance. Or the bluesy ballad “Evalee”, a blissfully thick slow jam. “Connected” is another one of those compelling midtempo grooves you come back to over and over again. We get a new makeover of the majestic “Soul Symphony”, which he recorded in 2015 for the 4-track “Live at the BBC” vinyl, but be preapred for something like the save the best for last finale here: “How Long” probably sums up best the thrilling, consummate artistry of Jarrod: the percussive jam and woodwinds add an exotic flavor to a tune which is both arraigning, but at the same time spreads hope with its joyful stance. Funny coincidence that this record is coming out just shortly before one of the most important elections: “How long will you ignore the people’s cries and turn away from their lamenting eyes”. I hope we have the right answer after November 3rd. Just remember to “be the change”.
Make sure to pre-order this record of the year. You won’t find anything like it. I have saved my double vinyl copy already.