At first I thought I was listening to a new Donald Fagen album – the similarities are really significant on the opening title track to Raul Midón‘s new album where he plays guitar, sings, raps, plays percussion and is responsible for some programming, too. Except for the rap in the middle of the song, that’s about the only Donald Fagen soundalike on the album though except maybe that some of his phrasings and background vocal arrangements really do sound like Steely Dan from time to time. Which is not a bad thing of course!
After a short “Red, Green, Yellow”, it’s back to signature Raul with “Pedal To The Medal” and on “Wings Of Mind”, what really suits him very well is the use of a cool rhythm section consisting of pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. Nicholas Payton tops it off with a swell solo. Raul’s inimitable mixture of the best of Al Jarreau and Bobby McFerrin and his strong vocals and inventive songwriting especially shine through on the songs where he uses these guys to accompany him. My favorite has got to be “If Only”, a sensitive midtempo groove ballad with some nicely bouncing guitar and piano solos.
On “Sound Shadow”, he goes back to the other group of musicians participating with him for his latest: Richard Hammond on electric bass and Lionel Cordew on drums. Raul is also responsible for all backing vocals again and most of his songs still have this very cathy characteristic of staying in your head for a long time. The lovely ballad “Jack (Robert Lorick)” with its slightly folksy touch adds more nuance and color to the project. It is also the only song on the album where Raul plays everything himself. We also get a sweet little pop song in the shape of “You & I”.
Trumpet and trumpet overdubs by Nicholas Payton are back for the jazzy “All That I Am” which has another compelling piano solo by Gerald Clayton. “All that I see is in the eyes of my mind”, sings Raul and “All that I am is in the sound of my song”, summing up his craft and artistry. The album closes with “Gotta Gotta Give” which doesn’t really resonate with its rocky overtones and the only song which Raul didn’t write for his album, the Steve Miller classic “Fly Like An Eagle” which comes across like a pretty lacklustre cover version and reminds me why Raul should really stick to writing his own stuff which is much more refreshing.