Published Jun 06, 2018In harsh times like these, it's good to take a pause now and then. With their long-gestating, Harlem Renaissance-inspired first full-length, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Adrian Younge have crafted a perfect chillout for the woke.
Recorded with a jazz rhythm section and a full orchestra, with a plethora of guest artists, The Midnight Hour is both intimate and expansive. "Black Beacon" opens with cascading strings, piano, and a resolute head-bobbing bounce that's awash in a nocturnal jazz club aura that permeates the album's hour-long length.
Love and romance comprise much of the lyrical content and the mellow groove of "It's You" (featuring Raphael Saadiq), the playful, bossa nova-tinged "Questions" (a nicely restrained CeeLo Green), "Don't Keep Me Waiting," with a typically creamy vocal courtesy of Marsha Ambrosius, and a jazzy re-imagining of Luther Vandross's "So Amazing" (featuring his original vocals) are sumptuous delights.
Save for the lysergic Isaac Hayes-indebted "Redneph in B Minor," none of the instrumental cuts, like the meditative "Gate 54" or "Mission," are as dopely cinematic as Muhammad's and Younge's Luke Cage soundtrack (the recording of which pre-empted The Midnight Hour's production) or as psychedelic and adventurous as Younge's previous Something About April releases, and that seems to be The Midnight Hour's purpose. It's an analogue oasis of the past that rejuvenates for the present. (Linear Labs)