Tre Hardson Liberation

With the Pharcyde now pared down to the duo of Romye and Imani, and Fatlip continuing on somewhere as a solo artist, the only remaining original member, the artist formerly known as Slim Kid Tre, has delivered his first solo effort. If any member of the Pharcyde seemed likely to embark on a solo career, it was Hardson, as his sing-song delivery on standout Pharcyde tracks like "Otha Fish" and "Moment In Time" always hinted that he might break out on his own. Recorded over a three-year period, Liberation evidently finds Hardson in a transitory period in his life, with themes of spirituality and love looming large on this project. Much of the album is anchored by a low-key and organic soul vibe often fleshed out with a live band, which favours a loosely creative approach where Hardson is more interested in his own self-exploration than currying mass appeal. This approach does yield its share of weaker moments and melodic similarities hindering the distinctiveness of the songs. Yet his approach is unfailingly honest, and while there are a host of contributors from the likes of MC Lyte, Saul Williams, the Angel and Chali 2na (of the Jurassic 5), their presence has the genuine feel of friends dropping by. The best of these collaborations occurs when Hardson duets with N'Dea Davenport on "Life Is Love" and Black Eyed Peas affiliate Kim Hill on "Just Can't Hold," where his soul-searching seems to have at least momentarily found what he is looking for. (Flying Baboon)