The Foreign Exchange - Dear Friends: An Evening with The Foreign Exchange (CD + DVD) (2011)

The Foreign Exchange
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With the right look, a functioning larynx and some creative engineering in place, practically anyone these days can have a 'hit'; but the litmus test of legitimacy comes from live performance, since the indelible moments  that connect musicians to the masses simply cannot be faked. And while there’s nothing wrong with special-effects-laden, larger-than-life stage shows, it’s the rapport created by the organic synergy between the artists and audience that makes Dear Friends: An Evening With Foreign Exchange such a delight to experience.

With the right look, a functioning larynx and some creative engineering in place, practically anyone these days can have a 'hit'; but the litmus test of legitimacy comes from live performance, since the indelible moments  that connect musicians to the masses simply cannot be faked. And while there’s nothing wrong with special-effects-laden, larger-than-life stage shows, it’s the rapport created by the organic synergy between the artists and audience that makes Dear Friends: An Evening With Foreign Exchange such a delight to experience.

Recorded on both audio and video from their invitation-only appearance at SoundPure Studios in Durham, NC, The Foreign Exchange---consisting of Dutch musician and producer, Nicolay, and Little Brother’s former front man, lead vocalist and co-collaborator, Phonte Coleman----offer up an acoustic blend of ten of their best-known hits, accompanied by the members of their touring outfit: vocalists Sy Smith and Jeanne Jolly, percussionist Tim Scott Jr., Zo! on piano, Chris Boerner on acoustic guitar and Kush El-Amin on acoustic bass. The sparsely-arranged songs are delivered with eloquence and enthusiasm: “Take Off The Blues,” stripped of its rhythmic foundation, becomes supple and soothing, and “Laughing At Your Plans” scales back on the urgency, but doesn’t lose focus, with its less-cluttered live take. Their Grammy-nominated slow-burner, “Daykeeper,” is playfully updated with a pronounced southern twang, and the unexpected hip-hop flavored twist at the end, which adds a syrupy cadence, finds immediate recognition with the crowd.

Eclecticism, sophisticated arrangements and an uncommon blend of urbanized electronica helps to set The Foreign Exchange apart on disc, but what comes across the most in this DVD set, aside from the instinctive give-and-take of the players, is the infectious, self-depreciating humor and personable (if a bit profane) charisma of Mr. Coleman, who's warm and witty with the crowd and kicks off “Daykeeper” with a funny glimpse into the process of songwriting: “One thing I do when I get stuck is write in another voice: you get so used to your voice that you ****ing hate it……the song 'Don’t Wait,' on the Authenticity album, I was stuck as hell until I was playing around with it and thought, ‘what if Michael McDonald did a FE song?’ So, don’t be afraid to let inspiration come from wherever it’s gonna come from, even if it’s from watching ‘The Real Housewives’.”

Clocking in at around 45 minutes (both the DVD and its audio version), Dear Friends…. is smartly packaged, crisply edited and contains a twelve-page color booklet filled with photos, song credits and lyrics to a pair of the CD’s bonus tracks, “All The Kisses” and “Steal Away.” A must-have for established fans and quality enough to draw in new ones, this digipak encapsulates their appeal, substitutes finesse for flash and showcases what makes The Foreign Exchange so Dear to discriminating listeners. Enthusiastically Recommended. 

By Melody Charles

 
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