Bay Area native Goapele has quickly made a name for herself as a versatile artist combining elements of soul and world music with socially conscious, often political lyrics and ethereal aura to her work. Influenced by American soul and jazz greats as well as some of the great artists of her South African heritage, she has set a path for herself and her music may hinder mass acceptance (despite her striking physical beauty) but which will likely make her an important artist and voice for years to come.
Following her graduation from Boston's prestigious Berklee School of Music, Goapele launched her recording career with 2002's Even Closer. The disc's strong lyrical content and otherworldly sound won both critical acclaim and strong sales for a debut. And the song "Closer" became an underground soul favorite that continued getting play for the next two years.
In December 2005, Goapele released her much-awaited second album, Change It All. It continues the alternating lyrical messages of romantic love and social consciousness and is even more appealing than its predecessor. Goapele certainly shows growth as a songwriter on Change It All, along with the ability to present her compositions in a number of musical setting. Whether coincidental or not, her writing is at its sharpest musically when it is at its most political, such as on the title track and the solid midtempo "Find A Way." Her vocal arrangements are occasionally a bit monotonous and hinder her generally strong vocal delivery, but its tough not to be drawn to solid tracks such as "First Love," "Fly Away" and the surprisingly traditional ballad, "Darker Side of the Moon," a beautiful closing number that sounds like something Heather Headley might sing.
Change It All is in all respects that album that Goapele's growing fan base was hoping for and should solidify her position as one of the important young voices in soul music. Recommended.
By Chris Rizik