Khari Lemuel - Morning Music (2009)

Khari Lemuel
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At its best, the album Morning Music by Khari Lemuel is a soulful, spiritual, lyrical and focused piece of work. At less than its best, the record is meandering and unfocused. There is plenty of room for Morning Music to be both because at 25 tracks, the record is LONG.

 

At its best, the album Morning Music by Khari Lemuel is a soulful, spiritual, lyrical and focused piece of work. At less than its best, the record is meandering and unfocused. There is plenty of room for Morning Music to be both because at 25 tracks, the record is LONG.

Thematically, Morning Music is a lot of things. Lemuel has a lot of thoughts in his head, and he uses this record to get those thoughts out. He goes from romantic love, to love of God, to philosophy, to spirituality (writ large) to polemic.  All of it is very, very interesting, but it can be something of a mash. A good example is the track that features a radio interview with author and motivational speaker Claude Anderson. In the interview, Anderson is addressing what he views as the misplaced priorities of the black church. He expresses frustration that at a time when church leaders should be investing in businesses, schools and teaching their members about economics, preachers seemed to be focused on building mega-churches. That's definitely a good point, and hearing it on this record will probably stir a lot of debate.

The Anderson interview is followed by an introduction of the Clay Evans song "I'm Blessed," in which the pastor and recording artists talks about a group of Christians complaining as they walk to church, while a shabbily dressed wino thanks God for his blessings. Placing both of these songs back to back sends the message that the church is too often focused on the wrong things both spiritually and naturally.

Other spoken word vignettes are far more abstract. Morning Music also includes a track called "Time and Space," which is a reading from the ancient Egyptian text the Emerald Tablets of Thoth. These spoken word interludes are interesting, but Morning Music is at its best when Lemuel speaks for himself. First of all, Lemuel has a classic soul voice that draws influences from singers ranging from Curtis Mayfield to Frankie Beverly. Lemuel even includes a cover version of "Happy Feelins" that is soulful vocally and relaxing musically.

The song "My Soul Is Happy" will remind listeners of some of great gospel inspired soul records that Mayfield put out both as a solo artist and a member of the Impressions. On "Love on the Radio," Lemuel uses a conversational, hip-hop soul influenced delivery to good effect. The vocal mixes well with a light soul-jazz swing to express the ways that music can be used to promote relaxation.  "Good Morning Love" is a soulful ballad that might remind some listeners of Anthony Hamilton. The song evokes the image of a man sharing a quiet early morning moment in bed with his lover thinking how much they mean to each other.

On the flip side are the songs "Where Will You Be" and "Good Man's Lament." On the former, Lemuel warns an indifferent lover that she continues treating him cavalierly at her own risk. The latter is a bluesy dirge that begins with the memorable line "You wanted to be with your thug, and so you left your good thing." The song then tells the story of how Lemuel girds himself for his search for a good woman.

The first part of Morning Music will keep the listener riveted. The second half is filled with a lot of mood tracks - meaning that people may only listen to the spoken word pieces only if they're in the mood for some deep conversations. However, when Lemuel picks up the pen and decides to write (and when he grabs the mic and starts singing), Morning Music provides enough good stuff to get you through the entire day. Moderately recommended.

 

Howard Dukes
 
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