Platinum Pied Pipers - Abundance

Platinum Pied Pipers
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With their second Ubiquity project, Abundance, PPP (formerly Platinum Pied Pipers) has set one skyscraper of a bar for other artists to top. Listening to the bevy of sonic delights producer Waajeed (Robert O'Bryan) and multi-instrumentalist Saddiq (Darnell Bolden) have crafted on this clubby progressive soul project, it is really tough to imagine a better album coming out in 2009. Abundance is seriously the album to beat for indie soul album of the year; it's that perfect. No wit, no sarcasm, no dissecting analysis that excavates flaws and potential for artistic growth (though, of course, there is always room), just humble gratefulness from a cranky critic. Thank you PPP for gifting us with such a funky album to launch the year. First Obama, now PPP, who could ask for anything more? 

PPP has long represented the finest Detroit has to offer in Black music,  blending pop, soul, jazz and hip hop, creating a unique hybrid sound that defies genre.

With their second Ubiquity project, Abundance, PPP (formerly Platinum Pied Pipers) has set one skyscraper of a bar for other artists to top. Listening to the bevy of sonic delights producer Waajeed (Robert O'Bryan) and multi-instrumentalist Saddiq (Darnell Bolden) have crafted on this clubby progressive soul project, it is really tough to imagine a better album coming out in 2009. Abundance is seriously the album to beat for indie soul album of the year; it's that perfect. No wit, no sarcasm, no dissecting analysis that excavates flaws and potential for artistic growth (though, of course, there is always room), just humble gratefulness from a cranky critic. Thank you PPP for gifting us with such a funky album to launch the year. First Obama, now PPP, who could ask for anything more? 

PPP has long represented the finest Detroit has to offer in Black music,  blending pop, soul, jazz and hip hop, creating a unique hybrid sound that defies genre. The growth PPP has achieved in the four years since its last project, Triple P, is staggering. While Triple P was chillout hip hop and sophisticated soul for the backpack set, Abundance is both the best house party you've ever attended and a master class on funk and soul. Here, the dynamic duo kicks it up several notches by becoming a full-fledge band, imperceptibly mixing live and electronic elements with technical acumen and a whimsical spirit. There are the 80s elements of indie peers J*Davey and Heavy present, but PPP manages to use the live instrumentations to make a warmer, more open sound. The 60s British rock and Motown soul are here too, but not in the retro soul-by-numbers way that made Raphael Saddiq's last project a museum artifact. Despite the obvious lines to the music of old, PPP uses those sounds only as reference or punctuation points, always keeping the lyrics contemporary and the compositions fresh and lively. No retro-soul homage, Abundance is solidly a 2009 jamboree.

The balance for which PPP is aiming is helped by featured vocalists whose sound has the feel of both old and new. Replacing Rogiérs as the PPP featured vocalist from Triple P are relative newcomers Coultrain, Karma Stewart, and Jamila Raegan. Each singer brings his or her own funky flavor, while also nicely complimenting the others on duets and supporting vocals in ways that makes PPP feel like a contemporary Sly and the Family Stone. The most prominently featured artist on Abundance, Coultrain is a soulman with Cody Chestnut allusions and John Legend overtones. Coultrain became an underground favorite through the release of the hard-to-find The Adventures of Seymour Liberty, earning him a nod as one of SoulBounce's favorite albums of 2008. His raspy voice has a fun swagger whose swing fits as easily into old school groove cuts like "Pigeon Hole" as it does on progressive synth rock like "Rocket Science." Karma Stewart brings the bold brassy sound of Martha Reeves, but it's her sassy phrasing that has you leaning in for more on "Dirty Secrets," "Smoking Mirrors," and the lead single, "On A Cloud."  Jamila Raegan has the lightest voice on Abundance, but its fragility softens the duet "Sanctuary" and seductively kills on the Vanity 6 and Shelia E throwback, "Go, Go, Go." Neco Redd also makes an appropriately eerie appearance on the bumping ‘til you drop dance cut, "American Pimp." None of the artists' individually stand out as much as they feel like perfect parts of a whole, which has me hoping they remain permanent members of the PPP cast.

With Triple P and now Abundance, the new PPP band gives a sturdy middle finger to all who count R&B and soul out as dead. Luckily, these producer/performers are not alone. With Foreign Exchange's Leave It All Behind, Jassanova's Of All The Things, Angela Johnson's A Woman's Touch, and now PPP's aptly titled Abundance, a new generation of visionary producer/performers who have taken the time to become skilled musicians and carefully choosen collaborations with other serious-minded artists are stepping up to save our soul. Like the greats who transitioned jazz from big band to be-bop, PPP and the like are transitioning soul to a more experimental, but no less soulful, place. Their efforts ensure that years from now we will still be able to live more abundantly, one nation under the groove. Highly Recommended.

By L. Michael Gipson
 
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