(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Monday, October 18, 2010

CD review - Chocolate Genius Inc, Swansongs (2010)

Marc Anthony Thompson is Chocolate Genius Inc. The name is whimsical, but he takes his songs seriously. Swansongs, the last in an extended trilogy of albums, is carefully constructed to let each track achieve maximum impact

The music is rooted in classic soul, but Thompson has a thoroughly modern approach that's completed unrelated to today's pop soul/R&B. These songs show the difference between his artistic engineering and the industry's seamlessly slick production. Call it indie soul, but whatever it's called, these songs have weight and meaning.

Polanski, the first single, is a tiny gem. The lyrics use Roman Polanski's exile as a touchstone in this song about leaving and loss. There's a patina of nostalgia and regret, but it also hints at a dream of freedom -- maybe just an unobtainable ideal, but an unspoken hope. I could list the whole lyrics, but I'll settle on the beginning:
I'm gettin' on that plane, I ain't comin' back
And just like Roman, said Bobby Black
And that don't matter any more...anyway

Tell my one friend to keep my one thing
And tell my wife to sell my ring
Cause we don't matter any more, anyway.
The music is simple and soulful, starting out with a piano, an acoustic guitar, and understated bass and drums. Echoed touches of organ and steel guitar add a reflective sentimentality, but Thompson avoids even a whiff of sappiness. The echo is especially subtle on the vocals. Certain words and phrases linger, but it's not uniform.

Enough For You is a bluesy soul with a Tom Waits feel. Piano accents balance a tremolo soaked guitar. It's moody, with a mix of regret and faint defiance. The low fi mix is like a sepia tone, giving a touch of distance. The guitar solo is conversational as it slips its snide comments in.
And I am half the man that you suggested
But I am twice the man that you signed on to
When all of these troubles get accepted
Baby, I hope that you'll find enough for you
Swansongs is full of perfect moments. There are sound collages, a range of emotional perspectives, and moments both clear and obscure. As the eleven songs deal with a fractured view of Thompson's father, you hear both the bad voice in the back of your brain that whispers doubt (Lump) and the casual ego of the lover you wish you had (Kiss Me).

Let a snifter of cognac warm your throat as Chocolate Genius Inc warms your soul.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful review. I posted it here (discussion tab - reviews)