No Beginning No End 2 - José James (Album Review)
Released: 6th March 2020
Album Rating: 3.5/5
Favourite Songs: 'I Need Your Love (feat. Ledisi & Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah)', 'Feels So Good (feat. Cecily)', 'Oracle (feat. Erik Truffaz & Hindi Zahra)'
The silky-voiced singer-songwriter José James has defiantly returned with No Beginning No End 2, casting away both musical classifications and self-doubt in the sequel to his eponymous 2013 Blue Note Records.
Having made his full-length debut with Brownswood back in 2008, José James has gone through a series of different musical guises over the years. After releasing No Beginning No End and While You Were Sleeping, it feels as if José has gone through a journey of musical soul searching. For the next three records with Blue Note, José went about releasing two tribute albums, covering songs by Billie Holiday and more recently Bill Withers songs, as well as creating a more traditional-contemporary R&B album Love in a Time of Madness. After 10 years of creative contemplation, José seems to have returned to fore with his latest work, seemingly relaxed by the liberation of commanding his own label – Rainbow Blonde Records.
Looking down the tracklist, it’s hard not raise to your eyebrows when you come to realise that NBNE2 is an album packed with notable vocalists and instrumentalists, starring Laura Mvula, Aloe Blacc, Ledisi, Erik Truffaz and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah just to name a few. This eclectic group of musicians matches the variety of musical styles within this album. Traversing through R&B, disco, 60’s idioms, blues, jazz and soul, José and his group of musical allies are not afraid to let go and express themselves.
The album is noticeably split in two, with the first part of the record seeming a lot more jubilant and bright, whilst the second part is slower, brooding and lyrical. The strong opening song and lead single, ‘I Need Your Love’, establishes the landscape of the record. The beautiful pinging guitar of Brian Bender provides the bed for José’s classically smooth harmonic lines which interlink with Ledisi’s luscious tones, whilst trumpeter Christian Scott guides us out with a characteristic New Orleanian drift. ‘Feels So Good’ radiates a very different aura, lending itself to a disco-feel with Nigel Rodgers-esque guitars propelling the song along with tight vocals between José and Cecily. In a similar vein, ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ is a juicy funky shuffle with some utterly effortless and trickling vocals from J. Hoard. Whilst ‘Oracle’ is the perfect end to the record, with a truly beautiful solo from French trumpeter Erik Truffaz, as Hindi Zahara’s vocals help the song to swell, grows and bring the album to its climax.
Although there are some superb moments in No Beginning No End 2, the album sometimes loses momentum and occasionally feels rudderless. This aside, it’s an exuberant record which marks a return to form for the silky-laden singer, whilst providing the perfect place for the new Rainbow Blonde Records to blossom and flourish.
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