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It’s a long way from Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire to Nashville, Tennessee but that’s the journey Jamie Lidell has taken. Classmates at Hinchingbroke School recall him wowing fellow pupils with an emotional rendition of ‘Purple Rain’ on the piano at lunch.
Jamie, it seems, was always destined for stardom. That said, despite four studio albums marking him out as one of the UK’s most authentic soul voices and production talents, as well as work with Brighton techno terrorist Cristian Vogel as Super Collider, he’s still not the household name his talents deserve. But perhaps he’s now on the verge of something special. Vocally, Prince remains a touchstone. And you can add OutKast’s Andre 3000, Rick James, Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone, too. While 2010’s ‘Compass’ – produced by Beck, and festooned with stellar guests – was about electronic folk and scuzzy pop, this new record’s got the funk.
But this isn’t some retro pastiche. There’s a 21st century sheen to the opening blast of ‘I’m Selfish’, albeit atop bubbling 80s funk synths, while ‘Big Love’ rides in on flashy, crashy Cameo-style drums before morphing into hi-octane electro-pop. Behind Lidell’s creamy, beautifully pitched voice is smash-heavy percussion, most notably on ‘What A Shame’, a coruscating slab of stomping hip hop soul à la Cee-Lo Green. Most intriguing of all is ‘why_ya_why’, which evolves from gritty, horn-parping New Orleans jazz skank into bass-rich Timbaland boomer. Dive in.