Algebra Blessett hails from neo/nu soul’s epicentre, Atlanta, and she made her solo debut back in 2008 with ‘Purpose’. No surprise that having previously worked with people like Eric Roberson, Esperanza Spalding, Bilal, India Arie and Anthony David, the album won acclaim on the neo/nu soul circuit while top American web site, Soul Tracks, voted her “Best Newcomer”. In 2011 she enjoyed a US Top 20 R&B hit duetting with Anthony David on ‘4Evermore’ and in between lots of live work she’s been crafting this – her sophomore set.
The album’s been helmed by hit R&B producers Bryan-Michael Cox, Kwame Holland and Shannon Sanders and between them they’ve managed to toughen up Algebra’s sound – stripping away the ethereal excesses that plague much neo/nu soul and replacing it with a harder more urban sound that in places (I’m thinking ‘Writer’s Block’) might remind you of a certain Alicia Keys.
The album’s lead single is the feisty ‘Danger Zone’. It’s a brash, R&B beater with a bumpy bass line and superb harmonies that prove that Blessett’s time as a backing vocalist with some of soul’s best hasn’t been wasted. It’s a good cut but the highlight for the soul crowd will be the bumpy title cut. Don’t know how Angela and producer Kwame Holland have managed it but they’ve crafted a totally contemporary R&B groove by marrying elements of Dionne Warwick’s ‘Last One To Be Loved’ with Soul II Soul’s ‘Keep On Moving’. It’s another track that Alicia Keys would have been proud of! ‘Mystery’ is another good ‘un. This one rolls nicely with a real old school feel.
The set boasts a number of good ballads too, notably the gentle ‘Struggle To Be’. This one’s a duet with a great new (to me) soul man, Q Parker, and between them they manage to say something new about one of soul’s oldest themes – relationships with partners who are already married. It’s beautifully understated, though if you like things a little more dramatic try the overwrought ‘I’ll Be OK’.
Given Angela’s background there are some neo/nu soul moments. There’s the introduction for starters (why?), while ‘Better For Me’ is prime time Jill Scott but if you’re looking for a proper modern soul set – one that offers new ideas and flavours rather than peddling the retro, you could do worse than check this out. Do so @ www.algebrablessett.com