MINT CONDITION: Music @ The Speed Of Life (Shanachie)

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It’s hard to believe that Mint Condition debuted way back in 1991. The self-contained five piece evolved out of the burgeoning Minneapolis/St Paul music scene and their first album, ‘Meant To Be Mint’ (on Jam and Lewis’ Perspective label) established them as a real force in US soul. This new 13 tracker is (I think) the band’s eighth album and it’s a typically soulful Mint Condition affair. It’s stuffed full of the band’s dense, harmonic sound with songs that are mature and insightful whether they be dealing with personal relationships or broader issues.

The catchiest “love” songs are ‘Believe In Us’ and ‘Girl Of My Life’. The former is a beaty ballad that underlines what most couples know… that relationships need to be worked at. ‘Girl Of My Life’ is a tad faster and is built around the difficulty of finding the right partner. That one features a rap from the inimitable Jazzy Jeff and a complicated string arrangement running behind Stokley’s drum solo. Equally complex are ‘Completely’ and ‘649 Changes’. ‘Completely’ is another ballad whose theme is finding and accepting your place in life. ‘649 Changes’ (a paean to multi-generational households) features another rapping guest – Brother Ali – while there’s superb brass input from the M Factory Horns led by ex-Prince sideman, Eric Leeds.

Other album goodies include the heavy opener, ‘In The Moment’ and the wonderful ‘What I Gotta Do’. That one sort of combines the best of Prince, The Isley Brothers and Tony, Toni, Tone. The harmonies are a thing of sonic beauty… indeed the harmonies throughout the album are exceptional, enhancing the emotional and soulful quality of the music. Without gimmicks and trickery, ‘Music At The Speed Of Life’ is a “proper” modern soul album… but that’s what you’d expect from one of the genre’s most enduring acts.

(BB) 4/5