Philly new-age soul don Musiq Soulchild (Taalib Johnson) announced this new, epic 2 CD, 24 song album last spring when he released the single ‘Start Over’. That cut was (indeed is) a gorgeous, multi-layered, complex modern soul groove. In essence, that’s the soundscape of ‘Feel The Real’ and if ‘Start Over’ floated your soul boat then you’ll be delighted with (most of) the other 23 cuts herein – most notably the album’s title cut which opens proceedings here. It offers more of that special soul complexity delivered by a voice that, yes, owes, something to a certain Stevie Wonder, but which is uniquely Musiq’s. The ‘Feel The Real’ track is a collaboration with Marsha Ambrosius, (who also wrote it) and she’s just one of an impressive guest list…
Amongst the other invitees are Blaqgxld, Willie Hyn and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Mr Tyson fronts one of the album’s real highlights, ‘The Moon’. He has a gorgeous speaking voice…. he sounds like an actor (think James Earl Jones) but he’s actually a high profile US astrophysicist! He adds real conviction and gravitas to ‘The Moon’ where both men (singer and scientist) muse about the “multiverse” rather than the “universe”. This particular track is one that confirms your faith in nu/neo soul – both intriguing and satisfying. I could listen to this one all day… but there are other delights.
‘Simple Things’ is sweet and lovely; the beater that is ‘Serendipity’ is tight and danceable in that Usher kind of way; while ‘Like The Weather’ is a plaintive ballad.
Elsewhere? Well we’ve told you that this is a double album and commentators generally agree that doubles are often exercises in self indulgence and in places here you’d tend to agree with that. Cuts like ‘Love Me Back’ are nothing special; ditto those that feature Mr Johnson’s alter ego The Husel.
There’s one great album lurking here amongst these 24 tracks, but if you’ll excuse me I need to go to ‘The Moon’ one more time.