I’m gonna make a bold prediction here – 2017 will be the year that music will make a comeback. Since last year was punctuated by the loss of some of our most beloved and innovative musical icons, then surely, in accordance to spiritual and universal law, the big gaping hole we have left in our hearts should be filled with the sounds of sweet melodies and earnest lyrical expression to put the world to rights. Well, one can only hope, right?
Omar’s 8th studio album Love In Beats goes some way in proving my theory. Twelve tracks long, the record is a musical celebration of the myriad of genres that have captured the ears of the UK’s most prolific and enduring soul music pioneer.
The album gets off to an energetic start courtesy of Vicky’s Song. Proceeding with a gentle flute that leads to a percussive groove; the track steadily gains momentum developing into a big, cinematic jazz-funk stomper that could’ve come straight off a ‘70s Blaxploitation soundtrack, the main indicator of its contemporary origins coming courtesy of a mid-track rap verse from London’s finest, Ty. The album flows seamlessly into more familiar Omar territory, firstly with the bass-heavy, mid-tempo groover Gave My Heart featuring the legendary singer/songwriter/producer Leon Ware, followed by the synth-driven two-stepper, Insatiable, given a bit of extra zeal via vocalist Natasha Watts whose sugary songbird tone duly complements Omar’s trademark alto.
The man christened as Omar Lye-Fook is very much respected among his peers, for evidence of this look no further than his former collaborations which include musical heavyweights such as Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, India Irie, and none other than the ultimate master of music himself – Stevie Wonder. A graduate of the Guildhall School of Music, Omar’s credentials as a singer, songwriter, musician and composer are unquestionable, and it’s probably for this very reason that he seems to have a Rolodex worth of talent willing to work with him. Featured artists on ‘Beats’ include The Floacist, Natasha Watts, the aforementioned Leon Ware and Ty, Robert Glasper, Jean-Michele Rotin and Cape Verdean singer Mayra Andrade. The resulting effort is an album that feels truly collaborative, pulling influences from a multitude of genres and various corners of the world. The hip-hop influence is undeniable in Feeds My Mind (feat The Floacist) and Way That Way. And then there’s the part samba, part reggae, part Afrobeats hybrid, I Want It To Be, along with the salsa/jazz fused Hold Me Closer.
Despite a few indistinguishable tracks interwoven with the standouts, Love In Beats is undoubtedly a solid effort from Omar, reminding the public of just how unique, boundary-pushing, visionary and musically curious the singer is. Following the well-received The Man released in 2013 and an MBE for Services to Music in 2012, this record asserts itself confidently, reminding us all why we’re happy to assist Omar on any destination his musical mind decides to take us.
Love In Beats is released on January 27th via Freestyle Records