Strut Records is truly innovating when it comes to concept albums. This CD is the first in what is hopefully a series of albums where two critically acclaimed and well known artists are paired together for a unique collaboration. Amp Fiddler is a R&B/Soul singer who has critical acclaim and strong overseas sales. His associations with George Clinton, Maxwell, and more recently Corrine Rae Bailey have helped Amp Fiddler gain exposure, but his work stands on its own. Sly & Robbie are considered legends when it comes to electronic reggae/dub production. Strut Records decided to put both acts in a studio and give them a 5 day deadline for an album. It's a huge risk considering the fact that chemistry is as important as talent when it comes to music. Thankfully, it seems Amp Fiddler's voice was made for Sly & Robbie's production and the end result is track after track of smooth, soulful music.
If you don't know who Sly and Robbie are then you've been living under a rock. The duo has been steadily ruling reggae charts with their wicked riddims and have been churning out albums for years. At the very least you've heard their rendition of the Mission Impossible theme from the first movie. Before you jump to the conclusion that Sly & Robbie strictly make reggae music you should listen to this album. The duo crafts some very smooth and slick compositions on this one. Naturally, they place a heavy emphasis on the bass lines, but they mix a variety of other elements to balance things out. Overall, the duo has a very full sound which is hard to come by. They fill up the track so you get more than the simple bass line, drum, and instruments. The mixture risks being too hectic, especially when you throw a vocalist in the mix but they manage to make all the pieces fit perfectly. Take "Crazy Day" where the bassline drives the track, but sprinkled through out we get some organs, synths, and sound effects. "I Fell On The Wagon" is an upbeat and club friendly beat where the duo mixes a funky bassline with an array of instruments. I have to admit that being used to reviewing sample based rap music makes it a little difficult for me to truly capture the talent and sound delivered by Sly & Robbie. Since the men also tend to play all the instruments and there are so many elements in each track, this is something that has to be heard to be appreciated. I'd have to say the only simple and less impressive music on here comes when the duo fully succumbs to their reggae roots and puts together a very generic riddim on "U." It's not a bad track, but pales when compared to the lush soundscapes created on the rest of the album.
Amp Fiddler contributes a sweet, soulful voice and thoughtful and thought out lyrics. The man is truly talented both in voice and in song writing. You can't help appreciate the woeful blues sang by the man on "Crazy Day" where he laments the cops knocking on his door, facing eviction, and finding out he knocked up a chick all on the same day. "Blackhouse (Paint The White House Black)" has a strong political and social message but is not as aggressive as Public Enemy or dead prez. It delivers the same strong message, but might not get you arrested if you bump it in the car. "Serious" deals with relationships and the need to be devoted and committed for things to work out. "I Believe In You" is another somewhat down song where Amp Fiddler implies the feeling is not reciprocated. "Lonely" is another track where Amp explores the reasons for love not working out. The heavy emphasis on love scorned and chasing after someone could probably drag down for some people but it's done very well.
Overall "Inspiration Information" was a very pleasant surprise. It reminds me of acts like Gnarls Barkley in more ways than one. Obviously, the pairing of a talented production team and talented singer is the first comparison that comes to mind but the similarities don't stop there. Sly & Robbie's production style can be considered unconventional in the same way Dangermouse's music is – meaning this isn't what you'd typically expect from an R&B album. Amp Fiddler possesses a unique voice and conscious lyrics which can also be said of Cee-Lo. Surprisingly enough, I ended up liking this collaboration better than Gnarls Barkley. Part of it may be my natural disgust that I'm not hearing Cee-Lo rap, but most of it has to with the fact that Sly & Robbie and Amp Fiddler bring something fresh without sounding like they are trying to be different. It's a natural uniqueness that penetrates the music and is hard to come by. If you like R&B or Gnarls Barkley you should give this CD a try.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: December 9, 2008