A while back I reviewed a Lord Invader album which had been wrongly listed as reggae. Not my fault, but instead of being tickled by whimsical early calypso my ears were bloodied by a brutal hip hop thrashing. This time around I’m solidly to blame for wishfully thinking that Black Blondie might be an angular, full blooded, scratchy band of rascals akin to the rather wonderful Miss Black America; a largely ignored group perhaps from somewhere near Ipswich, UK.
Wrong. Black Blondie plays largely unaffecting, vaguely trip-hoppy, urban post-soul. But they look great (I enjoyed watching one dreadlocked band member bowing her upright bass) and Samahra Daly is very good at doing the kind of slinky gymnastic femme vocals that fall midway between Carey, Badu and Rosie Perez (if her voice had broken). The band offer tight support (especially in the keyboard region) as they slip easily through a variety of neon thump beats with a production that allows us to hear the words. Except no one wants words as simultaneously catchy and trite as “Dressed to kill a mockingbird and if that mockingbird don’t sing the blues, for you” lodged in their head all day. That line manages to turn a handful of phrases which have meaning (albeit as clichés) into something annoying and meaningless. And yet “For the Taste” is a genuinely groovy and swinging piece that almost blows me away.
The album took a couple of years to make and along the way Samahra Daly’s mother passed away after a long fight with ovarian cancer. Her daughter obviously has a lot of spunk, too. The positives are good singing, slinky voices, tight band, clear production, They avoid samples if that is important to you. It’s not Black Blondie’s fault that this album does little for me. I suspect they come over better on stage and indeed they have played on bills with Jill Scott, the Roots, Amy Winehouse, Meshell Ndegeocello, amongst others.