On his solo debut, Nigel Hall brings his blend of authentic soul and undeniable funk to the R&B landscape with rewarding results.
"Don't change for me," Nigel Hall insists on his song of the same name during the singer's debut solo set, Ladies & Gentlemen … Nigel Hall. The phrase is harmonized over Adam Deitch's creatively funky drums as part of a groove that ought to make enough Meters to complete a kilo smile. It's one of the many moments throughout these 10 songs that make you wonder where Nigel Hall came from. Part retro-fitted R&B with pop tendencies, part groove-tastic soul cooking that that tastes authentic enough for Questlove to offer a co-sign, Ladies & Gentlemen is a must for anyone still waiting for something like a new Raphael Saadiq album (seriously: where's that guy been?).
Opener "Gimme a Sign" is straight-forward enough to spark memories of the genre's golden years, highlighted by a driving drum beat and a killer falsetto. "Two Sweet" is the 2015 version of an Erykah Badu slow jam sung by the opposite sex. "Try, Try, Try" is equally as funky as "Don't Change For Me", complete with a vocal part that's as simple, abstract and repetitive as some of Sly Stone's most memorable work. And then the Isley Brother cover "Lay Away", featuring Quest on drums, slows down the original in ways that allow it to resonate all these years later.
All told, this is an album as surprising as it is inspiring, as refreshing as it is addictive. One of the best debuts in all of 2015, Ladies & Gentlemen … Nigel Hall might not be the year's most forward-thinking R&B set, but it certainly pays homage to all of the genre's classic ethos in excitingly expert fashion. Don't change a thing, sir. Don't change a thing.