Album review: "Good Things"
Aloe Blacc is another musician whose songs have gained a larger audience from television exposure. ("I Need a Dollar" is the intro song for HBO's "How to Make It in America.") But most listeners wouldn't immediately know that "Dollar" is a contemporary song: Blacc's buttery take on hard economic times immediately evokes Bill Withers's soulful voice.
The 1970s influence on Blacc's latest album, "Good Things," doesn't stop there. The horn blasts and instrumental tone on "Hey Brother" recall Stevie Wonder's "Superstition." More surprising is Blacc's nod to the prior decade. A cover of the Velvet Underground's 1966 single "Femme Fatale" becomes even more dramatic with Blacc's slow, smooth croon.
Blacc used to be a member of the hip-hop duo Emanon, but his rap past isn't at all apparent on "Good Things." And although his take on neo-soul and R&B doesn't contain many surprises, it doesn't need to. Listeners will know exactly where such songs as "Loving You Is Killing Me" and "You Make Me Smile" are heading just from their titles, but Blacc's textured, emotion-drenched voice still adds much to these love-centric tunes.
--Catherine P. Lewis, Nov. 2010