[Thirsty Ear, www.thirstyear.com]

Mike Ladd Presents Father Divine
[ROIR, www.roir-usa.com]

To say that Mike Ladd has balls would be an understatement. Then again is telling the truth - telling it like it really is - a measurement of one's balls or just simply a good way to deal when creating one's music? Inspired partially by Petrine Archer-Straw's book "Negrophilia - Avante-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s", Ladd's album takes on some heavy subjects. The main one being integration of jazz into European culture in the twenties. Hard-hitting commentary is spoken [often times angrily or with an appropriate sneer] by Mike on top of drum loops [percussionist Guillermo E. Brown plays some mean solos], flashy piano, barrelling organ work and stunning synth machinations [courtesy of Vijay Iyer], high-spirited trumpet flashes [Roy Campbell], various wood winds [Andrew Lamb] and some sampled compositions from Margueritte Ladd. Ultimately, Mike loves to chop up significant amounts of music to fit his own means, which means all of the players mentioned above get their fair share of spotlight-time, albeit presented in an amalgamated fashion. Elements of hip-hop, electronics [this is huge on the record] and live instrumentation all somehow make their home within each track of the record. Though this may sound crazy, all of these ingredients somehow do come together and make perfect sense in a fashion they're presented. With or without Mike's in-your-face voice-overs, "Negrophilia" is a hard-hitting musical nail on the head of history.
"Mike Ladd Presents Father Divine" is a birth of something new. Father Divine is in fact a new ensemble [story is based on Father Divine who was a real spiritual figure last century] Ladd put together to present a venue for his music. Made up of Vijay Iyer on piano, percussionist Raz Mesinai, Jaleel Bunton on guitar and a number of others, this is music that is definitely rough and ready all at once. Ladd admits that he's never been overtly enthusiastic about working with any one record label, but ROIR was different. He said, "I'm not one to be over-enthusiastic about any label I'm working with but for me ROIR is pretty special considering they put out one of my all-time favourite albums: Bad Brains. I've always loved the grimy, haphazardly compressed sound of tapes. I still use them in my music and wanted to capture that on Father Divine". The sound is rough, dirty but never simplistic in any sort of way or form. Check out the dirty rhyming and live instrumentation on "Awful Raw" or the sweet-rhyming on "Barney's Girl". This guy is not only an academic, he's a crooner at heart. Some lovely rhyming, coupled with hard-hitting r'n'b, hip-hop, sampling madness and the stew is delicious and ready to serve when you are.

- Tom Sekowski

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