Jamie Lidell, 'Jim' (Warp)

7
Jim
Critical Mass
Label: Warp

by Jon Young

From the Rolling Stones to Lady Sovereign, a handful of gifted Brits have brought interesting personal twists to African-American music, though many more have settled for weak mimicry. On his third solo album, Jamie Lidell occupies a tantalizing zone between originality and copycatting. Previously half of the techno-funk duo Super Collider, he reinvented himself as an old-fashioned raspy soul shouter with 2005's Multiply, and here, he refines his act.

References abound, from the glossy funk, Earth, Wind & Fire vibe of "Figured Me Out" to the itchy James Brown–style guitar on "Little Bit of Feel Good." But Lidell also reaches for a more distinctive sound with the fervent thump of "Wait for Me" and "Another Day," which feature gospel-tinged piano and backing vocals. His contagious joy makes it easier to excuse his more blatant appropriations.

Ballads can be unforgiving, since you can't hide behind the energy of the groove, but Lidell shows no fear. The lovely "All I Wanna Do" begins as a sleepy homage to Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," then drifts into dreamy Marvin Gaye territory, and suddenly an authentic magic fills the air. The next album could be the one that unlocks Lidell's own voice -- or confirms his status as an honorable minor-leaguer. In the meantime, Jim keeps you guessing.

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