Artist Salute Mixes

Album Of The Month

ALBUM OF THE MONTH: Marsha Ambrosius – ‘Friends & Lovers’

ALBUM OF THE MONTH: Marsha Ambrosius – ‘Friends & Lovers’

When your debut CD arrives at the top of the charts, garners a pair of Grammy nominations and cements your status as a performer as well as a songwriter, it’s best not to rush back into the studio. The path to longevity is making music that people will connect to, rather than just hear, and Marsha Ambrosius, thankfully, knows the difference between the two. Late Nights And Early Mornings, her 2011 debut, generated radio-ready grooves (the title track, “Hope She Cheats On You [With A Basketball Player]” and the inescapable “Far Away”) and whetted music lovers’ appetites for fleshed-out, fully-realized projects in her near future.

Since then the Liverpool, England native has proven prolific as a guest vocalist and mixtape-dropping maven, and now her much awaited new sophomore set arrives in the form of Friends And Lovers.   If the parental advisory label on the cover isn’t enough of a clue, a quick glimpse at the track list should demonstrate the explicitness to be found within (the first half anyway) . It’s certainly not vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake, like R. Kelly’s unfortunate Black Panties, but even the most liberal of listeners might blanch at “So Good,” “Night Time” and “69,” soft-core numbers that are delivered with orgasmic fervor; the last of the three spouting verses lewd enough to make Millie Jackson blush (“Take your clothes off, f*** me til’ I forget/then I black out, throw my back out”). Interludes like “How Much More” and the less-than-subtle “Kiss & F***” also plunge the CD’s Rawness-Meter well past the red— the difference is that Marsha’s ‘inner freak’ is the result of being passionate rather than simply predatory.

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Everything fans have come to expect from the former Floetry member is here, from the lushness of the production value, the sophisticated styling (thanks to Ambrosius, Da Internz, The J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League and Eric Hudson, to name a few) and that voluptuous vibrato range, which is poured liltingly into songs like the first single, “Run,” strewn across the heartbroken “You & I” and full of remorse in the ‘sidechick soliloquy’ entitled “Shoes.” Yes, she now knows the man has a girlfriend, but it doesn’t keep her from answering his calls, falling into his bed and struggling the morning after to leave the scheming playa-playa once and for all (“He’s still laying here snoring and I want some more and/must be out my f***ing mind”).

For the most part, Ms. Ambrosius’ propensity to go against the grain pays off: Minnie Riperton’s classic refrain is interwoven into the slow-jam serve-up, “La La La La La,” traditional grown-folks soul abounds in her vulnerable Charlie Wilson duet, “Spend All My Time,” and the stark, tear-stained “OMG I Miss You” recalls, for all of us, the bittersweet memory of The One That Got Away. One that might be pushing it is the bold Sade cover “Stronger,” stretched over Jeru The Damaja’s “Come Clean” beat (dope) and a Dr. Dre verse spliced in-between (nope).    Love re-purposed out of friendship, lusty moments with Mr. Right Now and surrendering body and soul to the one who makes our hearts sing and toes curl. Marsha Ambrosius channels her personal growth and musical prolificacy into songs that chart where we are, where we’ve been and where we might end up in our relationships.

Friends & Lovers mirrors real life: some you’ve got to have within reach, others you can do without….. the rest just make the journey anything but routine. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles   – www.soultracks.com

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July 30th, 2014

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