Jimetta Rose & the Voices of Creation, “Let the Sunshine In” (Day Dreamer)
If you're perhaps of a certain age and disposition, you will instantly pinpoint Jimetta Rose & the Voices of Creation's influences. This is not a bad thing. Almost everyone making new music in 2022 is derivative of something. However, not all influences are created equal, so musicians must choose wisely which snatches from the past they pour into their songs. And Jimetta Rose & the Voices of Creation have done just that on their debut album How Good It Is (produced by Mario Caldato Jr. [Beastie Boys, Seu Jorge] and his wife Samantha; out August 24).
Essentially, these L.A. sweethearts are commingling spiritual jazz, psychedelic soul, and gospel, and hitting all the right notes in the process. If the idea of distilling the essences of Pharoah Sanders's Karma, the Rotary Connection's canon, mid-'70s Funkadelic, and the Edwin Hawkin Singers's 1968 gospel-pop hit “Oh Happy Day” appeals to you, then Jimetta Rose and company will make you shout, “Hallelujah!”—even if you're a lifelong agnostic, like your blogger.
The Voices of Creation mostly consist of non-professional singers, but this choir—which includes Sly Stone's daughter Novena Carmel—compensates for that alleged lack with beaucoup soul. Their massed male and female vocals buoy Rose's ebullient leads with surplus uplift. The music similarly lays the groundwork for graceful ascension while the lyrics are a wellspring of optimism in the face of grim reality.
Paradoxically, Rose—who once served as youth choir director at a Pentecostal church—wrote the six songs on How Good It Is while struggling. “But I found comfort in the songs and a way to adjust my mindset to where things got better,” Rose said in a press release. “So I thought, ‘If this music works for me, maybe it will work for other people.’”
Ordinarily, such hopefulness amid current dystopian trends would irk something awful. It's a testament to Jimetta Rose's will to flower that How Good It Is doesn't seem willfully Pollyanna-ish or obtuse. And it doesn't hurt that “Answer the Call” is basically a cover of Funkadelic's levitational anthem “Cosmic Slop.”
An interpretation of a 1978 Sons and Daughters of Lite song, “Let the Sunshine In” also triggers associations with the hippie-sploitation hit of the same title from the 1967 Hair soundtrack and Roy Ayers's soul-jazz classic “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.” Its bell-tree percussion, languid rhythm, ascending piano motif, and hymnal grandeur coalesce to make this version a glorious slow jam... until the tempo accelerates into a gospel rave-up that'll salve even the most skeptical doomsayers. It is, verily, a miracle.
Nick Sheppard & Marigold Sun, “Honeymoon” (Hush Hush)
How many punk-rock guitarists go on to create ambient music? The number is minuscule, really. Other than Nick Sheppard—who played with the Clash from 1983 to 1986 and before that the Cortinas—nobody else comes to mind. (Lou Reed cut an ambient record, but he wasn't really punk, in the conventional sense.) Which makes the album Pratunam (on KEXP DJ Alex Ruder's Carnation, Washington-based Hush Hush label) a special artifact, indeed. In collaboration with Marigold Sun (aka NYC-based Singaporean-Australian musician Eric Li Harrison), Sheppard forgoes the aggression he brought to albums such as the Clash's Cut the Crap and instead delivers glinting shafts of radiance in the vein of Durutti Column's Vini Reilly, Manuel Göttsching ca. E2-E4, and Felt's Maurice Deebank and beats that act more like massage than battering rams.
Inspired by the two musicians' 2019 visit to the Thailand neighborhood of the same name, Pratunam revels in a Balearic Islands breeziness and tranquility that, in the 2020s, have come to feel like a mental-health necessity. The aptly titled “Honeymoon” finds Sheppard weaving an intricate, pointillistic tapestry of sundown guitar meditation, as rapidly ticking cymbals and melancholy synth counterpoint play supporting roles. The track writhes with activity yet it's oddly calming. It's one of many outstanding moments on an album that ranks among the most interesting released by Hush Hush.