Listening to Adrian Younge's new album is a decidedly trippy experience. Knowing that the 34-year-old composer-producer manned the knobs for Ghostface Killah's forthcoming album, "Twelve Reasons to Die," won't help you predict what you're going to hear on Younge's own album which, to Craven's ears, is something like a magnificently malfunctioning time machine of pop music.
Imagine (if you can) stuffing a sheaf of sweet 1970s-era Philly soul albums into a Cuisinart, tossing in a couple sunshine bubblegum pop singles from the 1960s, hitting puree, then plating generously alongside a steaming side of spaghetti western soundtracks. That bizarre thought experiment may not make you hungry, but it will give you an idea of the generic touchstones for Younge's new release.
Still, it won't begin to impart the moody, almost spooky atmosphere Younge and his musical collaborators elicit from the many retro flourishes in Younge's compositional palette. The album is called "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics," but the only actual member of the classic Philadelphia soul outfit referenced in the title to be found on the album is lead singer William Hart, whose falsetto is slightly less flawless at the age of 68 than it was at the height of the Delfonics' success, when they were topping the charts with songs like "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" or "La-La (Means I Love You)." But even the raspy edge of Hart's voice (possibly further roughened by Younge's insistence on using pre-digital recording instruments and techniques) helps contribute to the strange and seductive ambience of the album.
Younge, who came to fame as the composer of the soundtrack - and film editor! - of the 2009 blaxploitation parody, "Black Dynamite," obviously has an affinity for the soul music of the decade preceding his birth. However, looming equally large in the musical influences evident in his work is Ennio Morricone, the Italian soundtrack maestro who composed the classic scores of films like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," "Once Upon a Time in the West" and "The Mission."
Younge borrows open, spacious arrangements (as well as a predilection for fuzz and twang guitar) from Morricone, and much of the aural weirdness of "Adrian Younge Presents the Delfonics" emerges from Younge's Frankensteinian mashing together of Morricone and Thom Bell, the producer behind the Delfonics' classic hits, as well as records by the Stylistics, the Spinners and many others.
Do yourself a favor and trip through the neo-psychedelic world of Adrian Younge, an exciting young artist breaking new ground in modern music by casting his eyes backwards.
NOTE: Don't forget that Craven is compiling a list of undiscovered or forgotten artists for an upcoming series in this space. A few folks have written with suggestions, but I'd like to include your favorite under-appreciated artist as well.
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me the name of an artist you feel needs to be better known, and why that performer (or band) moves you, then wait and see your selection profiled in upcoming weeks here in the Grand Junction Free Press.
Notes is funded in part by the Gill Foundation's Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, a proud supporter of local organizations like the Colorado Legacy Foundation and its work to create healthy and engaging school environments for all students.
Craven Lovelace produces Notes, a daily cultural history of popular music, for KAFM 88.1 Community Radio, kafmradio.org. You can visit cravenlovelace.com for more of his musings on the world of popular culture.