MGF Reviews Samantha James – Rise

Samantha James – Rise
Om Records (9/25/07)
Electronic / Dance / Soul

Since its inception in the early ’80s (as it slowly broke away from disco), house music has branched off into so many sub-genres that it’s hard to keep track of what is what. Of course, this was to be expected, as it happens with all musical genres. While these sub-genres do include crap like hard house and speed garage, the good stuff is so good that it cancels out the crap. The trio of disco house, funky house and deep house are as integral to the genre, by and large, as onions, bell peppers and celery are to Cajun cooking. Just think of Farley, Mr. Fingers and Marshall Jefferson as the fathers who would be proud that their children have represented them so well. I realize that this is a ridiculously long lede, so I’ll stop here and get on with the review.

In any event, regarding the aforementioned deep house, Samantha James has teamed up with producer Sebastian Arocha Morton to create of the best pure deep house albums that I’ve heard in a while. James’ vocals could best be likened to a combination between Sade and Amel Larrieux, with a nice mix of sexy, sultry style and an underlying, undeniable element of soul. Morton provides the musical backdrop for the album, which is jazzy, organic house that fits perfectly on the Om Records roster, though it could also thrive well on Naked Music or even ESL Music. This is actually a route that I’d like to see a lot more modern songstresses take, as any tracks on here beats the piss out of any of Timbaland’s recent beats. That one house mix of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” was pretty damn good, and I would really be interested to see what Rihanna could do with a good house producer.

Much like James’ vocals, Morton’s production is refreshingly versatile. Some of the tracks are decidedly ethereal, like the vapory “Enchanted Life”, “Rain” and “Come Through” (while James shows that she can roll vocally with the heavy hitters on “Deep Sunrise”), while others, like “Breathe You In” and “Send It Out to the Universe” are funky house anthems that one might hear while shopping in either a swanky lounge that charges $500 for a bottle of Absolut and/or some sort of high-end apparel store. Don’t let my snarky comments give you the wrong idea—I’m just bitter because I can’t afford a $500 bottle of Absolut—as the music is awesome.

“Living Without You” and “Right Now” combines the two aforementioned styles perfectly, serving as both great dance and chill-out tracks, which would work well in either a Hed Kandi mix or Back to Mine compilation. “I Found You” recalls older Thievery Corporation material, with a fantastic Latin jazz fusion element broguth about by a cameo from Brazilian guitarist/singer Celso Fonseca.

Fans of Naked Music and similar deep house from over the past decade would be well advised to buy this album. Even you fans of R&B should pick it up, because it contains a lot of what you should like as well. And it serves as a very soulful, yet funky representation of how the music industry is far from dead—screw Jack White and his whining.