reviewed by Ben Hogwood
What’s the story?
The Coronavirus pandemic has had a deep effect on many artists, causing them to rethink their approach to life and often showing them the things of greatest importance. George Evelyn, the man behind Nightmares On Wax, is no exception, as a life spent largely on the road became extended time spent with his wife and daughter.
At the same time he was in the midst of a cancer scare, prompting him to write Shout Out! as though it was his last album. The profound effect of these life-changing experiences led to what he declares to be his most personal album yet – and his most thankful one too.
What’s the music like?
Shout Out! To Freedom… has typically blissful Nightmares On Wax vibes, with good feelings to the fore, but there is definitely something more profound hovering on the surface. The positive feelings are dispensed from the start, but contemplation and appreciation is often the order of the day.
3D Warrior is one of the finest tracks in that respect, with a mellow saxophone sound from Shabaka Hutchings and some excellent vocals from Haile Supreme and Wolfgang Haffner. Hutchings appears again in Wonder, a beautiful piece of work where the instrument really feels airborne and lost in time, its opening statement akin to a piece of ancient plainchant.
Greentea Peng is a captivating and provocative presence on Wikid Satellites, her vocal an excellent foil as the music steps up a gear. Own Me is a thoughtful study in positivity with Haile Supreme to the accompaniment of a dreamy trumpet, while Isolated – in spite of its obvious lyrical influence – is uplifting in a deep-rooted way, positivity coursing through the warm production. Trillion has an electro edge, sharpening the vocals from Mara TK, while Miami 80 is an excellent, piano-based instrumental construction that could be longer.
Evelyn has a very natural musical style that can’t be fully pinned down, other than to say he works in elements of hip hop, soul, dub and funk without ever restricting himself to one. The vocalists are well-chosen, while the production casts an attractive heat haze over the whole album.
Does it all work?
Very much so. This is deeply felt material, made by an artist still at the top of his game, bringing music to Warp that is just as meaningful as when he started with the label in 1991.
Is it recommended?
Yes. As simple as that!