This is a review of a the original British album and British tradition dictates that the big single from the album is not released on that album, so that consumers have to buy both. So the song you know, “Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)” is only present here in an a cappella version that is utterly different from the single. Just so you’ve been warned. (My understanding is it was added to the US edition, because American record execs believed nobody would buy the album without the single.)
This is a relatively diverse R&B record, running the gamut from hip hop to R&B and Dance Pop to House music, with a little bit of a world music influence on some of the tracks. (There’s a dance track here with a flute solo over top of it, that gets some psychedelic backmasking. I don’t even know what to call that.) I don’t like most of those things, but I appreciate that this diversity was not that common on an R&B record from the 1980s, so that’s a good thing.
Like so much music like this – especially music that appears to be made by a collective – I struggle to relate to it because there’s often no sense of authorship or, rather, it feels like there are so many authors. Is Jazzie’s point of view in “Jazzie’s Groove” really compatible with “Back to Life” or some of the other songs? Is it meant to be?
I get that this is relatively diverse for what it is. And I hear that it has been influential, particularly in its incorporation of electronic and world music influences. But it does absolutely nothing for me. I’ve forgotten just about everything when the album is over, and the parts I remember aren’t things that make me want to return (because it’s not my kind of music). I really have no idea what to make of it.