The pivotal change of direction. What is a new beginning for some artists is a short hop for others, before a return to familiar surroundings. Many a career has been jumpstarted into overdrive, while others have been ground into monotony thanks to such a decision. In such a fickle industry, it takes a very brave soul to choose such a public arena to do what, ultimately, amounts to a risky form of publicised artistic exploration.
After more then fifteen years in the game, whether fully fledged or short lived, ‘Redlight’ is Colonel Red’s sonic redefinition.
The difference is stark. Red’s last studio album, Keep Walkin‘, has a hint of what is on show here, but is primarily a soul lavished smooth fest from start to finish. Redlight is a mash up of New Era Electro Funk R’n’B for the EDM generation. Where Keep Walkin’ sways and swings, Redlight swashes and buckles. Some of the bass lines are serious thumpers and the churning beats don’t just hit, they hit hard. Play some of these with the volume turned up at your peril.
The Colonel keeps the topics to the usual suspects of love and life and as per usual, he doesn’t disappoint in the crooning stakes. What he does do however, is go all Beyoncé on us (sort of) with a few spoken word verses on some of the songs. At times it serves as an elongated intro of sorts, before those silky vocals kick in (on ‘Just A Word‘). Then there are the times when the only singing being done is on the hook (on ‘Your Love’). Now, I could be completely misinterpreting the atmosphere that the Colonel was aiming for, but his monotone delivery didn’t do anything for me at all.
It seems he suffered from the same issues with his production, although the beats do hit hard, they almost all hit in the same way. Individually, the formula works fairly well and if there was a regular change of scene to break things up, then the project may have worked. But the one gear tempo and oh so similar drum patterns make listening to all eighteen songs in one go a virtual impossibility. The fact that the Colonel has produced the entire album has turned out to be its biggest failing. Yes the sound is something of an alternative to the norm, but the lack of expanse is something that needs to be addressed if continued, use of the newly created sonics is to prove worthwhile.
There are instances when old and new collide and it is in those instances that Redlight soars. ‘Wotchu-Gonna-Do‘ and ‘Where Did My Sun Go‘ provide a long overdue change of pace and uncluttered instrumentation, ‘This Game’ slows the Electro Funk down to a lovely splice of Electro Neo Soul, while ‘Change’ is the vocal standout that also happens to be a superb soulful slow jam. For me these are perfect examples of a route Colonel Red could take, new sound or not.
The phrase ‘slowly slowly catchy monkey’ comes to mind when I take the new bearings into consideration. If the Colonel had chosen his favourite eight songs of his new sound and changed the tempo once or twice with the elements that made Keep Walkin’ such a great listen, the whole thing would have been much easier on the palette. It seems to me that having put all of the music together, Colonel Red got a little over excited and unleashed too much too soon. If the songs had been approached in different ways with regards to the end product, then things may have been different. But you simply can’t stuff an album full of that many near clones of an experimental sound (that to me hasn’t yet been truly conquered) and expect people to buy into it. The re-vision needs some revision.