Triangulation Station | Hiero Imperium
In his solo debut, the latest of several such releases from the Bay Area’s Souls of Mischief, Opio uses his album to show a side of himself we’ve never heard before. A self-proclaimed “child of the ‘70s,” Opio rips right into the album with party music that’s reminiscent of another Oakland group (The Coup), although he tends to keep his rhymes less politically revolutionary than Boots Riley. Still, Triangulation Station stays in synch with the typical incendiary liberalism of the East Bay by using cuts and scratches from Nixon to Reagan, while Opio pokes fun at Duyba with every appropriate opening.
If the complex Hieroglyphics collective has too many voices to keep track of, Opio has the benefit of his inimitable delivery, matching his nasal sneer perfectly to his diverse, orchestral production sounds. His overall style is certainly dynamic enough to warrant a full exploration of its own, but of course, he’s also got help from all of his friends too. There are plenty of collaborations on this disc, from the disco-funky “Granite Earth” with Pigeon John of Quannum Projects to the full-blown Souls assault “Drivers Wanted.” In the end, regardless of any help from his friends, Opio’s triumph with Triangulation Station is his own. (BS)
Sleepers | 6 Hole Records
With the other members of the underground trio Little Brother branching out successfully, it was probably only a matter of time before MC Big Pooh decided to ante up.
With Pooh’s solo debut, he doesn’t stray too far from the tried and true: in fact, Sleepers comes off sounding a lot like Little Brother’s celebrated debut, The Listening. It’s not surprising; a quick glance at the production notes confirms all the key players. With Phonte dropping an obligatory tag-team on “Every Block,” you might as well consider this a teaser for Little Brother’s next joint.
Still, Big Pooh’s got something to prove, and with all the individual success of his group members, why get overshadowed when you can work it for yourself? He steps up to the mic with confidence, spitting rhymes with more menace than anything off the playful nudges on his earlier apapearances. He gets some non-Little Brother support from his extended family friends in the Justus League, particularly Khrysis, who takes the opportunity to shine on the tight production of “I Don’t Care,” and “Now.” More than anything else, Sleepers lets Pooh show that he’s still on par with his group members. (BS)
Love Songs | RCA/Legacy
Mostly thought of as outlaw caricature/good ole boy and voice of the Dukes of Hazzard, Waylon was in fact as much a balladeer as he was a honky-tonk hero. Of the 14 songs included on this collection, at least a third or more of them are bona fide, recognizable classic tunes.
The problem with all of them is that Mr. J wasn’t much of a singer. If his pinched, choked delivery was barely acceptable for hardscrabble, uptempo two-step (and it barely was), his ability to croon and wail softly is barely extant. With a George Jones or a Ray Price, any sorrow-laden lyric becomes tear-jerk heaven, but with Waylon, it’s more a contest to see if he can make it to the end of the track alive.
Great writers can be like that sometimes. While Waylon isn’t completely talented as a singer, it does behoove one to check out cover versions of these songs, the best known being “Dreaming My Dreams With You” (Alison Krauss). These are gems, but not the most easily enjoyed. Take that for what it’s worth. (JA)