Kenny Dixon Jr has been better known for the last quarter century or so as Moodymann, a deep house legend, Detroit-based label-owner, DJ, producer, remixer, integrator of digital and analogue sounds. He’s like if Sly Stone kept on in the vein of There’s a Riot Goin On and Fresh and stayed together for long enough to collaborate with the likes of Erykah Badu and Angie Stone.
A Moodymann joint has George Clinton’s level of impossibly funky and just enough bedsit polish to be dancefloor deep.
And Taken Away is his latest set of jams – and it’s a bit of bliss beamed in from another world. Though, this one is also Moody’s Black Lives Matter alum, arguably. Following on from his own ordeal last year when he was minding his own business but was reported to police as looking suspicious. He’s still alive to tell that tell and it’s a mood that’s cast across much of Taken Away’s brief and focussed 37-minute run time. There’s the deep gospel, funk and soul cuts, there’s a blues cry (Goodbye Everybody) that wouldn’t be out of place on a Moby record but is far more successful in Moodymann’s hands; feeling more authentic too. And though there’s that familiar squelch of funked-up keyboard bass and added synthetic drums – sometimes Moody’s on hand to sing a line he’s stolen from Al Green, other times he’s layering in a direct lift from a Roberta Flack record – there’s none of the usual Bootsy Collins grin to these proceedings. The groove is in the art, sure. But this dig runs down a deeper vein.
Slow Down is more vintage Sly (think If You Want Me To Stay), the title track feels like what might have happened if the Daft Punk of Random Access Memories had been asked to remix Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy and Just Stay A While is where the fudgy blocks of house and funk keyboards are bricked up against a disco wall of sludge.
It’s the usual invigorating stuff, but the more sombre mood that pervades, particularly on the album’s front half (Let Me In feels like Lauryn Hill riding on a J Dilla hook-line) is subtly devastating.
The lost-deep-in-dance vibe does eventually arrive, as with the closer, I Need Another. By the time that arrives you’ll likely need another spin of this very fine record from this very fine producer.
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