Having played an important part in the developmentof drum and bass in the 1990s, Marc Mac andDego MacFarlane used the success of the Mercurynominated Two Pages album to move into more exoticallyscored, jazzier affairs that culminated with theirswooning cover of Minnie Riperton‘s Les Fleurs.Subsequent album Play With The Changes has occupiedthem all that time since.
With that comes the danger that they’ve spent toomuch time with the record and overproduced it. Thatthought is momentarily extinguished by the brightlytoned Morning Child with which the album opens, acrisp string section backing Carina Andersson‘swinsome vocals. But by the end of the album it’s back.The feeling is that, superbly produced as this recordis, the polish is just too thickly applied.
The potentially edgy, jazzy feel to some tracks istherefore masked by its orchestral sheen. The cover ofStevie Wonder‘s Superwoman is strangely lackingin funk or verve. Gonna Give It Up features a lowrange vocal that, though pleasant enough, doesn�toffer much in the way of energy.
In addition the use of well over a dozen gueststhreatens to make the album sound like more of acompilation. Face makes two endearingcontributions in Look Inside and Stoke Up The Fire,while the ever reliable Ursula Rucker threatensto steal the show with Awakening. The uniting featureis the 4Hero beats, at their most effective whencrisply splicing up the orchestration. But when theyfail to do that, the album plods.
If this sounds over-critical, it’s an indication ofthe high standards 4Hero have set themselves inprevious years. Perhaps now the long wait for an albumis over, they can follow up in double quick time witha record of more spontaneous invention.