Connections are important to Jordan Rakei. Musically speaking, he is a joined-up man, undertaking recent writing sessions with Nile Rodgers, writing and producing four tracks for Loyle Carner’s second album and being an active member of the Are We Live enterprise with Tom Misch, Alfa Mist and Barney Artist. All three feature on third solo album Origin, where Rakei also links up with producer Terrace Martin. Everything would seem to be in place.
Yet the main concern of Origin is disconnection – specifically, how the day to day relationships within the world in which we live are in danger of breaking up for good. Rakei gets straight to the point with Mad World. “Stay away from the motion and madness, stay away from the streets for me” he sings, as the nagging piano chords fuel disquiet.
This song sets the scene for an album dominated by profound lyrics, the singer looking both for reassurance and commitment. The exquisitely scored Speak is a beauty but a sad one, with a lament of how “I’ve been waiting years to hold you, but we keep on passing by. I walk the streets in silence, searching through the night”. Rolling Into One has an earthy groove but yearns with comparable hunger, Rakei’s smooth tones asking to “show me what love is”. Oasis, too, exemplifies the blend of thoughtful lyrics and full bodied, piano-led soul grooves that operate as much off the beat as they do on them.
Despite these concerns, there are reasons to be cheerful and optimistic. While the telling line from Signs is a reminder that “I’m human as well”, the strands are pulled together in the closing Mantra. Here he invites his audience to “sing with me this lullaby”, the music looking resolutely forward, the mood defiant. With all the downward stories of the world as we know it currently, it is an affirmation for positive living.
The need for so many lyrical quotes illustrates the essential human elements of Rakei’s songwriting. The deep, emotional content shows how his music has progressed from Wallflower only two years ago. Despite some searching insights on that album the connection with the listener was not so strong as here. Musically too there is a notable step forward, turning more towards a traditional soul style at the album’s core. There is a more natural groove, and the piano steps in more to complement the voice, even if this does sometimes lead to congestion on the instrumental side.
The guests acquit themselves well – Tom Misch with his airy instrumentation for You & Me, Alfa Mist in the multilayered, heat soaked Wildfire, with its rich vocals, and Zak Abel adding his powerful voice to Mad World.
But this is Rakei’s own personal utterance, and it is to be hoped his ultimate wishes for love and reconnection are granted, along with greater physical and spiritual unity in the world. Once that is achieved – an ambitious task! – he’ll still have much to sing about.