There is something going on with Joe Lington‘s Focus that, while being the stuff of the modern age, builds a bridge with past, conscious soul and funk artists. A bridge built on the solid ground of the musical style and reputation of the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Sly and the Family Stone, and Marvin Gaye. He has the same progressive attitude towards mixing, matching, and melding music, deftly stepping from one genre to another, soul to rock, pop to dance to funk, and more modern urban and clubland vibes. It’s all in there. Add to that his ability to sing songs in three languages and his desire to talk about pressing issues (sadly the same ones that those earlier pioneers were warning us of in their day), and you have a genuinely cross-cultural, genre-hopping, geographically fluid, socially conscious album.
Intro’s and spoken word tracks aside, Changeris opens up this sonic world, a supple and subtle slice of soul, soothing and seductive and made all the more so through his decision to sing it in French. Issa is a slice of Franco chasson-blues meets Afro-centric grooves; I’m not sure if that has ever been done before, Call Me Maybe sees him in slick clubland mode, and Call Me is a neo-soul-pop song that is perfect for the charts. There is even room for a few instrumental interludes, like sonic sorbets, to cleanse the musical palette between songs—another exciting and rewarding sonic choice.
Spending time with Joe Lington’s music is to spend time with a genuinely adventurous artist. On the first spin of an album such as Focus, you might think that you have it pegged: a neat new wave soul meets dance meets urban pop album. And it is all those things. But play it again, and you really start to appreciate the depth of the music and its construction. A third spin reveals lush tones and layered textures. One more, and you understand how well-crafted and produced the album is. And so on, and so on.
Focus is an album that keeps on giving.