Music is driven by many factors and we often find that the biggest inspirations, the best creative flows are the result of being presented with the biggest hurdles. When faced with two life changing diagnoses, instead of pulling away and feeling sorry for himself, Alphonso Archer was driven to be more creative, more pro-active, more focused and the result is a fantastic collection of songs which goes by the name of Formula For Life.
It is an album woven from a wide range of subtle and soulful threads, jazz infused blissfulness, groovesome R&B and perfect pop forms blended together to create infectiousness and accessibility. And yet despite all the generic juggling and stylistic mixing it is an album with a very cohesive sound, one which brims with sophistication and modernity yet one that is aware of its place in the musical scheme of things, one which understands exactly where it is coming from and because of that knows where it is going. And where it is going is into a bright new musical dawn.
On songs such as Omens it revels in a chilled R&B vibe, one which will appeal to both the commercial minded pop punter and the more discerning movers, shakers, and underground tastemakers and the title track is built on jazz-soul sweetness and brims with positivity. But there is also room for more off-beat ideas, Where Have All The Flowers Gone? sees Alphonso Archer go green and over a mesh of minimal beats, classical guitar and brooding strings a spoken word narrative discusses the plight of the humble bee. Also included is a re-mixed rap version but for me the almost Shakespearean delivery of the original is the one that does it for me.
Bring You Back Again explores some reggae vibes and Let’s Keep Things Simple is a brilliant pop-soul cross over which given a fair wind and the right promotion could easily be a chart bothering contender. And despite the familiarity of the building blocks used to create this album, the end result is wonderfully original, deftly wrought and chock full of personality. Where soul has often become a catch all for impressive feats of sultry lyrical dexterity that all too often forget to invest in any genuine emotion, this is a record built on the heartfelt and honest, which after all were the hallmarks of the genre in the first place.
And whereas many artists working in this soul-jazz-pop axis have a tendency to be lyrically light and bereft of depth, Formula For Life has some wonderfully poignant moments, it tugs heartstrings, explores relationships and generally has much to say about life and it is that combination of musical exploration, poeticism and lyrical honesty that means that it might just propel Archer into the market he deserves. We can only hope.