First Impressions: Sex N' Soul The Marsha Ambrosius Way

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Marsha Ambrosius had me at "Say Yes". It was sex with the dinner and a movie and a walk on the beach attached to it. Since then, I have been a fan, and it;s safe to say that her official solo debut, Late Nights & Early Mornings follows in this same proposition---it's an album that you want to wine and dine, based strictly on Ambrosius' tender touch to putting the rhythm back into the blues. Since being 1/2 of UK duo Floetry, Ambrosius has been getting to this moment. A moment where she could let her production smarts, her butter alto vocals, and her words  shine as a singular. All sides of the Floetry story have turned out well (just see The Floacist and Amanda Diva for examples), yet Ambrosius has been the most anticipatory when it came to her debut release, considering the outpouring of collaborations she has attended too. After releasing mixtapes by the pound and being in the background vocally and with pen in hand, Ambrosius' solo offering has been years in the making and the wait has been worth it.

The album skips all the foreplay and gets to business with "With You" opening in a sultry glow that instantly sets you into the mood. The lovin' continues with a faint trace of Prince's "Do Me" (along with those recognizable drums from "The Beautiful Ones") in the sexy title track. The sounds on Late Nights pretty much remain in this vein, with little to no variance in-between making some of the songs similar and almost blend together. This is sort of the album's grace and it's pitfall. When you want Ambrosius to sort of shake off the quiet storm and show off some edge, it doesn't happen. For easy-all-the-way-through listening, that's great, but to show Ambrosius' depth, Late Nights as a whole doesn't really give us that inkling. Considering the ranges Ambrosius has had in the past, her sticking to a formulaic sound is a bit surprising. 

Standing out from the pack is still "I Hope She Cheats On You (With A Basketball Player)" which is sharp in it's snark, and while it isn't the best constructed song on here, it is brashly different. "Tears" has a nice old school backing to it where Ambrosius displays her impeccable vocal range on, and "Chasing Clouds" recalls Floetry in a warm familiar way. Along with the John Legend-esque piano-driven swell  of "I Want You To Stay", these tracks show Ambrosius at her genuine best.

I Want You To Stay

"Far Away" becomes the centerpiece of the record, and it's also the album's best number. It's sprawls out at seven minutes, but you are engaged within its realm, and when it extends into an atmospheric vocal loop it is just superb and haunting at once. With it's thought-provoking accompanying video, Ambrosius has a classic in the vein of her previous penned tracks, with "Butterflies" coming to the forefront.

Speaking of "Butterflies", it appears again, re-recorded, which seems a bit unnecessary considering Floetry and Michael Jackson's lovely rendition have been in existence for about ten years now, but if you liked it'll like it for a third time. Ambrosius does try out some new avenues that shake up her formula some. She twists Lauryn Hill's "Lose Myself", transforming it into the lush mid-tempo it probably should have been. It's this kind of risk that is welcomed from Ambrosius, and what I was hoping more of. She soaks her feet into Portishead's classic, "Sour Times", a song that I often favored how Bryn Christopher warmly laid it all out, so since hearing Ambrosius wail about "nobody loves me, it's true...not like you do" I have to say that "Sour Times" was meant for soul music covers.

Sour Times 

R&B has been needing it's "sexyback" and with Late Nights & Early Mornings, it's safe to say that Ambrosius brought it as she had lovin' on her mind while making her debut. Even amid a few small typical first album speed bumps, she still manages to make a solid, sincere and stylish effort that once you're seduced by it---you do indeed want more.

Release Date: March 1, 2011

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