Album Watch: Sy Smith Is 'Fast & Curious'

Friday, March 9, 2012

There are some artists that I wish upon a Jimmy Cricket star that were bigger names than they are. Then again---you always have to be careful for what you wish for, as the mainstream market can get their grubby, tampering hands on an artist's original panache, stripping them of what made them unique in the first place.

Sy Smith needs more recognition, but doesn't need to have all the gimmicktry that gets piled on artists these days. Talent for days, and a sweet Jazz influenced croon, the New York born-California based artist's biggest claim to fame is being a background vocalist for American Idol. Coming into the foreground, she's got rockets in her pockets and would no doubt embarrass the "talent" that she backs on the AI stage these days. Her trio of albums 2000's Psykosoul, 2005's The Syberspace Social, and (my personal favorite), 2008's Conflict, highlight fully Smith's taste for lounge-groove-a-thons that has made her sort of a best kept secret in many a soul sojourner's music satchel. The trick for Sy has always been to to blend in the old school with the modern, and the formula is something that has worked for Sy and continues to work on her newest installment, Fast and Curious, and it's even better the fourth time 'round.

Produced entirely by super beatman Mark de Clive-Lowe and mixing an expert blend of slip n' slide House with hints of post-Disco in its fiber, Fast and Curious gives notes of dance days gone by, but also spins it to where the 21st Century can find some footing in it.

You're instantly locked in with the title track, which has an arrangement filled with attitude, as does it's follow-up, the sleek and percussive "Truth". House tracks like "Personal Paradise" and "Primary Effect" bounce along nicely while "Let The Rain Fall Down" has a hint of Chic flair as it percolates and feels ready for a lighted dance floor. Personal favorite, "Message From The Stars" sways and grooves on a thumping early 80's groove, which segues wonderfully in the "People Of The Sun" which has Sy in a Jocelyn Brown and Jenny Burton state-of-mind. Things do calm down with the sultry, "The Ooh To My Aah" which has Sy trying on some Janet Jackson game for size.

Rahsaan Patterson, who is always lovely duet company, makes an entrance on a misbegotten 1981 Billy Ocean hit, "Nights (Feel Like Gettin' Down)", and the two charm the pants right off of you. Not new, but still effective in the collective, is Sy's re-imagining of Teena Marie's 1984 classic, "Lovergirl" on "Teena (Lovergirl Sybercized)". You'll have to squint and keep telling yourself that it is actually a cover of "Lovergirl" considering how the tempo is slowed, horns flit there way in, with some laid-back aesthetics that turns this song into a completely different, but innovative vibe.

Fast and Curious is quite the mixed cocktail of electric relaxation and groove and it's sure to hip swivel it's way into your best of '12---I know it's already found it's way into mine.

Release Date: March 6, 2012
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  1. Thank you Jennifer for yet another great recommendation. I have Syberspace Social and in general love Sy Smith. I picked this up a few days back and absolutely love it - the way it mixes an old school feel (songs that remind you of those days without being exact copies)- evoking that spirit while also bringing some great contemporary beats. She and MDCL make a wonderful team and even if she doesn't become a superstar (that would be asking a miracle of the music business:) I hope this gets her more fans - which no doubt it will. With so many R&B artists going the 'dance' route (which I don't think this is): she and MDCL show them how to create a great album with infectious, danceable yet challenging beats. And as for covers - I agree - the Teena (lovergirl Syberized) is genius -a great , inventive tribute that mixes the best of both artists.

    1. No prob :) Everything you said was dead on. Even though I really like 'Conflict'...I'm finding I'm liking 'Fast & Curious' over it. Just a really finely produced set MDCL.


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