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[Off The Record]
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Chocolate Genius

Back in the days of Reagan/Bush, Marc Anthony Thompson released albums of literate, genre-defying music to near-universal indifference. Refashioned as "Chocolate Genius," the multi-instrumentalist issued Black Music, one of the better 1998 releases you probably never heard. That disc’s burlesque blues — imagine a cold fusion of Princely polyphony, Paul Westerberg’s deflated sense of self, and Stevie Wonder’s socially minded soul — was set to a gripping, if self-depreciatory, diary of Thompson’s so-called life.

Now he returns with Godmusic, which comes complete with psalms, confessionals, and blasphemy. Thompson’s gifts as a soundtrack artist are evident in Godmusic’s ambient segues, sampled street sounds, and stylistic dexterity. There’s Beach Boys pastiche on "Infidel Blues," refried soul on "Love," and organ-laced beatbox grooves on "Planet Rock." His laconic, raspy drawl bespeaks a history of cigs and last calls. And the limber music, courtesy of Marc Ribot, Kevin Salem, Chris Whitley, and others, has the ruffled charm of a cabaret act booked in a juke joint. But the lyrics — full of poetic street reportage and savage wit — are the main attraction. Thompson can create emotionally vivid images with just a few choice words.


Issue Date: November 8 - 15, 2001

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