The moment word surfaced about Foreign Exchange putting together a new album, people were abuzz about. The fourth full length project has been released, and it’s called Love In Flying Colours (Foreign Exchange Music). A healthy amount of their music has been about love, romance, and relationships, but as with life, there is so much more than that and some of these things are explored here.
The production and arrangements on this album flow back and forth within the jazz, soul, funk, and disco realms, to the point where the interaction becomes blurred and you just start feeling the music for the sake of the music. The music nerds in some of us will pinpoint certain aspects and influences, stating that parts may sound like late 70’s/early 80’s chart toppers, along with the deep guys from these artists and albums that made those older recordings special. “Right After Midnight” has a nice 80’s feel, complete with the spoken/partial rap flows of Phonte and vocalist Sy Smith, while Gwen Bunn’s harmonies in “Can’t Turn Around” nicely accents Phonte’s own lines to where one might find it difficult to say who is doing the actual lead vocal. The time signature of “If I Knew Then” will make you wonder how the song is structured at first and once it’s figured out, then it changes again. Phonte’s performancs are always striking, showing what he has been capable of over the years, and it’s great when the song has him backing himself during a chorus. I enjoy the collabrations he does here with Smith, Bunn, Carmen Rodgers, Shana Tucker, Jeanne Jolly, Carlitta Durand, and Eric Robertson, but having a bigger and bolder sense of Phonte works quite well within this context.
The context? Nicolay’s musicianship and production is sharp, accomplishing to create a broad picture of each song during the verses and choruses, but then broadening the scope like a painter who is confident that his portrait (or shared portraits) is complete, but he will always go out of his way to add something extra. Some tracks directly capture specific feels and personas, but involves a bit more than just someone trying to duplicate what Marvin Gaye or Luther Vandross had done. Nicolay understands the configurations of what he’s putting together, and what he does is not unlike what Jazzanova hav done and become in the last ten years. To know how to create it is one thing, but to understand it is another. You don’t have to know or care about the understanding, but to feel something is there within these tracks, stand back and say “what did I just experience just now?” is one part of that exchange, foreign or otherwise.
What works on Love In Flying Colors is that it is split in two, like a classic album from the 1970’s. Ten tracks in total, with the last track on each side (in this case, tracks 5 and 10) being mellow, one having acoustic flavor and the other serving as the album’s afterglow, referring to the album’s conclusion, “When I Feel Love”. The entire album has peaks and valleys, understanding when to give the listener their all and when to remain reserved until the next song or two, until one last climb to the top, leading to the listener saying “I have to hear that all over again”. It may be a mere collection of ten songs, so one is able to pick personal favorites. There’s a flow here that is a part of the album’s continuity, created as an experience to be listened to as one. Whatever way you listen to this, you are sure to discover new things about it with each play, layer by layer, color by color, and one will be able to appreciate the controlled sensations Foreign Exchange have provided.