REVIEW: Foreign Exchange’s “Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey”

Foreign Exchange photo FE2015_cover_zpsy59h240c.jpg If Foreign Exchange keeps on making music like this, they may become one of the biggest and influential groups of the 10’s. If you don’t think so, you haven’t heard Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey (Foreign Exchange Music). If you’ve heard what these guys are capable of doing, you are going to love what they do here. The group remains within the core of Phonte Coleman and Nicolay but they are open to bringing in musical and vocal guests, some of the singers involved in this include Shana Tucker, Tamisha Waden, Carlitta Durand, and Carmen Rodgers. It sounds like a family, it sounds like a group, it sounds like a mission. It sounds like an organization that has traveled around the world to bring their music and good vibes to everyone willing to listen, leading to everyone celebrate and that’s what these songs are: a celebration.

Upon beginning the album with “Milk And Honey”, you immediately get a sense they not only want you to come to their show, but they are willing to become part of your adventures, whatever and wherever it is. The Brazilian feel of the song mixed with more modern dance substances reminds me of Bossa Rio meets Jazzanova. “Disappear” may remind a few listeners of British soul music but some may also hear a slight Afrobeat rhythm to it, as if Fela Kuti decided to intermingle with outsiders for a few hours and wanted to just let the music groove up on itself. The ballads definitely do not take a toll and they nicely blend easily with the album that has its share of groovers and uptempo dance tracks too. “Work It To The Top” takes things to the late 70’s/early 80’s, as if Off The Wall or Luther Vandross’ first debut solo album was still on the radio and completely changed the world. The drum machine mechanics of “Truce” immediately sets a feeling, perhaps one of romance, maybe one of seduction, but very much one of intense listening through what everyone is doing and creating within the tune.

To be honest, this… I made a reference to “outsiders” when I mentioned Fela Kuti earlier in the review and the music of the Foreign Exchange is special made for outsiders, made by musicians and singers who want to open it to everyone by bringing you inside, no exclusivity. When I say outsiders, I mean that this is an album that would be very fitting for a lot of people in the United States but they may be turned off by something they’re not feeling as “their vibe”. Take this to Europe, take this to South American, take this to Japan and people will get it. It’s more than just the singing and the poetic licenses made by the lyrics, it’s very much a feeling that a lot of musicians either forgot or choose to ignore. Nicolay and Phonte make it a part of their plan and by creating song after song, they’re letting people know that there are stories to be told, and entering Tales From The Land Of Milk And Honey is exploring a few new chapters of their library. There is a beginning, middle, and once again and open ending, another “to be continued” as the album comes to a close, insuring fans will come back wanting much more, whatever it may be.

AUDIO: MED & Blu & Madlib featuring Phonte & Likewise’s “Finer Things”

MED & Blu worked with Sir Madlib on an album project called Bad Neighbor and they’d like to share a track from it. This is called “Finer Things” and I want you to take a listen, so please enjoy.

Now you’re probably saying “wait a minute: I see names in the subject line, I’m not going anywhere until you mention it somewhere in this description” so I will. The main main known as Phonte Coleman is a part of this song, along with Likewise. If it has Phonte, that immediately means this song is a trademark of quality and c’mon, Madlib? Now have a listen, don’t hesitate.

REVIEW: Nicolay’s “City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto”

Nicolay photo Nicolay2015_cover_zpscujpelif.jpg Go to any part of City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto and you may mistake this as something by Jazzanova or Mondo Grosso/Shinichi Osawa. The reason for that is because of the musicianship, the arrangements, and complexities but with any musician, it’s all in the composition and presentation that may make it seem complex and it may very well be as easy as a coloring book. For Matthijs Rook, it may very well be effortless but the easy in how he does it is because it’s true to him, his creations and playing come from the heart. As Nicolay, he continues on his worldly travels, in a real sense or metaphorical/musical. In the words of Elvis Costello, “if you’re out of luck or out of work, we can send you to Johannesburg.” For Nicolay, the inspiration is to take himself to Johannesburg and find an essence to some of his creations.

City Lights Vol. 3: Soweto is a nice blend of vocalized song and powerful instrumentals, with easy song being a diary of sorts on the journey of his existence and experiences. As the voice says in “Sun Rings/Uprising”, direct language is all about being literal, to be honest in front of you without fear, of what you see and hear. You can then say that Nicolay’s music on this album is very much performed without fear and doesn’t hide anything, for what he feels is what you hear and thus visualize upon listening. You may bring to mind your own tales or for the songs with lyrics, escape into their worlds for a few minutes. What you’re hearing is the sensibilities of multiple heart beats and despite each one being individualistic, they are somehow connected, his musical painting of what he felt over the years while visiting Soweto. One may hear the name of the city and think of the Malcolm McLaren song of the same name but Nicolay creates a much stronger picture, vivid and utterly passionate in its execution.

Vocalists Carmen Rodgers and Tamisha Waden make their presence known but for me, I don’t mind saying that when it comes to Nicolay, I want to know what Phonte Coleman is doing and where he plays on taking me with his performances. The duality of the Foreign Exchange union continues to thrive and while both of them are more than capable of carrying something unique on their own terms, there is a sense of magic that may be unknown but it is felt. It’s something to listen to, sit back and just say “this is what it’s all about.”

As with much of Nicolay’s work over the years, as the album goes on, there’s a sense that the travels will go further for many ears to come. As with any true musician and composer, he plays with a sense in making his music open-ended in a Duke Ellington manner, as if to say “to be continued”. You hear a song like “There Is A Place For Us” and know he’s about to pull you towards the finish line. However, you know the end as nothing more than the beginning of another path towards a new race to take yourself to, another challenge forthcoming. It may not be an actual battle against anyone but ones self, but it can be all about the survival of the fittest. When you are balanced with ones sense of self, it becomes automatic. Effortless. Easy. Another page in Nicolay’s diary has been turned. To be continued…


AUDIO: Mello Music Group featuring Oddisee & Phonte’s “Requiem”

Oddisee rhymes and produced this cut from a new compilation album on Mello Music Group called Persona, and he receives lyrical and verbal help from Phonte in a rap manner. Assisting on vocals is singer Tamisha Waden. The entire comp, which will also feature Kool Keith, Ras Kass, Gift Of Gab, Rapper Big Pooh, Open Mike Eagle and many more, will be out on March 10th.

VIDEO: The Foreign Exchange get themselves a “Tiny Mix” concert
You may already be familiar with NPR’s Tiny Desk series, where artists are able to play music within a somewhat confined space but perform in a manner that is intimate but ready for everyone to listen to. This time, the honor of the Tiny Desk goes to Phonte Coleman and Nicolay Rook, whom you should know as The Foreign Exchange and here they are having fun with it with help from keyboardist Zo!

SOME STUFFS: Foreign Exchange announce first concert dates of 2014

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Foreign Exchange promise that they’ll be making their way to the western part of the United States but for now, they’ve announced a tour that will take them through the east and mid-west. Fear not: if you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know that there are plans to go to Europe and South America. Those dates will be mentioned when ready but for now, have a look at these. South Africa: get ready for their arrival around May 30th:

April 11… Pittsburgh, PA (DreamOn Festival)
April 26… Durham, NC (The Art Of Cool Festival)
May 1… Richmond, VA (The Canal Club)
May 2… Washington, DC (The Howard Theater)
May 4… Philadelphia, PA (World Cafe Live)
May 5… Brooklyn, NY (Music Hall Of Williamsburg)
May 6… Cambridge, MA (The Middle East)
May 8… Cleveland, OH (Beachland Ballroom)
May 9… Detroit, MI (Magic Stick)
May 10… Chicago, IL (Metro)
May 12… Columbus, OH (Woodland Tavern)
May 30… Johannesburg, South Africa (Bassline)
June 12… Charlotte, NC (The Chop Shop)
June 13… Atlanta, GA (Terminal West)
June 14… Birmingham, AL (The WorkPlay Theatre)
June 16… Nashville, TN (12th & Porter)
June 17… Louisville, KY (Zanzabar)
June 18… Memphis, TN (Hi-Tone)
June 20… St Louis, MO (Plush)
June 21… Kansas City, MO (The Riot Room)
June 23… Denver, CO (Cervantes’ Masterpiece)
June 25… Austin, TX (The North Door)
June 26… Dallas, TX (The Prophet Bar)
June 27… Houston, TX (Fitzgerald’s)
June 29… New Orleans, LA (Tipitina’s)
September 24… London, England (Jazz Cafe)
September 26… London, England (Jazz Cafe)

VIDEO: Zo! featuring Eric Roberson & Phonte’s “We Are On The Move”

When Zo! released his ManMade album (my review of which can be read by clicking here, “We Are On The Move” was probably my favorite song on there. For the video, it is a flashback to the days when a group could take a stroll by looking your Sunday best. The video is even done in the same ratio as American videos in the 1980’s, thanks to director Kenneth Price. All that’s missing is a commercial for Down Home Blues and Madelyne Woods.

RECORD CRACK: New Foreign Exchange album now available on vinyl

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Love In Flying Colors (Foreign Exchange Music) is the latest album by Foreign Exchange (my review of which can be read by clicking here) and now you’re able to have the 2LP set in flying colors as well. Okay, two different color variations:

  • black vinyl
  • blue vinyl with bonus 7″ single of “Call It Home” b/w “Pity”

    Both variations come with free MP3 download code for the album itself. You may order it directly from

  • REVIEW: Foreign Exchange’s “Love In Flying Colors”

     photo FElifc_cover_zps0fa6e439.jpg 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.

    AUDIO: Don Streat featuring Little Brother’s “The Sun (Remix)”

    Maryland and France merge with this new project by Don Streat and producer Cool HD, which will be an album called Bare My Soul, due out on the 19th of September, and this song may very well bring it some awareness. It’s a remix of “The Sun” , which welcomes North Carolina’s Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh doing what they do, and nicely.