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Same as It Never Was

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Album Review

Usually the grooviest and most hip-hop connected of Ninja Tune's acts, the Herbaliser gradually matured into a supremo live band, led by the duo of Ollie Teeba and Jake Wherry but also encompassing dozens of support slots for brass, woodwinds, and percussionists, plus the usual plugged-in instruments. Still, the Herbaliser isn't a chamber ensemble per se, but instead the type of funky big band prominent in the '70s, the kind that could drop a blaxploitation or disco nugget one minute and get all funky over "Sunny" the next. Same as It Never Was, their first record for !K7, is in similar company to Herbaliser's previous Take London from 2005. It's delivered with the help of an excellent roster of musicians; tenor saxman Chris Bowden, bassist Pino Palladino, and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Ross all make multiple appearances. The sound and productions are definitely up to the Herbaliser standard, but the duo may lose a few listeners when they exercise their funny bones, as they do several times here. Instead of hitting at street level, they spend a lot of time indulging in camp instrumentals like "The Next Spot" and "Amores Bongo" (it's not "Sunny," but it's close). As Herbaliser have done since their debut, they excel at bringing vocal features to life; here it's the Jean Grae guest spot "Street Karma (A Cautionary Tale)," with its eerie blaxploitation shadings. Other highlights come with "Can't Help This Feeling" and "On Your Knees," both featuring vocals by the leather-lunged soul-blues belter Jessica Darling. (Obviously Herbaliser have been at it for years, but it's difficult not to hear her and think of Amy Winehouse or Sharon Jones.) There's no doubting the Herbaliser's ability to deliver exactly what they're attempting, but despite the excellent playing and good vocal features (when they occur), the songwriting and choice of material make this record inferior to the usual Herbaliser standard.

Customer Reviews

best yet?

Cracking collection of brit hop, updated old school R&B and broken beats, and more consistently excellent than any previous Herbaliser offering. Not a weak track, but the subtle menace of Street Karma and the soul of On Your Knees stand out. Well worth the money - and then some.

Crackin'

Solid album with plenty of tunes to keep your funk soul body moving! Seventies disco with up to date hip hop and crisp clean beats. Best for me has to be "Clap your hands" and "On your knees" for pure party atmos, but "Street Karma" deserves a mention as the best track, deep and dark. "Dirty" Harry Callahan would be proud.

Hot Spice

I don't find a lot to get excited about nowadays, but this album has kept me away from my Funkadelic collection for quite a while! It's like a good curry menu: mix a few familiar ingredients (hip-hop, beats, latin, funk) to make a great collection of cuts that never takes itself too seriously and is above all fun, exciting and seriously funky. The production is maybe a bit too clean but it's still a great sound. A massive feel-good factor makes this a winner - you won't regret it!

Biography

Formed: 1992 in London, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

The Herbaliser are one of the more purely hip-hop-oriented acts on Ninja Tune's roster of sample-based pocket-funk. Combining deft midtempo beats, well-chosen jazz and funk figures, sparse scratching, and even the odd rap, Herbaliser bridge the gap between dusty B-side instrumental hip-hop and London's new school of psychotropic beat scientists. Formed by Ollie Teeba and Jake Wherry in the early '90s, Herbaliser, unlike many of London's abstract beat scene's acid house-steeped big-name artists, trace...
Full bio