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Black Music

Chocolate Genius

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Album Review

That Mark Anthony Thompson went nearly a decade between releases says something about both record companies' perception of what, indeed, black music is and the realities of a business situation where the individual approach is the least likely thing to get any cohesive support. Happily, Black Music found Thompson on top of his game thanks to his talent and wide-ranging tastes, which have a clear echo in the reach of the album. He may start with a Dixieland jazz-meets-folk number and end with a hidden acoustic rendition of the fantastic slow-burn soul "Half a Man," but in between he tries just about anything that takes his fancy. Comparisons were made to similarly genre-elusive singer/songwriters like Prince and Jeff Buckley upon Black Music's release, but Thompson is his own man through and through. His voice tackles ranges from falsetto to gravelly blues and comes up trumps, while his ear for hooks and varying approaches skip between greasy R&B to acoustic, art rock-tinged introspection — it's not too surprising after listening to songs like "Stupid Again" to learn that he's a Radiohead fan. If there's a weakness to Black Music, it's that Thompson's strong enough to avoid sounding like an aimless dabbler, but at points can't really make his syntheses stand out as well as could be hoped. When he hits, though, he hits hard. "My Mom," a tender, harrowing reflection on the ravages of time on memory and personal connection, has both the lyrical and musical impact to matter, with Thompson's husky singing backed by acoustic plucking, low strings, and the softest of rhythms. Other strong points include "Safe and Sound," with its rising, anthemic build suddenly shifting into a roughly recorded drum jam without missing a step, and the moody-yet-pretty crawl of "Hangover Nine," one of several moments on the album where he showcases his fine sax abilities.

Customer Reviews

Great Music

This is one of the finest albums, it should be in your CD pile. There isn't a thing missed on the whole (Experience) CD. Track for track the finest written music committed to tape...ENJOY!!!

The Truth

I haven't purchased this album, I only have one song. "My Mom." This song is the most heartfelt song I have ever heard. It's sad and painful, but it is done incredibly well, and if this song is any indication as to what the entire album is, the album must be great.

Soulful, riveting, but aimless at times...

If you have never heard Chocolate Genius' music, listen to Black Music on headphones and allow yourself to absorb and feel. A rare soulful-acoustic brother, Chocolate's more surreal touches such as "Life" set the tone for this elegiac journey into a deep and painful place. Not all the songs stand out as well as some others - "Don't Look Down" is great and just kicks in from the beginning, it grabs you because it is honest. Lately, I have begun to really listen to hear an artist try to actually express something as opposed to just "sounding cool." Of course the high point is the moving "My Mom" ballad, easily one of the saddest songs I have ever heard and there ain't a false note in it. It's like a Bert Williams sketch upside down, he just grabs your heart and forces you to feel something that is dark and depressing and true to life. I never had a mother I knew, so for me it was particularly captivating just from a dramatic pint of view. In fact, its more like a mini-opera or play. Like the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" or Johnny Cash's "Hurt" - there is just something propulsive, sad, and beautiful about the composition and the performance itself. I first heard of Marc Anthony Thompson when he had designed the sound for Roger Guenevere-Smith's solo play A Huey P. Newton Story. I have not seen the Spike Lee film, but I remembered the haunting soundscape Thompson created and later when I discovered his Chocolate Genius persona - I was moved and deeply inspired. Perfect to start with, but then get Black Yankee Rock. That is his masterpiece.

Biography

Formed: Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Chocolate Genius is the brainchild of Marc Anthony Thompson, an eclectic singer/songwriter who released two solo albums under his own name during the '80s. Thompson was born in Panama, raised in California, and later moved to New York, where he became involved in the downtown avant-garde scene. When his solo career (which included albums in 1984 and 1989) hit a dead end, Thompson made that downtown scene his focal point, most notably recording with guitarist Marc Ribot in the mid-'90s. Thompson originally...
Full Bio
Black Music, Chocolate Genius
View In iTunes
  • $9.99
  • Genres: R&B/Soul, Music
  • Released: Jul 28, 1998

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