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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

Headphone Commute Review

So what exactly prompted The Herbaliser to release Same As It Never Was on the infamous Studio !K7? After all, their deep discography is tied almost exclusively to Ninja Tune [if anyone knows the answer, drop me a line]. Since 1995, Ollie Teeba and Jake Wherry have released five studio albums and two live mixes on Fabric (see my previous review of Fabric.26), not to mention a dozen singles, appearances and remixes. The group has also grown from an original duo into a full 5-piece band - you have to check out the amazing Session One album (Department H., 2000). Same As It Never Was indeed sounds a bit more funky, as the group is attempting to trace the hip-hop roots and bring back the elements of jazz, r&b, and soul. This time they are also joined by the London based "22-year soul diva" Jessica Darling - who lays her lovely voice so smoothly over the grooves - really brings back the fun of the 70s. The track Can't Help This Feeling will validate any doubts. NYC based Jean Grae (aka What? What?) returns with an excellent track, Street Karma (A Cautionary Tale) previously collaborating with The Herbaliser on Take London (Ninja Tune, 2005). Revitalizing the genre, The Herbaliser sparks a wave of nu-soul, if you will, across the continent. It would be a pleasure to watch them live. My typical artist cloud for The Herbaliser would include DJ Food, The Cinematic Orchestra, Funki Porcini, DJ Krush and Up, Bustle and Out.

All the key elements and a phenomenal production!

Herbaliser does it again! A mix of Bold Urban Bass with a Sixties feel, very organic at the same time. I rarely buy whole albums, this is one of those rare occasions because every song is as excellent as the one that preceeded it! Thank you!

Awesome. Awesome

First time I heard you guys and this was great. A mix of jazz/funk and hip hop. It sounds and feels so fresh. I bought two of your other albums after this one and those are also very solid. You and cunninlynguists should hook up for a record. With the Piece of Strange sound mixed with your sound could become an instant classic if done correctly of course. You guys at the moment are my new found glory and very happy i checked you guys out...soon i'll have all of your albums.


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...
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