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Black Yankee Rock

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Album Review

Marc Anthony Thompson has released only five albums in over 20 years, but he has made each one count. Black Yankee Rock — featuring artwork that gives the Dixie flag fresh shades of red, black, and green — is certainly no exception. After the tightly controlled blare of the opener, "The Beginning of Always," the album serves up track after track of laid-back backdrops that range from lighthearted to somber in mood. The album, seemingly made with easygoing Saturday mornings in mind, doesn't have quite as many dimensions as Black Music or Godmusic, but it could also be said that it shows more focus. (When you're releasing albums every four or five years, it can't be easy to keep yourself from throwing out all of your ideas, no matter how incongruous they are.) Thompson's following his own instincts, as always, and he always manages to pull off something as valuable as anything by Eels or Beck. Best of all is "It's Going Wrong," a collaboration with Moby that tops anything from the bald one's Hotel. Unfortunately, this album will only receive a sliver of the attention.

Customer Reviews

Chasing Strange

Saw this guy live down in NYC. A true talent... Some refer to him as the black Tom Waits. I'm really looking forward to his next release.

A New Wave Voice for the 21st Century

He's got it all: sound-texture, a great voice, honest and penetrating lyrics, grooves, authentic strumming, and dynamite arranging. For me, he is what Lenny Kravitz would be if he had the aspirations of a Richie Havens and the guts of a Curtis Mayfield or someone who is interested in rocking and grooving -- but truly making you think. If you can't think, you can't feel. And vice-versa. If you have never heard Chocolate Genius' music, listen to his previous album or at least familiarize yourself with the moving "My Mom" ballad, easily one of the saddest songs I have ever heard and there ain't a false note in it. 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. On Black Yankee Rock - which is a kickass record -- sometimes Chocolate's music sounds a little too much like other songs of his own - but I guess that's a hard task for any artist, I mean their style will always shine through, but every now and then it seems a little hackneyed or perfunctory as if he is expected to be a certain way...But it doesn't matter - this artist is one of my favorites. Someone likened him to Tom Waits and they were right on the money. He's a Waits for the newer, younger generation...and those not obsessed with TV or celebrities or any of the other awful fixtures of Capitalism. 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. This album runs the gamut of mood and style, but there is a genuine sardonic heaviness that pervades the album and if you are ready for something progressive, but not pretentious, and full of soul and stories of life - this is an artist to listen to. Black American "alternative" and underground artists do not get the respect or audience they deserve, but if you've ever seen Ganja & Hess by Bill Gunn or the hilarious Chameleon Street by Wendell Harris or have ever come upon the stories of the Nomad Junkie (another brilliant black rebel author) -- than you will welcome the change and brevity and balls of Chocolate Genius. Fractured, pained, melodic - it is all there...I just wish I could see this cat live!


Formed: Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

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

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...
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