Landing On a Hundred is the second full length release from R&B singer Cody Chesnutt. It's an invigorating record capturing the spirit of soul music but adding a new dimension to it. To me it harnesses the feeling of Marvin Gaye's classic What's Going On album, it's an album that has a sense of joyousness to it but also a sense of despair and desperation. Chesnutt has an amazing voice, think of Gaye at his most ethereal and Curtis Mayfield at his most honest and you will get the sense of where Chesnutt is coming from. Very much a musical journeyman he had started his career working as a songwriter and producer with Death Row Records. His song The Seed from his debut album was recorded by The Roots for their Phrenology album, Chesnutt also appeared on the album. His first album The Headphone Masterpiece was released in 2002 so it was a long gestation for Landing On A Hundred which was released last year.
Til I Met Thee is a joyous soulful declaration of redemption, of being lost and burdened and discovering faith as the road to salvation,
I was a dead man I was asleep
I was a stranger in a foreign land
Til I met thee lord.
Chesnutt harvests Gaye at his best on this song, it has the same sense of contentment that Gaye sang with on God Is Love from What's Going On. I've Been Life sounds like a call to the past, reaching back to an ancestral past that shaped his music and soul. That's Still Mama has that gritty 70's soul feel, it's a song preaching respect for family, it's also a testament to a society that has frayed at the edge, Cody tells it as it should be. It has a nice coda at the end with some soft strings something you might have heard on an early Curtis Mayfield album.
No matter how you feel, your blood is on the seal
You can't just treat her anyway
Law says here's the deal
That's still mama
Let the recognition
That's still mama.
What Kind of Cool sees Cody dial things down, it has a subtle musical sound but it has a deep resonating theme. It's the question of where to next, are we going to follow what is cool or make a stand for something more substantial and real, like Marvin it has Cody questioning where we are going as a society. Everybody's Brother is personal and heartfelt, Cody speaks of who he was in the past, battles with drugs, a life spinning out of control. It's also a song of redeeming oneself and not turning back. It's a got a laid back bluesy feel with some funky keyboard work.
I used to smoke crack back in the day
I used to gamble rent money and lose
I used to dog the nice ladies-use to swindle friends
but now I'm teaching kids in Sunday school
And I'm not turning back.
Love in More Than Wedding is Motown soul at it's finest, that mix of strings and uptown horns and some fine doo-wop style backing vocals, Chesnutt is in soulful crooner mould showing the depth of his voice. Under The Spell of The Handout is a return to social commentary, it's beautifully vitriolic, once again questioning the values and morals of current society, in the footsteps of the great Marvin Gaye. Don't Wanna Go The Other Way focuses on Chesnutt's battle to keep his faith, to stay strong on the path. The song has a more sparse feel, no embellishment just a simple arrangement. Landing On A Hundred is an amazing album, it has a sharp relevance it pulls no punches, it's honest and raw. Musically it salutes the past but Chesnutt is no impersonator, he has his own style with plenty of variety. Cody will be touring Australia in October but he won't be coming to Melbourne which is surprising, but I'll be heading north to Sydney to see him play, I'm looking forward to it.