Omar ‘The Man’ (Freestyle) 4/5

This, the seventh album recorded by UK soul singer-songwriter Omar, is definitely one of his strongest and arguably the most diverse of all in terms of the different musical influences that have been soaked up by the musician along the way. Latin, jazz, reggae and of course classic 1970s influences are all weaved into a cohesive whole and this makes for some essential summer listening grooves. Possibly most convincing of all is the more left-field song on the album, namely ‘I love being with you’, which incorporates Caribbean steel drums, lush 1970s style strings and the catchiest of bassline and keyboard riffs. This is a song that will penetrate into the subconscious and remain there for some time to come. One of the most instant and strongest of grooves is the provocatively titled ‘Fuck war, make love’ and it is a pity that the the title itself may prevent some airplay since, on musical criteria alone, it is a particularly strong number. For other flavours, look no further than the jazzy hammond organ-led ‘High heels’ which features the Hidden Quartet. While this is by no means straight ahead jazz, it does nonetheless fit comfortably within a clearly identifiable Omar sound. A reworked version of the singer’s most popular song ‘There’s nothing like this’ is given the jazzy treatment and at a slower pace than the original works surprisingly well. Omar’s songs have the capacity to develop between varying tempos and this is the case of one that he wrote for his daughters, ‘Ordinary day’, which starts off as a gentle ballad, but then progresses into a heavy bassline mid-tempo piece. For fans of reggae, the duet ‘Treat you’ with Soul to Soul singer Caron Wheeler is likely to appeal and has an appropriately pared down instrumentation. Only the mis-guided attempt at trying to keep in touch with current dance music, ‘When you touch, we touch’ is something of a disappointment and sounds out of kilter with the rest. Better to stick to the timeless production feel which has served Omar so well thus far. Otherwise this is a very much back on form Omar.

Tim Stenhouse