CD Review of Since the Last Time by Arrested Development
Recommended if you like
Michael Franti & Spearhead, Nas, Black Eyed Peas
Label
Avex
Arrested Development:
Since the Last Time

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

A
fter scoring one of the biggest hip-hop albums of the early ‘90s with 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life of, Arrested Development sort of faded away by the turn of the century, but frontman Speech and his crew are back with a vengeance on Since the Last Time. Known for the socially conscious vibe and infectiously swinging grooves that Speech calls “life music,” Arrested Development don’t seem to have lost a beat.

The title track leads off the album by acknowledging how the band has been out of action for too long. “Miracles” then storms out of the gate with an up-tempo funky groove to announce that Arrested Development are not just back, but quite possibly better than ever. The “I believe in miracles” chorus definitively sets the positive tone that Speech believes is all too lacking in hip-hop. There are indeed few hip-hop acts that can even come close to matching Arrested Development’s positive vibe. Soulful backing vocals from the band’s female members propel the triumphant vibe higher, and there’s no doubt this is a cut that will get a dance floor moving.

“Heaven” is a mid-tempo soul groove with a vibe that vaguely recalls Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Goin’ On.” It sets the table for “Sao Paulo,” which sees the band throwing down some Latin-inspired funk. Unlike many hip-hop acts, Arrested Development bring an entire band to the party (a 19-piece outfit!) and this gives the music a much more organic feel than the many sampled tracks that pervade the genre.

“Sunshine” recalls the vibe of the band’s classic hit “Mr. Wendal,” with Speech in storyteller mode over a dance beat, funky guitar and more soulful female backing vocals. “Just remember, love is an action word,” Speech declares. In songs like “Stand” and “It’s Time,” the groove slows down a little so that Speech’s socially conscious words are sure to be heard. “Stand for something,” Speech urges, following later with “People don’t change cuz of words alone / Yet a nation can be moved by one person who’s strong.”

Another standout track is “I Know I’m Bad,” with a backing chorus of children adding an extra vibe of playful positivity to Speech’s feel-good ode to getting one’s personal mojo working. “Like James Brown and Ali / Like X and Garvey / Like Christ himself, I got wealth most wish they had,” says Speech, clearly referring to spiritual wealth rather than the bling which obsesses many of his peers.

“Down and Dirty” delivers a sizzling, get-down groove to a song about simply having a good time out on the dance floor. “Caught Me” follows with a jazzier soul vibe, while still remaining groovy. “Nobody Believes Me” closes out the album with a call for positive people to come together. “We have a passion to broaden the game and inspire the people to rise above today’s one-sided view of hip hop,” Speech said upon the album’s release. Since the Last Time is filled with tracks poised to do exactly that.

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