Cafe Au Lait | 4m36s | 92 BPM
Initial impression: Alan Cavé decided he’d put music to one of daddy’s old French poems. I’m not saying it’s true or necessarily a bad [or good] thing; it’s just a first observation thing. What is a good thing, though, are some impressive female and other vocal harmonies; the sing-along quotient of the melody is also high. The only downside is the lack of any excitement in the drums. I don’t know if that was deliberate or a careless oversight, but it certainly renders the track dull. A few well-placed fills and cymbal crashes would have gone a long way to spice things up.
Jouk Nan Zo Ft Mikaben | 4m43s | 86 BPM
I like the synth bass; I only wish it gelled better with that hard electronic kick. I’ve never been a fan of Mikaben, Michael Benjamin, Goril La, or whatever other moniker he goes by these days. He’s the sort of vocalist I may tolerate, depending on song context. If the music is good enough, which it is here, I’ll give his singing a free pass; but when he breaks into his Dancehall routine, that’s usually a sore spot for me. Despite his Jamaican-channeling presence, I’ll say “Jouk Nan Zo” is a keeper. [I'm saving the Auto-Tune rant for later.]
Lil Mama | 4m13s | 84 BPM
English lyrics, Soul-inspired Zouk beat: is this a sign that Alan has crossover aspirations? The fact that his voice is submerged in Auto-Tune slime only guarantees I’ll be crossing out this tune from my playlist. I don’t get these Haitian producers; I honestly don’t. This asinine effect is to music what body piercing is to fashion. No matter how cool you think your nose or lip ring looks, it says only one thing about you: lack of good judgement.
San Ou M Se | 5m08s | 86 BPM
I have two nagging questions.  Which “N” word [or "n-word"] are Americans referring to? I see quite a few in the dictionary?  Why do Haitian artists continue to let this JBeatz bloke produce their music? Does he work for food or something? Seriously, I don’t get the appeal. Strange! Anyway, I don’t mind the minimalist nature of this number, but the guy’s Pac-Man-sounding production [Yay for more Auto-Tune silliness!] is enough to push a listener near the breaking point. Give me waterboarding instead, please!
Ou Pap Pi Bon | 4m41s | 90 BPM
The groovy and laid back tempo reminds me a bit of Jean-Calude Mondesir. The major attraction for me is in the minor details. You get the sense that every part/segment was meticulously crafted and deposited [with microscopic precision] in its place on the arrangement screen. The guitar work is commendable and brings in much character and edginess. I would definitely appreciate a little more solo, but hey, I’m used to not getting everything I want. No konplent wat-so-è-vè! Li pap pi bon…
Good Thing (Nene) | 4m58s | 110 BPM
My decision to review this CD was based primarily on the lush production I had heard when this song was released as a promo back in 2012. Sadly, I find this reworked version to be sort of a letdown in that regard. It’s raw and lazy sounding, more like a good demo than final product; the attention to detail is gone; the female vocals at 3m13s cheapens it even more. I can’t help but compare this transformation to a facelift gone wrong [see Joan Rivers]. Harold St. Louis definitely missed the mark with this attempt. It goes to show you, there’s more to making a good tune than just the music.
Grave Sou Ke’m | 5m02s | 85 BPM
Also previously available as a single. Whereas I was partial to “Good Thing”, the cyber ladies got weak at the knees for this one. It’s probably due to the title; it has the word “kè”. Yeah, women! I don’t have any serious issues, just a couple of quibbles. I just can’t shake the notion that the acoustic guitar in the intro is not authentic; I keep hearing a sample played on the keyboard. The saving grace is that I happen to enjoy the strumming brought in for the chorus at 2m13s. I also think the kick is too heavy for such a mellow piece. Those electronic tom rolls were good for a chortle; they’re so 1980s. All right, carry on, ladies!
Mon Seul Regret Ft Jim Rama | 4m15s | 81 BPM
“Kenbé mwen fò / Tanpri pa janm lagé’m / Pa lagé’m, pa lagé’m”: that hook is ideal if you’re into the whole slow dancing business. I dig the track and always welcome a Jim Rama cameo; I’ve been a fan of his Face à Face project with Patrick Andrey. Even so, I’ll have to give Alan Cavé a big fat thumb down for including it on this Timeless volume. It’s already available on Mr. Rama’s own Cupidon album, released way back in 2011. Here’s one Commandment that didn’t quite make it into the Big Book: “Thou shalt not reuse songs from other people’s records.” When I publish my Unwritten Rules Book For The Industry, I’ll make sure it makes it in there.
Bispidida Ft Kimberly | 4m50s | 84 BPM
It’s such a dandy little Cabo Zouk duet, with lead vocals alternating between Kimberly’s Cape Verdean Creole and Alan’s Haitian Kreyòl. I love that repeating pizzicato violin sequence and the sparse conga; even the siwèl-like keyboard fits in nicely. But once again, Alan has to be excoriated for the inclusion because the track can already be found on Shabba’s Pi Piti Pi Red album. And it doesn’t matter that Mr. Cavé is the author and composer either. The fact that it’s already on another Haitian artist’s CD is reason enough to stay clear of it. On the list of no-nos, this ranks right up there with dating your buddy’s ex wife. Yeah, you could, but you definitely shouldn’t.
Lil Mama Ft Jhonzo | 3m33s | 84 BPM
I hate “Lil Mama” in the #4 slot; I hate this “Lil Mama Ft Jhonzo” even more. Come to think of it, I might hate just about anything with the word “Lil” in the name. I don’t know who this Jhonzo rapper is; é franchman, m’pa bezwen konnen nonplu. All I know is, I’ve never come across a song that was made better with rapping. Oh, and I also know I have no desire to ever listen to either “Lil Mama” again. Voilà!
Good Thing (Nene) [World Remix] | 4m23s | 110 BPM
Hmm, what have we here? Ah, I see whappenn. This is actually the promo single I spoke of earlier; it should have kept the original name and moved up to position seven. Logically, track seven should have been “World Remix”, or whatever other remix they fancied. Somebody certainly messed up with the naming and sequence. Sure, it’s not the end of world, but this kind of screw up might actually be contributing to it. You never know!
:: This Culture’s Vulture Will Pick The Bones Of Your Decisions ::
You needed only be vaguely familiar with Alan Cavé’s prior work to know what you’d get from his latest effort. I braced myself for the usual: lyrics dealing with love, romance, relationship, double entendres, and more love recited over simple pop/zouk/konpa grooves. That’s his bread and butter, a tried–and–true formula. This is not the sort of music that makes me do backflips, but it doesn’t send me running and tearing my hair out either. With the exception of “Lil Mama” and “San Ou M Se”, the album offers some really enjoyable tunes; I even found a few favourites [6, 10, 12]. If Alan had sprinkled some conventional/acoustic instrument solos throughout these mostly electronic arrangements, this record could have made a much stronger statement.
Production-wise, it’s good, but with so many cooks stirring the pot, the album has a somewhat incohesive/inconsistent sound. Even tracks produced by the same person seem to head in different sonic directions. That issue did not have too much of a negative impact on my listening experience; their Auto-Tune obsession did, however.
One area where I’m really peeved is the content and value of this volume. Two tracks [7, 11] are remixes; two others [9, 10] should have never been included because they already appear on other albums. Alan Cavé should have packaged only original material on Vol. 1 and relegated all remixes and recycled songs to Vol. 2. Timeless, Vol. 1 feels too much like a compilation, rather than a CD of new material. It’s not a compilation, is it?
:: Album Credits ::
It’s nice that Mr. Cavé is so thorough with the credits; but it also means a lot more work for me. Sorry, I’m not typing all that stuff. Of course, he’s welcome to send them to me in text format. Until then, you folks will have to do with a picture. So, here are your thousand words: http://tinyurl.com/o9g6udx
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