A lovely album where prime beat maker Madlib was given the run of the Blue Note catalogue and was pretty much told 'do what you like'. Which as you might possibly be able to imagine was to use old sounds to create new and exciting shapes. Here, Madlib reworks sounds by the likes of Donald Byrd and Horace Silver to stunning effect. A true hip-hop visionary.
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9/10 Tom 21st May 2018
Madlib is a pretty well-known and very much respected hip hop producer who came up in the mid 90's, making his mark producing for the likes of Tha Alkaholiks and his own rap group, the severely underrated Lootpack. When he became the de facto in-house producer for hip hop tastemaker label Stones Throw Records in the late 90's Madlib blew up, recognized by his peers for his unique, sample-heavy, jazz-tinged production style which can be heard on any number of hip hop classics including Madvillainy by Madvillain, The Unseen by Quasimoto, Champion Sound by Jaylib, and any other number of his own mixes and productions for other artists.
Shades of Blue must have been a dream job for a self-confessed jazzcat like Madlib because - as the name implies - he was given access to the Blue Note Records archive and had carte blanche to create a hip hop record which sampled heavily from the legendary jazz label's catalogue. The result is one of the most cohesive and satisfying records in Madlib's prolific career. Hearing Madlib's unique spin on familiar and obscure jazz classics is a joy and for the most part he lets the likes of Bobby Hutcherson's 'Montara' and Donald Byrd's 'Distant Land' speak for themselves, with only his unmistakable un-quantized drum loops helping them along. There's a guest verse from Stones Throw label mate M.E.D. on the Bobbi Humphrey-sampling 'Please Set Me At Ease', a song which acts as the emotional centerpiece of the album. There are also a few testimonials from artists from the Blue Note roster which gives the album an added sense of poignancy somehow.
This was obviously a labour of love and you can hear it in every song. Not one of the better known albums in Madlib's discography but definitely one of the best.
8/10 Jack 25th June 2017
Shades of Blue is an incredible sampling of Blue Note, and holds many excellent tracks. In some places, the track doesn't do justice to the artist (and indeed some deserving artists like Quincy Jones and John Coltrane aren't even recognized, though they should be), but when limited to only one 80 minute album, Madlib does a brilliant job covering the scope intricacies of the Blue Note label, and even injects a good lesson about its history throughout the album. This in my opinion is a defining album for the loop digger.
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