When I grow up, I wanna be like Omar - Stevie Wonder
There are precious few, if any contemporary UK artists whose creative credentials and influence extend as far and so consistently wide as Freestyle Records' most recent signing Omar. Since first breaking through to worldwide renown all the way back in 1991 with his first releases on Gilles Peterson's seminal Talkin' Loud label, and since going on to work with all manner of musical legends including a certain Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone, Syreeta Wright, Common, and Carleen Anderson.
Omar returns with a brand new album that many say is without doubt the strongest of his entire career. The buzz generated by the single release of the album's title track, The Man, confirmed beyond doubt that Omar is very much at the top of his game, with everyone from BBC 6 Music's Gilles Peterson, BBC Radio 2's Trevor Nelson and Jamie Cullum giving both major support and high praise for the simply magnificent new high point for Omar's renowned ability to write devastatingly catchy melodies.
Across the rest of this new album, opener Simplify sets the template, with its luscious and majestic string backed introduction raising the curtain on this deep, hard grooving number. Omar also joins forces with Germany's Hidden Jazz Quartett on High Heels - growling organ spars with the tough, jagged drumbeat on this tough, funk driven collaboration. Elsewhere, latin textures and rhythms have always been part of Omar's far reaching musical vocabulary, and on Come On Speak To Me and Ordinary Day restless south American beats underpin the crisp and fresh melodies.
Soul II Soul's Caron Wheeler offers her distinctive voice on the duet Treat You, allowing these two legendary voices to unite beautifully. Completing the circle that began all the way back in the early 1990s, Omar has re-recorded his classic love song There's Nothing Like This, which this time features bass player to the Gods Pino Palladino. The touching sentiment remains undiminished, but the addition of soaring strings, soulful, jazzy horns, a vibrant live and acoustic feel, plus an extended and new arrangement.
This album will surely become known as the most eclectic, confident, mature and soulful album of his career. After all, Stevie Wonder knows, Erykah Badu knows... and now everyone knows; Omar is The Man.
Peter Young, Jazz FM
Chris Philips, Mi-Soul
Marcus Bronzy, BBC 1Xtra
Ronnie Herel, Mi Soul Radio
Gilles Peterson, BBC 6 Music
Femi Fem, Mi-Soul
Ben Cox, Stop.Look.Listen. Blog
Tom Wieland, Samurai.fm
Matt, Prophets From Beyond
Diesler, Tru Thoughts