It was six years ago, that Atlanta born soul singer Algebra Blessett released her debut album Purpose. It was produced by Kedar Massenburg who previously, produced India Arie and D’Angelo. On its release in 2008, Purpose was released to critical acclaim. Comparisons were drawn with India Arie and Erykay Badu. Critics forecast great things for Algebra. Described as a charismatic and versatile singer-songwriter, Algebra Blessett was hailed as the most talented singer to come out of Atlanta in a long time. The future, critics said, looked bright for Algebra. However, why has it taken six years for Algebra to released the followup to Purpose, Recovery which will be released by BBE Music on 3rd February 2014?
Since the release of Purpose in 2008, Algebra has been busy collaborating with other artists. This includes Monica, Bilal, India Arie, Esperanza Spalding and Anthony David. For Algebra this has been expanded her musical horizons and helped establish her reputation as one of the best up-and-coming soul singers. It’s also resulted in Algebra having a number one single.
One of the artists Algebra has collaborated with is Anthony David. Just like Algebra, Anthony is a native of Alabama. He too is one of the best up-and-coming soul singers. So the combination of Anthony and Algebra would be a successful partnership. Algebra sang on three of Anthony’s four albums. They also released the duet 4Evermore. It reached number on Billboard’s R&B Adult Contemporary chart in 2011. This wasn’t the only successful collaboration Algebra enjoyed.
Algebra cowrote and sang on Esperanza Spalding’s hit single Black Gold. It’s a track from from Esperanza’s 2012 Grammy Award winning album Radio Music Society. As you can see, collaborations have played an important part in Algebra’s career recently. This extends to her forthcoming album Recovery.
Although Algebra wrote the fourteen tracks on Recovery, she decided to collaborate with one of the most successful production teams. Bryan-Michael Cox, Kwamé Holland and Shannon Sanders have established a reputation as the go-to-guys for urban artists. They would be crucial to getting the best out of Algebra Blessett. After all, Algebra describes herself as “work in progress” as an artist.
Although anyone whose heard Purpose or a sneak preview of Recovery, will take issue with that, Algebra is determined to make what she describes as “classic music.” This she describes as music that’ll affect people’s lives. Algebra wants her music reach people and touch their lives in “a positive, healing way.” Essentially, Algebra wants to communicate with people at an emotional level. Her way of doing this is through music. On Recovery, Algebra does this and showcases her versatility.
During Recovery we hear different sides to Algebra Blessett. Essentially, Recovery is a journey through musical genres. There’s everything from Nu-Soul, funk, R&B, urban and classic soul. Whether she’s a strutting diva or balladeer, Algebra is equally comfortable. That’s apparent throughout Recovery. However, Algebra is at her best delivering as a song oozing emotion and sadness. Where she comes into her own, is when Algebra becomes a storyteller. Several songs on Recovery demonstrate that.
This includes Exordium To Recovery (Give My Heart A Chance) which opens Recovery. It’s less that a minute long and is a tantalising taste of what Algebra’s capable of. Her vocal’s needy and full of hurt and longing. She delivers it against a dramatic backdrop. This sets the scene for Recovery, where Algebra tells the story of a woman “on the road to Recovery.” As she delivers the lyrics, you can sense her pain, heartbreak and hurt. Accompanying the vocal is a dramatic arrangement. It’s the perfect accompaniment to Algebra’s vocal as she brings the lyrics to life.
Right Next To You is a delicious fusion of R&B and Nu-Soul. It also demonstrates Algebra’s skills as a songwriter and storyteller. Again, Algebra’s vocal oozes emotion and heartache from the opening bars. Whatever she does she can’t forget him. “No matter what I do, I wanna be Right Next To You.” With a classy Nu-Soul arrangement, it’s one of the highlights of Recovery. Nobody But You features a heartfelt, emotive vocal. She lays bare her soul during this soulful paean.
Struggle To Be which features Q. Parker has a vintage sound. That’s the case on several songs on Recovery. Elements of Nu-Soul, R&&, electronica and hip hop unite. Accompanied by backing vocalists, Algebra delivers a sweet, soulful and impassioned vocal. Drums crack, while a sample repeats constantly. It plays an important part in the track’s success. So does Q. Parker’s heartfelt vocal, as he and Algebra prove to be ying to the other’s yang.
Augment To Recovery (Give My Heart A Chance) picks up where the opening track left off. It’s a bit like meeting an old friend. Heartfelt, emotive and deeply soulful describes Algebra’s vocal. With its confessional quality, it’s akin to a cathartic cleansing of her soul.
Forever is another of the ballads on Recovery. It’s full of poppy hooks. Dramatic drums provide the backdrop to Algebra’s vocal as she vows to love her partner “Forever.” Sweet, soulful and sincere describes this slice of poppy soul.
On Writer’s Block Algebra delivers the lyrics with a sense of urgency. It’s as if she’s been there and experienced the frustration of “Writer’s Block.” Emotion and frustration fills her vocal as she describes being blocked. Accompanied by harmonies, keyboards, rhythm section and handclaps, Algebra delivers a track that’s full of emotion and slick hooks.
Paper Heart has a jazz-tinged sound, before Nu-Soul, R&B and hip hop is combined. Against a crackly backdrop that reminds me of an old vinyl record, Algebra’s vocal takes centre-stage. It’s wistful, melancholy and full of frustration. Drums crack while guitars, keyboards and harmonies accompany Algebra. She goes on to deliver one of her most soulful vocals on Recovery. The soul continues on Danger Zone. A meandering bass, crisp drums and keyboards accompany Algebra’s tender, heartfelt vocal. Harmonies accompany her, as her vocal grows in power and emotion. It also becomes needy, as a lovelorn Algebra’s sings about being ready to “enter the Danger Zone.” She lays bare her soul, and delivers a vocal tour de force What follows is an outpouring of emotion and neediness.
Flourishes of keyboards give way to cascading harmonies and blazing horns as Mystery unfolds. Algebra delivers a sultry, sensual vocal. The cascading harmonies, keyboards and horns are the perfect foil to Algebra’s vocal. They play their part in this sensual slice of Nu-Soul. It’s by far the highlight of Recovery.
Regret fills Algebra’s vocal on Another Heartache, a tale of love lost. It could be, as it tells the story of someone heading off to further their career, only to return and find their partner has left them. Whether this song is autobiographical, I don’t know. However, writers are always told to write about what they know and have experienced. Maybe that’s why this is one of Algebra’s best songs. Full of remorse and regret, she’d do anything to turn back the clock and do things differently.
Better For Me has an understated arraignment. Having said that, the arrangement still manages to be dramatic. That’s down to the drums and percussion. They’re in the background. At the front and grabbing your attention is the vocal. Again, Algebra thinks about what might have been. Accompanied by harmonies, she sings about the perfect life, with the perfect family. It was within her grasp, yet she let it slip. Rueful, regret and sadness fills her voice as she thinks about how differently her life might have been.
I’ll Be Ok closes Recovery. Just a lone piano accompanies Algebra. This is a perfect combination. It’s old school and very different from much of Recovery. Then strings sweep in, before horns add a touch of melancholia. Algebra reassures us “I’ll be okay.” She delivers the lyrics with power, passion and feeling. You want to believe her, but can’t quite. There’s a fragility in her vocal, that one setback and she’d be back where she started. This proves a moving way to close Recovery.
So that’s the story of Algebra Blessett’s sophomore album Recovery, which will be released by BBE Music on 4th February 2014. Recovery will be released six years after Purpose, Algebra Blessett’s debut album. Algebra’s proved the critics right. She was described as a charismatic and versatile singer-songwriter. That’s not all. Algebra Blessett was hailed as the most talented singer to come out of Atlanta in a long time. The future, critics said, looked bright for Algebra. It is.
Angela’s a hugely talented singer-songwriter. She has the uncanny ability to make a lyrics come to life. It’s as if she’s lived and survived the lyrics. Whether any of the lyrics are autobiographical, I don’t know, but the pain and hurt Algebra sings about seems very real. Maybe Algebra has suffered the heartache and disappointment she sings about on Recovery? If she has, I hope this proves cathartic for her. Should she not have experienced the heartache and disappointment, she’s obviously able to bring other people’s pain and problems to life. That’s not easy to do, because you’ve not suffered like they have. Whatever the truth is, Recovery is an emotional roller coaster.
Hurt and heartache sit side-by-side with regret and remorse on Recovery. It’s an album that many people will be able to relate to. Another theme Algebra touches on, is wishing she could do things differently. Another Heartache and Better For Me are two examples of this. Just like many people, the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing. Algebra wonders how different her life might have been? There will always be that nagging doubt that she could’ve been happier and had a better life. Again, that’s something many people will relate to. This makes Recovery a very human album. The songs are about people and their problems. For some people, they’ll be able to relate to this. Recovery isn’t the type of album other artists will even try to make.
Many other artists write music that allows people to escape from reality. It’s about allowing the listener to forget their problems. Escapism is the key. So an album by an artist that deals with the problems ordinary people experience is refreshing. Especially, when recorded by such a talented as Algebra Blessett.
She follows in the footsteps of Nu-Soul singers like India Arie, Angie Stone, Jill Scott and Erykay Badu. They were the musical pioneers, who were at the forefront of the Nu-Soul movement. Now it’s Algebra Blessett’s turn to pick up the baton and enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim they enjoyed. It should come Algebra Blessett’s way. She’s certainly not lacking in talent. Indeed, Algebra Blessett is one of the most talented and underrated Nu-Soul singers of her generation. Proof of this is Algebra Blessett’s sophomore album Recovery. Standout Tracks: Exordium To Recovery (Give My Heart A Chance), Mystery, Another Heartache and Better For Me.