Recording information: Backyard Studio, London; Hi Fidelity STudio, Copenhagen; Moon Studios, New York; The Dairy Studios, London; The Iron Works, Brighton; Time Tools Studio, Hanover; Titan Sound.
Photographer: Tom Dunkley.
The gap between Sing (If You Want It) and The Man amounts to the longest wait between Omar albums yet, but the always creative R&B veteran's seventh full-length is not the result of being pressed into action. In more than one sense, this is a relaxed continuation of the 2006 set. The seeds were planted back then. "Lift Off," the two-minute instrumental intro of Sing (If You Want It), is developed here into a full-blown song -- a warm, romantic duet with the great Caron Wheeler, who contributed background vocals to some of Omar's earliest Kongo Dance output. Omar also goes way back to update his first album's title song, "There's Nothing Like This," with Pino Palladino on bass and lively interplay between Ben Edwards' trumpet and Richard Beesley's tenor sax. Omar, as usual, can't help but incorporate decades-old elements that have inspired him. At various points, the material recalls anything from the Meters to upbeat Terry Callier -- with the funk as hard as the folk-soul is elegant -- and Latin and Jamaican accents weave in and out with a natural touch. On a majority of the tracks, Omar is assisted by a band, yet the songs on which he receives little or no help -- such as "I Love Being with You," keenly embellished with a brilliant mix of piano, clavinet, synthesizer, and synthetic strings -- are just as rich. It's all fresh and vigorous, very much in the present and built to last. ~ Andy Kellman