Yesterday's New Quintet

Monk Hughes & the Outer Realm - A Tribute to Brother Weldon

(Stones Throw; 2004)

By Peter Hepburn | 9 August 2004

It took the Wrens seven years to follow up Seacaucus (1996); it took Mission of Burma 22 years to get their proper sophomore album out. Hundreds of obsessed fans, our editor included, have been waiting patiently for varying segments of forty years for Brian Wilson to finally get around to finishing and releasing Smile. I have been writing for this site for less than a year and this is my fourth review of a Madlib album. Hey, some guys just really like to put out albums. The problems occur when those albums should perhaps not be seeing the light of day.

A Tribute to Brother Weldon came about in much the same way as Yesterday’s New Quintet’s far superior Stevie Vol. 1. Madlib spends half an hour in the illustrious Bomb Shelter studio he has carved out for himself and makes a disc that is never intended for commercial release. In this case it was 2002 and he came up with a tribute to the recently deceased fusion jazz musician/hip-hop godfather Weldon Irvine.

What resulted is 74 minutes of spastic, flighty acid jazz. I am the first to admit that I know jack-shit about acid jazz, but Madlib largely fails to capture the grooves and funk of Weldon’s compositions. Instead he comes up with a series of not particularly inspired sound collages occasionally strewn with a few under-developed good ideas. Both “Time” and “Welldone” have passages toward the end of the songs that rise above random noodling and capture (what one hopes was) Madlib’s true intent. “Keys” stands out as the album’s finest track, and there are portions of a number of tunes that grab the listener’s ear, even if the full album fails to click.

It’s worth pointing out that so far Madlib has been batting around 81%, and though this album will reduce that, it’s by no means a major blow to the Beat Conductor’s standing. Hell, he’s got “Monk Hughes” to blame for it if all the critics hate it anyway. As much as I have enjoyed his jazz outings, knowing that Madlib is working on Quasimoto’s sophomore album is quite reassuring.