In a time when a lot of music seems to be centered around how well it can perform in the charts, it’s refreshing to hear yet another album by Gregory Porter which focuses more on lyrical content and well crafted musicianship.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this album may have gone a little off piste, considering Porter’s songs have been remixed by best-selling dance music duo Disclosure, but rest assured this is not the case.
‘Take Me To The Alley’ – through soul, jazz and gospel music – offers tales of Regret (Holding On, In Fashion), Inspiration (Don’t Lose Your Steam, Day Dream), Love (More Than a Woman, Consequences of Love), Compassion (Take Me To The Alley) and Defiance (Fan The Flames and French African Queen) – all things Gregory would have learnt from his tough childhood in Southern California.
Listen and you will hear subliminal messages and advice. ‘Don’t Lose Your Steam’ was written as a personal message to his 3 year old son to go for all things he wants in life while making his daddy proud. As you listen to ‘Day Dream’ you get a glimpse as to the type of parent Gregory is – under his watchful eye he sees and recognizes that his child is growing up with a wild imagination, getting older, taller, wiser but eventually everything will turn out fine, as he meanders his his own way through life.
Gregory goes back to his roots in the church with the powerful title track ‘Take Me To The Alley’ telling of a good samaritan giving hope and redemption to people in need “…take me to the afflicted ones who have somehow lost their way…you will have a pardon.” he sings.
With the album being released on his late mother’s birthday (6th May), it’s fitting that you’d find a tribute to his mother and ‘In Heaven’, I believe, is that such song. If you listen to Gregory speak of his late mother who was a preacher, you hear how his lion-hearted mother would stand strong in the face of adversity, give him advice and shelter him from pain. If there was a song she could have sung to soothe his pain away now, it would be this one, a beautiful piano led piece with a great muted trumpet solo “…in heaven that’s where you’ll find me my love…just lift your head up and say a prayer…” It’s a song that not only brings a tear to my eye but a warming smile.
One of my favorite songs on the album though has to be ‘French African Queen’ sounding like something Miles Davis would produce, I just love all the instrumentation involved, the horn section, the drums, bass and piano. This song is on fire with the quality musicians involved and as Gregory sings “I got music for the people I must fulfill my precious dream, I bring blues from america unto the French African Queen…” it’s the most fitting end to the album and a telling of more greatness to come.
‘Take Me To The Alley’ will be available to purchase 6th May 2016