Bimbo Jones has received a lot of notoriety over the years. Countless mainstream and underground artists have been remixed by them, including Pink, Britney Spears, Taio Cruz, Alphabeat, Jesse McCartney, Emma Bunton, and plenty of others. And recently they have added their second single as a performing group, "And I Try," to their long list of great club tracks. But what's a Bimbo Jones album really going to be like?
Harlem 1 Stop is the debut album from Bimbo Jones, and JB and Lee Dagger took a risk in signing on vocalist Katherine Ellis as the lead singer of their group. These days, a dance act's artist album is full of a variety of singers which lead to a variety of singles being released that can go in a variety of musical directions. Versatility is something to be praised. Or is it? I find albums that use multiple singers to be disjointed and incohesive. Thankfully, Ellis is the real deal. Her vocal prowess is strong enough that she can tackle a multitude of dance genres, not only exhibited through her own catalogue of featured guest spots, but also through her involvement with JB and Dagger. Take "And I Try," for example. The track oozes self-confidence and attitude with a funky disco spin. The following track, "Don't Want Me No More," is a pulsing electro-house anthem that still carries the attitude but loses the self-confidence in favor of regret. Ellis loses the "grr" for the laid back summer groove of "Freeze," a heartfelt and lyrically raw track expertly produced by the boys and sung with palpable vulnerability.
"Poison Heart" has a Spanish (as in the country, not the language) theme over a growling bassline, with a periodic breakdown to feature some hypnotic Spanish guitar. "Harlem 1 Stop," perhaps one of Ellis' most entertaining vocal performances, soars along with a truly discofied funky musical soundscape in an atypical Bimbo Jones production. In "Make You Mine," Ellis makes a toned-down vocal statement that attractively lacks her typical growling edge. This track is definitely one of the group's more forward-thinking tracks, going with a sound that is different and progressive for all members. The production lends more to a circuit/tribal sound than their typical melodic house mixes and is one of the tracks that screams to be let loose on the dance floor. It is followed by a more traditional Bimbo Jones sound with "Sucka," although Ellis' vocals are still whispery and coquettish, which suits the track perfectly, making this one of my favorites on the album.
By this point you might miss Ellis' edge, but it returns with "Salty" where she screams the command "Get a little salty!" The production on this track is phenomenal, but the song itself is far too short! "Don't Know Why" is a strumming guitar-based dance track, an effect used with savvy to spare a la "Love Generation" by Bob Sinclar. The only ballad on the album, "Tell Me My Name," is a fantastic dip into smoky, jazzy trip-hop with a lyrical direction akin to "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child. The album finisher, "Fuq U," sounds just like it should. Aggressive guitars and a screamy Ellis send a message that cannot be ignored.
Summary - Some of the album feels like filler, but overall this is definitely one of the best dance albums of the year. "Tell Me My Name" hints at pop radio sensibilities that might be exploited in the future. Can't go wrong here, with so many gems to discover through each listen.
Release October 2008 on Tommy Boy Records.