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Künstler: Blaze


Just a year after churning out Natural Blaze, the veteran practitioners of dance music known as Blaze returned on Slip 'n' Slide with Spiritually Speaking, a sprawling 74-minute album that shows Kevin Hedge and Josh Milan in fine form as always. At this point, there's just as much sense in referring to the pair as a soul group as there is in referring to them as a house group. Their incorporation of just about every stripe of black music -- with an admiration for all things '70s -- is so present that classifying them without referring to the New Jersey scene that birthed them has become a difficult thing to do. "One World," despite having no direct ties to the dancefloor, honestly ranks right up there with the most sublime of Blaze's '70s soul inspirations, while other moments (including the back-to-back-to-back triple whammy of "Sweeter Than the Day Before," "Where You Are," and "I Think of You") are practically drunk with blissfully romantic sentiments and brilliant arrangements. The two things that take away from this album are its length (between all the interludes, outerludes, and extended grooves, there's simply too much to digest here) and the fact that Hedge and Milan could benefit from taking some risks. Clearly, innovation has played a shrinking role as they've soldiered on, with consistency playing an increasingly greater role; it's frustrating to have artists of this level continue to refine an already refined sound when they could be opening things up a little. Take "Do You Remember House," a mid-'80s throwback production with nostalgic lyrics -- if you wanted to be taken back into house's glory days, you'd just put on a classic, right? Gripes aside, Spiritually Speaking has plenty of joy-inducing and practically life-affirming moments to recommend it. ~ Andy Kellman