Between an album cover depicting a crash landing on an alien planet and the singer’s description of the work as a conceptual narrative, one might expect a return to ‘70s prog rock from Nathan Angelo’s “Out of the Blue”. Angelo is indeed returning to some roots, but not those; his forté is repolishing the sounds of ‘60s and ‘70s soul and R&B for the modern era and he does it well. Based in Greenville, Nathan’s voice brings to mind the smooth stylings of classic soul singers like Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye and also the blue-eyed soul of later artists like Daryl Hall.
“Out of the Blue” kicks off it’s declaration of purpose “it’s time we get back / to the music that moves us” in the first song “Get Back” and lives up to that intent through the rest of the song cycle. The references to Stevie Wonder and the Jackson Five in the lyrics show a deep respect on his part towards his musical forebears. His strong and poised vocals balance a fine line between nostalgia for soul classics and the desire to create a new epoch in the genre’s history.
The whole record is a dedication to his love affair with his wife, chronicling the ups and downs of developing a relationship with her. Angelo tells their story, with the inevitable happy ending postulated in “Til’ I’m Ninety Nine”. My favorite part of the storyline might be his appreciation of her ex for helping him make his love connection, as humorously detailed in “Thank You”. Along the way, there are knowing nods to obvious influences and maybe even some not-so-obvious ones; I think I detect a bit of Steve Winwood in “Chamomile and Coffee”?
With “Out of the Blue”, Nathan Angelo has crafted a soul album with a refreshing old school feel that doesn’t sound forced, contrived or (thank you, Mr. Angelo) ironic. Neo-soul doesn’t really seem to do justice in describing his work; it’s just soul, plain and simple, with some tirelessly immaculate vocals ready for some modern ears. Here’s to our crash landed space traveler and here’s to Soul, the Next Generation.
Recommended if you like: Stevie Wonder, The Jackson Five, Daryl Hall
Sean Knight is a native South Carolinian who has spent his life bouncing back and forth between SC and Texas, playing in bands you probably never heard of in both states and stinking up open-mic nights in the Low Country for many years. He plays, collects, listens to and probably spends too much of his life obsessing over music.