Date:June 2, 2017
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A review of...
Wild Imagination by Sweet Baboo
Stephen Black has stated that this LP was originally titled Positive Recordings. The task was to make an album as a counterbalance to 2016's constant stream of doom and dread as a musical gift for his three year old son. It's probably no surprise then that the childlike innocence and playful creativity on show are the keys to the album's success. Whether it be the cheerful lyrics (on Hold On, Black sings "it's a wonderful time to be alive" without a whiff of irony), or the bedroom nature of the recordings (the self described "cheap drum machine" was a conscious decision), or the Sledgehammer-like artwork, it's an album eschews darkness and sticks to the sunny side of the street.
It's also a much funkier, synth led record than much of Sweet Baboo's previous work. Tracks like "Pink Rainbow" seem to take in Talking Heads, Funkadelic, E.L.O. and Nile Rodgers, on a tighter budget obviously. Then there's the tale of a magical trip to "Humberside" (surely not the subject of too many fantastical songs), with its Morricone interludes and male voice choir effects that are reminiscent of Scott Walker's Scott 4.
Most of the time though things are kept low-key, which is more in keeping with the Baboo back catalogue. And the album ends on a high point with "Californ-i-a", a fantastical ballad which would sit nicely alongside one of the Beach Boys' drugged up masterpieces from Surfs Up or Friends. Black certainly has a knack for understated, spine-tingling balladry and this is probably his finest effort in that field, rounding off his best album to date.