G. Love & Special Sauce has always been a hit or miss band for me, either they nail it, or the hip-hop/blues sound that they sought to define becomes too aimless and unfocused, the lyrics too simplistic, or too overwrought. Philadelphonic, the 1999 release finds the band breaking new ground and it makes it a fascinating listen. There are flaws, “Numbers” is a prime example, “Relax” barely scrapes out of its lazy wordplay through its fantastic arrangement, and there are plenty of those to go around. Anchored by the fantastic rhythm section of Jimmy “Jazz” Prescott and Jeffery “Houseman” Clemens and boosted by fantastic backing vocals, the songs that shine are full of energy and a wonderful mix of instrumentation. “Love”, the song featured above, finds G. Love’s hip hop blues at its most downright plaintive with a wonderful guitar melody. “Dreamin’”, the album opener, takes an upbeat message that could have certainly fell flat if not for the wonderful meld of sampled (the guitar from “Clean Up Woman” in this case) to organic instrumentation. “Kick Drum” features an old soulful groove and wonderful harmonies that bolster an otherwise crude song about foreplay while “Rodeo Clowns” would be the worlds introduction to Jack Johnson. Even the turns at rapper are good natured fun, with “Friday Night (Hundred Dollar Bill)” leading the pack, and “No Turning Back” and “Honor and Harmony” rounding out the fantastic arrangement, lackluster lyric section. Check out some of the album highlights below.
Philadelphonic was originally released on Sony Music Distribution on August 3rd, 1999. You can find the digital version on iTunes here .