Kanye West - Late Orchestration
Atlanta born American hip hop producer and rapper Kanye West is most definitely not one of life's modest men. But, like P Diddy before him, the arrogant swagger barely conceals his business savvy and genuine talent. Late Orchestration, his first live studio offering, was recorded in the legendary Abbey Road Studios (there is homage, of sorts, to the Beatles on the sleeve) in the presence of 300 personally invited guests. It is a 12-track performance of some of his most-recognisable and celebrated tunes, in which West is joined by a 17-piece, all-female string ensemble, with guest appearances from John Legend, Lupe Fiasco and GLT. Given that this is a live studio show, and not recorded from a stadium/field, the sound quality should have been better contained and more professionally recorded. However, the live vibe itself is infectious; the audience appreciation and participation bolsters emotion, while being privy to the sheer hard work of rapping and performing for a prolonged duration is somewhat compelling. From the energetic opening of Diamonds From Sierra Leone (with the classic sample of Shirley Bassey's Diamonds Are Forever) and the funky rock follow-up of Touch the Sky; through to the plinkity plonk piano on the sentimental Heard 'em Say to the sharp political and social points made on Crack Music and Gold Digger, Kayne proves himself to be a canny, wry and clued up individual with a flare for production, execution and invention. While the tracks are probably more pleasing on the straight studio albums, there is no doubting that West, for all his exaggerated self-confidence, has something valid to say, and isn't afraid to go for the jugular both musically and lyrically. Roll on his third album-proper, Graduation, due for release in December 2006.
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