Music veterans like Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Carlos Santana, Alanis Morissette and Daniel Lanois leant their skills to this project but also young talent like Will Young and German artist Haale are included, along previous collaborators Baaba Maal, Michael Franti and Maxi Jazz. On "What About Me?", 1 Giant Leaps brings together African rhythms with western melodies as well as Carribean influences. It all melts together relatively well though I hadn't expected otherwise.
The record opens with spoken word before the spiritual music brings chills to your bones. Whether you are into spiritual music (indigenous tribal / band music often has this brand of spirituality to it, if you'd like a frame of reference) or not, you cannot deny the intensity and purity that it provides. Throughout the record this feeling will return often.
Not only does 1 Giant Leap steer you towards spiritual tribal music but they vary between upbeat reggae-folk infused with rap and rock, electronic minimalism, Arabic rhythms and classical horn arrangements. It's one eclectic melting pot of everything they could muster up through the years. Special mention deserves Are You My Love? which features the talents of Daniel Lanois and Eddi Reader. The fragile vocal presence, the haunting steel sounds and the exquisite production of this track bring the word memorable to mind.
The next track which features K.D. Lang is also worth mentioning. Wounded in All the Right Places is very grounded and Lang's low and distinctive vocal color brings out the hurt in this track. The track Solita Sin Solidad features Carlos Santana and has some of his undeniable magic to it but is remarkably subdued in it's extravagance. The combo of lush vocals, guitar work and harmonica make for something alltogether different from the rest of the record. This both makes it a stand out track and sort of an anomaly on this disc.
The first disc ends with two collaborations with Baaba Maal, which is always a treat. Especially Why Must I Feel Like This Today? (which also features Michael Franti, Ulali, RadioActive and Krishna Das) is worth taking your time for. The choice to keep this song relatively simple and let its inner strength shine through was a masterstroke. It builds up and becomes richer as it goes along and it is surprisingly catchy.
Disc two starts off with a big collaboration that combines all the best parts of 1 Giant Leap's influences. A folky rhythm is paired with reggae, rap and strings and while it sounds like they just threw together a bunch of ideas it comes out as a cohesive package that lasts for over 8 minutes and doesn't bore for a second. On this second half there is a little more room for rap and reggae-influenced sounds. The producers can show off their skills in mixing things together and clever use of mashing and scratching gives for an almost vintage sound on some of the tracks. Also on the electronic side there is more work to be done for the producing duo and they show their skills are unrivaled. The weakest track, in my opinion, is The Truth is Changing featuring Will Young and Amapondo. It never really lifts itself out of mediocracy.
All in all 1 Giant Leap once again shows they can fuse together many different styles and influences and actually achieve something unique. Because they don't just mix different styles of music but they are able to use parts of these styles to bring out the best in other styles. This requires true skill and I'm glad we get to enjoy another project full of sounds that we might not hear as much as we should.