Label: The Foreign Exchange Music
Lorenzo Ferguson, better known as his moniker Zo!, impressed with his debut full length Sunstorm and now returns to continue his compelling musical journey with the follow-up Manmade. As a multi-instrumentalist and producer Zo! creates the overall shape and sound of his projects while enlisting the aid of the indie soul world’s best vocalists. Manmade lives up to the hype and is every bit as good as you would expect anything coming from the Foreign Exchange camp to be. In fact it one ups Sunstorm as a more cohesive piece of work in every way.
Manmade is a truly thoughtful piece of music that immediately lets its pedigree be known. A modern take on the classic sound of 70s soul it is so rich and gorgeous and full of depth that it immediately stands out from the rest of modern R&B. There are no trap beats or dubstep rumblings here, just the sound of pure intoxicating soul. Zo! makes full use of his Foreign Exchange connections showcasing fellow family members Phonte, Sy Smith, Carlitta Durand and Jeanne Jolly but he also reaches out to indie soul mainstays such as Eric Roberson, Choklate, Anthony David and Carmen Rodgers. New to the fold is Bay area artist and Teedra Moses collaborator 1-O.A.K. who shines on “New In Town (Happy).”
As with his previous works, Zo! creates an uplifting and positive tapestry that references everything from Stevie Wonder to the Brand New Heavies with style, confidence and beauty. The music is incredibly well conceived with each track and collaborator carefully chosen and thoughtfully placed. The overall sound is consistent, with a midtempo, head nodding vibe persisting throughout the album so it makes for an easy listen. Each track naturally flows into the next and although there are a lot of different vocalists they sound like they are all working on the same wavelength. There are plenty of standouts of course. Choklate emerges as a star as her two appearances on the tracks “Making Time” and “Out In The World” opposite FE frontman Phonte are among the album’s finest moments. Her swagger matches Phonte and adds just the right amount of modern flavor to the proceedings on an album that definitely has a retro lean. The house vibes of “We Are On the Move” featuring Eric Roberson is another high point. The track bursts with joy and summertime vibes and it is clear that the pair enjoyed making it.
In short, Manmade is a classic album, one that begs to be played from beginning to end, over and over again. Perfect for any occasion from baby making to backyard BBQs this is sure to be the soundtrack of your soulful summer.
- Norman Mayers