There are so many cool musical genres out there. Why stick to just one?
That seems to be the thinking of Citizen Cope. While heavily steeped in reggae influence, there are strong traces of rock, hip-hop, and R&B throughout the entire course of The Clarence Greenwood Recordings. This mixture of various genres is put together seamlessly to make smooth, catchy tracks that provide a very chill atmosphere. That atmosphere is enhanced by Citizen Cope (real name Clarence Greenwood)'s causal but evocative vocals.
The chillness is evident from the very beginning, as Nite Becoming Day eases us into the album with a funky, laid-back groove. Hip-hop flavor enters the picture with Pablo Picasso, a strange love song that has the narrator seemingly losing his mind over this women: "If I had a pistol/ I'd brandish it and wave it/ She's the only one alive/ Who knows that I'm not crazy." His passion is even more apparent in the infectious chorus of "Mr. Officer, if you come to take her/ Then that means one of us gonna end up in a stretcher."
While mostly laid back, this album does have plenty of energy. Hurricane Waters is driven by a beat that's synthesized enough to keep the track lively without sounding cheesy, as synth often can. One of the album's most vibrant tracks is Son's Gonna Rise. It's a fast-paced, uplifting tune, made even more energetic thanks to the guest guitar playing of Carlos Santana. The only problem is that, rather than making a second verse, Cope just repeats the first one. This vigorous track could have been more convincing with a new second verse.
Several tracks are not so upbeat but are nonetheless powerful, as Cope delivers soulful expressions of sorrow. The slow and somber Sideways is executed in such a way as to let us feel his pain as he sings, "I keep thinking in a moment that/ Time will take them away/ But these feelings won't go away." Penitentiary pleads for freedom with a great deal of emotion: "Well I'm waiting on the day/ When the people walk free to see/ When the penitentiary is on fire." The album's most stirring track is D'artagnan's Theme. At first its pensive, melancholy verses are driven by soft piano playing, but the chorus rises to a tremendous level, making it instantly memorable: "Well I don't know how to say/ In a different way/ Why don't you just fade away?/ 'Cause there's a battle going on/ Down south of Babylon/ So why don't you just fade away?"
You know an album is good when the first single is found late in the album. We hear eight other tracks before reggae-rock lead single Bullet and a Target comes in to fortify the already strong album. The verses express anger toward many societal ills ("The church wasn't honest/ The state put the youth in a harness"), while the chorus is sure to get stuck in your head after just one listen: "What you've done here/ Is put yourself between a bullet and a target/ And it won't be long before/ You're pulling yourself away."
The Clarence Greenwood Recordings is a perfect album for when you're in need of mellowing out without putting yourself to sleep. Citizen Cope mixes of various musical genres without committing to one, making this an album many music fans can enjoy.