“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This is definitely something that singer Omar Lye-Fook can relate to. As a longstanding member of the UK soul community, since the mid 80‘s he’s been part responsible for putting the UK on the map musically. Not changing his delivery, creative mindset or his target audience, whether it’s his happy-go-lucky attitude to life or his passionate application to making music, you just can’t help but love him. Respected by everybody, hated by none, having him back after seven years is some what of a relief.
With no aspirations to rush, taking his time to create his latest offering, The Man is an impeccable body of work in more ways than one. After nearly three decades of making music it really is apparent that Omar himself is the [main] man. Hence the album title.
Evident from the many subject matters touched upon throughout the Freestyle Records release, Omar has been a busy man. An extremely busy man. Never too old to add yet more maturity to his resume, one minute he’s explaining that he has an ear for his girl to use on the Caribbean tinted “I Can Listen” and the next, on “Ordinary Day,” he’s opening up about his children and explaining the self-realisation that his life now has purpose. An obvious lover not a fighter, the underlining love theme that most soul/R&B records follow is just as strong here as anywhere else.
One of the things that Omar has always been good at is experimenting with various forms of the soul genre; house, Hip-Hop and funk have all been on the agenda a few times in the past. Having previously partnered with Guru, Common and even Stevie Wonder, he’s always looking for new ways to create. In an almost Cut Chemist/J Dilla/DJ Yoda production manner, “Bully” hears Omar piece together elements of soul, funk, Hip-Hop and jazz; and whilst lyrically the track concentrates on eradicating the unnecessary violence in society, it’s the beat that oozes instant attraction and screams for the listener’s attention.
Immediately jumping in to another vibe, the Caron Wheeler featuring “Treat You” is a delicate number touching upon the ups and downs of a relationship whilst also outlining the answer to an easy life. Having had a great musical partnership for years, the duet between Omar and Wheeler sits you in a time machine and shoots you back to 1990. While timeless a few cuts, such as “Come Speak To Me” and “I Love Being With You,” hold nostalgic qualities to them as Omar, with a spring in his step, sets a backdrop for those wanting to turn back the clocks.
Continuing the time traveling trend a reworking of Omar’s biggest hit, “There’s Nothing Like This,” is added for those in need of a dose of relaxation in their lives. Instead of the usual cop-out whereby some artists run out of ideas and take to remixing an older part of their back catalogue to fill some space, the London-based soul star strips his proudest moment down to the bare essentials. With the help of Pino Palladino the outcome provides a laid back live version of the UK soul staple with a fitting saxophone finish.
With lead single “The Man” a powerhouse of a record, the deep funk influence is the perfect accompaniment for a record where brandishing one’s ego ever so slightly comes second to stroking his partner’s ego. In an almost Frank Sinatra-meets-Bill Withers type of personality mash up, the track itself sums up the album as a whole. A welcomed return with a deserving confidence boost.