I usually don’t take up valuable album review space with my own personal declarative statements, but in this instance I believe that it’s important for two reasons: context and (hopefully) a call to action.

First, this may be one of the easiest reviews that I’ve had to do(more on the reasons why, later). Secondly, I may represent(or I used to)a vast majority of lover’s of great music in this country who are still(I was until about a year ago)stuck on channel zero(more on that in the conclusion). Finally, this album has made me realize(along with so many other epiphanies over this past year)that it’s time to stop talking and really do something so that what we know as mainstream music now, can become a bad memory.

Why was this review so easy to write? Well, for starters, great music gives you a lot to work with because it affects your emotions, your senses and you psyche all at the same time. The Ballad of Purple St. James Yahzarah’s fourth solo album kicks of the set with “Strike Up The Band” (you know a band? people playing instruments and singing together) from the opening notes I knew that this would be a trip that I would want to take not only from point A to B, but I would want to check out all the points in between. I did. I’m glad I did.

“Why Dontcha Call Me No More” which I reviewed here, calls me to action everytime I hear it. What action do you say? No, I’m not atoning for any past heartbreak transgressions that I may have been a part of…no it’s a lot more simpler than that. This song in all its 80’s new wave glory causes me to do the “Carlton Dance” everytime I hear it, in tribute and in love. No, I will spare you the You Tube webcam video of me doing it, but you should try it out sometime.

What I appreciate about The Ballad of Purple St. James is that it’s not just a narrow view of what music is. The album encompasses all that has come before and is presented in a manner that should give us a glimpse of what the present and future of music should be if we are really listening.

When I say that there is not a slow moment on the recording, I could not be more sincere. Wonderful collaborations with Phonte and Darien tastefully supplement and not supplant Yahzarah’s musical statement here. Production wise, this is music point blank, period. Interesting and appealing chord progressions, textures and rhythmic variance, this is what music should be about. It very evident to this reviewer that the production team assembled adheres to the age old adage: Respect The Music. When artists, writers, arrangers, engineers and producers respect the music it makes my job very, very easy.

This is usually the part where I start highlighting standout tracks…two things they’re all highlights and secondly you need to purchase this album straight up to see that I’m not selling you snake oil. However,(you know there’s always a however). “Have A Heart” what can I say? In all its Isleyesque (circa The Heat Is On) glory…I mean it has everything in there: the burning lead guitar breaks, the synth lines, the quieter moments in the verse as a contrast and the out vamp which is as hard hitting and fiery as it gets. If this track does not make you at the very least nod your head there must be a hole in your soul somewhere.

In conclusion here’s my personal challenge and call to action to every and anyone who might read this review. First and foremost buy The Ballad of Purple St. James right now. When you don’t support great music, yet spend a significant amount of your day complaining about the sad state of music, your argument ceases to have any validity in my book. By and large the major record labels and major media outlets have proven that by and large they ain’t about shit, oops let me correct that(I usually don’t work blue, so pardon me) actually they are about it, selling straight bull.

This is the third release from The Foreign Exchange Camp that I have the same reaction from, it’s not a coincidence, when people get together and are committed to making and releasing great music, this is what happens. But let’s be clear, this level of musicianship, takes long hours of practice, being on the road gigging and talent. As fans and consumers of music we have the power to change the focus to outfits like The Foreign Exchange, but the first thing we have to do is to change the channel and tune into greatness and tune out mediocrity.

The Ballad of Purple St. James out today!

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.