Frank Ocean - channel ORANGE

by Miz DeShannon Rating:7 Release Date:2012-07-18

You can find pages and pages of writing on the depth of this release, the difficulties Frank Ocean has faced in his personal life, the work he's done in the past, but is it really relevant? I wouldn't want to unneccessarily rave about the elements around this work as opposed to the audible output. This is an album, not a personal-life-coach review afterall, but channel ORANGE really is an accomplished piece of work in comparison to others of the same genre in recent years, particularly when all you hear about is bitches, bling and bad-ass gangta type shit.

Having gained a huge amount of experience in producing and writing for label-mates and acquaintances at Def Jam, it's about time that Ocean put his talents somewhere other than with Odd Future and Tyler the Creator. Full of the same kind of r&b sounds that Justin Timberlake and the like have tried to pull off, the slow-jam vibes of 'Thinkin Bout You', 'Sierra Leone' and 'Pilot Jones' are all much of a muchness, and a bit too R-Kelly at times.

Ocean has cited Prince and Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu and Marvin Gaye as major influences on his writing, as well as his (unusual for the genre he is in) personal experiences and struggles, yet channel ORANGE has all the other usual soul/r&b vignettes on life and debauchery and difficulty and love. There are random bits of so-called psychedelic thinking which creep in with the selection of samples ('Start' and 'Fertilizer' with their 60s pop swing), as well as in full tracks - but being traits found in so many hip hop producers work anyway, that's fairly usual as well.

Stand-out tracks come towards the latter half of the album. 'Crack Rock' has a bit of a dub vibe going on with some over-laid Hammond sounds; the 10 minute extravaganza 'Pyramids' turns out to be quite pop with synth sounds and drum machines, 'White' is an interlude of light-jazz guitar parts from John Mayer, very John Zorn really, and 'Monks', with it's nice funk bassline, has Pharell written all over it in the harmonies and cymbal crashes. The rest of the album is great too, if you're a Prince fan.

Despite being pretty standard in influence and overall sound, and having relied on a lot of assistance from reputable producers and writers, channel ORANGE is a beautiful album - musically adept, lyrically deep, emotionally secure, bursting with sounds of soul and funk, absorbing iconic artists' sounds in it's own soulful way. Making good use of his little black book contacts, Ocean has put together something that so many chart-topping r&b artists could only dream of.

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