Monk Hughes and the Outer Realm A Tribute to Brother Weldon
Weldon Irvine was a respected and admired musician in the soul, jazz and hip-hop communities, bumping elbows with such artists as Mos Def, Q-Tip and KRS-ONE during a career that started in the early 1960s—he wrote songs for Nina Simone and Freddie Hubbard, and his own records were highly valued by hip-hop producers and DJs for their endless supply of samples. And when he died in 2002, rising hip-hop star Madlib—Stones Throw's prodigal son and the beat architect behind such acts as Madvillain, the Lootpack and WildChild—did more than just send flowers to the funeral. Instead, he added another alias to his ever-growing list and whipped up Monk Hughes and the Outer Realm as a tribute. Originally, the album was a 10-copy Bomb Shelter project never intended to be distributed, but after the successful release of Stevie—a Madlib and YNQ (Yesterday's New Quintet) tribute to Stevie Wonder—and some airplay on the BBC, Stones Throw let the rest of us in. Most of Tribute has a woozy, off-kilter feel, borrowing rhythm from science-class filmstrips and sprinkling in something like the cutesy rinky-dink soundtrack from Disney's Main Street Electrical Parade for effect—it's mellow, but an edgy mellow. Like if your dentist smells like bourbon and knows the secret handshake to get into the local speakeasy, he'd play "Day of Spirit Man" in his waiting room, and the electric space keyboard would make you forget that the last time you flossed was six months ago. Or if you were on an elevator to hell—but a classy kind of hell—you'd hear "Nodlew's Sea" on the ride down, with that warm bass and organ just a prelude to the temperatures below. The album in its entirety is a little difficult—at 73 minutes, it's a destination, not a diversion—but there's still that underlying desire to find a cigar and sit somewhere comfy. And as a goodbye, that feels just about right.