The story goes that Ann Arbor native Andrew Cohen, a DJ/producer and member of Athletic Mic League and Now On, began recording neo-soul tunes as a little side project for friends and family, layering in all the instruments himself, then singing all the vocal parts, and then mixing the tracks with a spare and lightly funky breakbeat sensibility. The result of all this was a simply stunning re-imagining of the classic soul and Motown sounds of the late '60s and early '70s, so well executed that Peanut Butter Wolf, head of the L.A. hip-hop label Stones Throw, initially thought he was listening to remixes of obscure old soul singles when he first heard Cohen's demos. Wolf signed Cohen, who was now billing himself as Mayer Hawthorne (combining his middle name and the name of his hometown street), to a recording contract on the strength of songs like "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out," which sounds like a long-lost Al Green track lightly reassembled for the 21st century -- and all this from a sort of nerdy looking white kid from Ann Arbor. It makes for a great story, but it makes for an even better story when you hear this stuff. They call it neo-soul these days, and for once, the label is exactly right. Neo-soul is exactly what Cohen does. And he does it in stunning style. His debut album as Mayer Hawthorne, A Strange Arrangement, is a wonderful, joyous delight from start to finish, managing to be both a nostalgic-sounding soul facsimile and a fresh urban retro dance listen all in one package. "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" is here, along with other jaw-dropping gems like the Motown-like "Your Easy Lovin' Ain't Pleasin' Nothin'" (it's hard to believe it isn't the Temptations doing this song), the quiet storm-like "One Track Mind" (with its aching echoes of Smokey Robinson) and "The Ills" (which sounds like a haunting, wry, and simply gorgeous lost Curtis Mayfield track). Cohen wrote all but one song here, played most of the instruments, and then mixed everything with an ear to delivering a refreshingly spare sound, with even the horn arrangements stripped to the bone, giving these tracks an odd, muted sharpness. Then there are the vocals. They're extraordinary, as if Cohen were channeling Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, David Ruffin, Smokey Robinson, et al., through his own middle to high tenor. It's all really quite astounding. Neo-soul. Yep. That's what this is. And it's damn good. Soul, neo or not, is soul, and this guy has it.
Performance CreditsMayer Hawthorne Primary Artist,Vocals
Todd M. Simon Trumpet
David Moyer Flute,Baritone Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone
Hoagie Haven Flugelhorn
Sgt. Harvey Pepper French Horn
Technical Credits?uestlove Author
Gilles Peterson Author
Justin Timberlake Author
Todd M. Simon Engineer
Mayer Hawthorne Producer,Instrumentation
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Strange Arrangement based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
I heard "Maybe so, maybe no" on the radio and had to hear more. I love the resurgence of '60s/'70s soul and this a fine example. If you like Amy Winehouse, Sharon Jones, et.al, try Mayer.
This Cd release is a tug at the heart of those who lived through and loved 60's and 70's soul ballads... Mayer Hawthorne is a major talent and quite simply a genius... Mayer sings rhythm and blues in the style of the Delfonics, Smokey Robinson, and Curtis Mayfield with authenticity and an audio aura that takes from the past and delivers performances that use to require 5 guys to do. Anyone around 50 years old will get this and remember how it use to be done. If it was good in the past it will still be good today. Mayer knew exactly what he wanted to do...Thanks Mayer
It is absolutely one of the best albums I have ever listened to. Each part is done perfectly and nothing is too obvious. If Mayer is the shape of future music, we are in for a very good decade