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culture

Sound Advice: Orchestrated Noise by Maestro Fresh Wes

The Godfather of Canadian hip hop is back with his first full-length album in over a decade.

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Born Wesley Williams, Canadian rapper Maestro Fresh Wes (who began his career as the hyphenated Maestro Fresh-Wes and briefly went by the simpler moniker Maestro) has just dropped his first full-length since 2000′s Ever Since, following up last year’s Black Tuxedo EP. Black Tuxedo was in many ways Maesrto Fresh Wes’ return album, his first foray back into making music, aside from guest appearances and production credits, after several successful years as an actor (most recently he played the role of Paul Dwyer on the CBC series Mr. D).

Known affectionately and respectfully as the “Godfather of Canadian hip hop,” Maestro Fresh Wes’ importance as a Canuck rapper can’t be overstated. His 1989 single “Let Your Backbone Slide” was one of the first genuinely successful hip hop tracks to come out of this country. His 1989 record, Symphony In Effect, sold well both here in and in the U.S.

Like the Black Tuxedo EP, Orchestrated Noise proves that Maestro has lost none of his vocal suppleness to the pressures of time. His voice is still refined by an instantly recognizable, commanding resonance; his delivery is staccato and direct, every word delivered with forceful punctuation. His lines have a muscular strength and forward drive, and they’re capable of sudden and startling transformations mid-thought. The confidence and skill of his delivery is the centrepiece of the record.

The success of Orchestrated Noise also rests on some brilliantly chosen, extremely well-deployed guest appearances. Classified shows up on the inspirational “Reach for the Sky (Try)” (which also appeared on Black Tuxedo), Saukrates joins Maestro on “Stranger,” and both Saukrates and King Reign show up on the opener, “Look For Me In the Whirlwind.” (You can listen to “Stranger” by clicking the sample above.) “Pyramids In The Sand” includes contributions from k-os, Rezza Brothers, and Saidah Baba Talibah. The two most stunning collaborations on the record, however, are unquestionably Chuck D.’s appearance on “Salute,” and Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman exquisite vocals on “Symphonia Destono.” Maestro Fresh Wes remains in charge of it all, his voice the conductor’s baton that draws this noisy orchestra together and gives it unity.

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