‘SkyBreak’ Review by AllMusic.com (4.5/5)

Review by Andy Kellman
Source: AllMusic.com

SkyBreak followed ManMade by almost exactly three years. During the intervening period, Lorenzo Ferguson assisted in the making of two Foreign Exchange albums, served as that group’s musical director, and contributed to releases from the 1978ers, Talib Kweli, Sy Smith, and fellow Detroit nativesJamall Bufford and Collective Peace. As on ManMade and the preceding SunStorm, the multi-instrumentalist works tightly with production and songwriting partner Phonte, who is among nine featured vocalists. Most of them are familiar to FE-related sessions and are also credited as composers, fitting into the album’s scheme — uplifted views of flings, falling in, out, and back in love — without lending it a muddled mixtape quality. Likewise, Ferguson and company continue to evangelize, with a modern perspective, late-’70s to early-’80s sophisticated funk and soul. Even with its pair of Phonte rap verses, including a slightly lewd smash-and-grab job pulled on “I Don’t Mind,” the album has much more in common with Rufus & Chaka‘s Masterjam or an Earth, Wind & Fire satellite project than it does with any given post-1983 commercial R&B recording. A couple voices previously unheard on a Zo!release arrive consecutively during the second, superior half. Undersung veteran Joi Gilliam lures on the frisky “Just Whatcha Like,” trailed by “Lifelines,” on which U.K. up-and-comer Dornik sings of romantic salvation with a DeBarge-like hushed sweetness. Another detail that separates this from previous Zo! output is the bounty of burbling synthesizers. As prominent as the thick bass guitar lines, they reinforce several songs. They’re deployed to most pleasurable effect on the Muhsinah-led “Packing for Chicago,” where Ferguson‘s keyboard makes Stevie Wonder-type low-end streaks that swim through steady percussion reminiscent of Herbie Hancock‘s similarly expectant “Come Running to Me.” Filled out with an instrumental dedication to Ferguson‘s father, who passed away during the album’s creation, SkyBreak is another step forward. Ferguson doesn’t allow his expanding knowledge and ability to overshadow his personal touch.

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Textura Reviews ‘SunStorm’

Source: Textura · By Ron Schepper

Listening to Zo!’s SunStorm is much like taking a bite out of a Proustian madelaine. After just a few minutes of exposure, a veritable floodgate of memories and associations appears: Songs in the Key of Life, Atlantic Starr, Soul Train, Breezin’, Deodato, ’70s Philly Soul, Donny Hathaway–you get the idea. All such associations might suggest that SunStorm is thus a retrograde or ‘old-school’ recording, but I’d prefer to call it timeless. Music of such quietly celebratory sincerity and soulfulness never goes out of style and if anything we could do with a whole lot more of it. Hip-hop is part of SunStorm’s stylistic mix but the album’s primary focus is soul music of the delectably funky and sexy kind (sometimes directly so, as in the love jam “Make Love 2 Me,” which–consistent with its make-out vibe–unspools for ten oh-so-amorous minutes).

Zo! isn’t, by the way, a vocalist but Detroit-area born, DC-based producer and multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Ferguson, who contributed to The Foreign Exchange’s recent Leave It All Behind. Consequently, he’s the man behind the songs themselves along with their rich, finely crafted arrangements, while members of the Foreign Exchange Music family (Darien Brockington, Carlitta Durand, YahZarah, and Phonte, among others) are responsible for the lush vocals and harmonies that grace all but one of the album’s dozen songs (the lush, flute-driven instrumental “For Leslie”).

The opener “Greater Than The Sun” establishes the uplifting vibe when elegant pianisms lead into Phonte’s early morning ruminations and a swaying hip-hop groove. Carlitta Durand and Phonte pair up for the romantic duet “Say How You Feel,” Sy Smith elevates the strings-laden ’70s soul of “Greatest Weapon Of All Time” with a silken vocal that nicely complements the breeziness of the tune’s swing, Rapper Big Pooh drops rhymes alongside the vocalisms of Eric Roberson and Darien Brockington during the breezy two-stepper “This Could Be The Night,” and YahZarah takes the lead on the labryinthine title track, where the crisp soul-funk of the verses is offset by male shout-outs and Moog synthesizer patterns. With the spotlight on Phonte’s airy vocal harmonies, piano, trumpet, and Latin percussion, “Flight Of The Blackbyrd” pays homage to the kind of ’70s smooth jazz-fusion one associates with George Duke and Bob James. Much praise to Zo! and The Foreign Exchange crew for giving us another positive and community-spirited recording refreshingly free of misogyny and hate.

‘SunStorm’ Press/Reviews

I have put together a collection of SunStorm reviews via news publications and all things net… I am really excited with the way the album has gotten out here this time around. This is an entry that I will continue to update as I come upon more links. If you happen to see something that I have missed… feel free to let me know about it

‘…just visiting too’ Has Been Making Its Rounds…

I decided to put this list of sites and blogs together mainly for my mother so that she has everything about the album in one spot. Please feel free to add to the list, or hit me up and let me know of any more …just visiting too sightings…

2 Dope Boyz

Blind I

Confessions Of A Collector

The Couch Sessions

Enriched and Focused


Getback Army

Grown Folks Music

Indy Week Blogs

The Inner Soul


Jenny Marie PR

Kevin Nottingham

Mikey McFly


Nah Right


Potholes In My Blog

Put Me On It

The Real Frequency

Shook Mag

The Smoking Section

So So Sef

Soul Afrodisiac