The UK duo of Mark Mac and Dego, known better to fans as 4hero, have covered an impressive amount of musical ground throughout their seventeen year-long career. They've cruised through various genres, ranging from drum & bass and jungle to nu jazz, soul and r&b. Fusing their sounds from previous albums with plenty of fresh grooves, 4hero has now released their latest album Play With The Changes, a record six years in the making.
For those familiar with 4hero's back catalog, including their Mercury Prize nominated album Two Pages, you will still hear their fascination with lush string arrangements and infectious grooves. For Play With The Changes, the duo pushes further into soul than they have in the past, making for a musically complex mixture of jazz, r&b and dance.
The opening track, "Morning Child," features previous collaborator Carina Andersson. They were smart in opening the album with this, as it perfectly blends the sound that fans are familiar used to with a hint of what is to come. While "Look Inside" continues with that similar vibe, "Sink Or Swim" shows the duo dipping into some serious r&b territory, as Lady Alma's sultry vocals slink over a sparse bass line and a disjointed beat.
While listening to Play With The Changes, I kept thinking of the influence Stevie Wonder had over several of the tracks. This made even more sense as I got to their nearly eight-minute cover of "Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You?)." This leads up to my favorite track on the album, "Awakening." The orchestral side of 4hero returns in full force on this track, featuring the always mind-blowing vocals of Ursula Rucker. The jazzy bass and delicate jungle beats soar to new heights with a truly spectacular orchestral arrangement. This is 4hero at their best.
It is nearly impossible to pigeonhole Mark Mac and Dego's music into one genre or another. As they seamlessly blend dance, jazz, soul, r&b and even bits of hip hop into one fantastic album, 4hero are definitely in a league of their own. Whether you are into Grooveridee, John Coltrane or anything in between, make sure you grab a copy of Play For The Changes. As an exta bonus, Milan Records has given us a free MP3 download of the Revolution Mix version of "The Awakening." The only other place you'll find this remix is on the 12" vinyl single of "Morning Child," so grab this one while you can!