Hendrix for Kids, Cali Royalty and Swansongs

The Root reviews a new Jimi Hendrix children's book and listens to the latest from California King and Chocolate Genius, Inc.

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"Homicide" is a well-placed ballad that gives the listener a bit of a break by creating more musical space than is present when the trio is going in hard on a song. There's something about the mood of "Higher Plane" that reminds me of "Higher Purpose," a song Nona Hendryx contributed to the sound track of the Showtime series Sleeper Cell. Both songs do a great job evoking the spiritual. And, in something of a departure from the trio setup, a Junior Walker-style saxophone joins the bar rocker "Bobby Burns."

It's clear the band has a good recipe working: First, there are the smart lyrics -- such as this line from "Lingering": "The winter left you cold/Cuz the fall opened up your nose/It was over and done by Christmas Eve." Second, the trio is tight; two years of gigging proves there's no shortcutting the process of learning to work together as a unit.

California King do themselves proud, and here's hoping that for this band, the new year turns out to be a beautiful era, indeed.

Chocolate Genius, Inc.

Swansongs (One Little Indian US)

I finally figured out what my problem is: I hear and see an amazing songwriter and performer like Marc Anthony Thompson, and it's hard for me to take dreck like Raheem DeVaughn's "She's Single" or Keri Hilson's "Pretty Baby Rock." Thompson's talent and abilities are on full display on his latest album as Chocolate Genius, Inc., Swansongs.

Thompson released a couple of albums in the late '80s under his own name before releasing Black Music in 1998 under the Chocolate Genius moniker. Subsequent releases, Godmusic and Black Yankee Rock, also highlighted the fact that he's a musician's musician. His collaborators include folks like Sade's Stuart Matthewman, as well as prominent New York musicians such as Marc Ribot, Oren Bloedow and Meshell Ndegeocello, among others.

He won an Obie Award for sound design in 1997 for his work on Roger Guenveur Smith's A Huey P. Newton Story, and has written music for films like American Splendor, Urbania and Twin Falls Idaho. In 2006 he toured with Bruce Springsteen.

Swansongs is aptly titled, since it will be his last as Chocolate Genius. The concept, he's noted during interviews, was originally conceived of as one with a short shelf life. Now he feels like it's time to retire this alter ego.

But what an album to go out on!