José James, a  nu jazz crooner from Minneapolis, should be more famous. But talent “doesn’t make appropriate wealth” nowadays (as Jean Grae can attest).

I made the mistake and slept on his debut album. However,  when his second album came out in February 2010, I did not repeat that mistake.

Blackmagic is more genre-bending than James’s Dreamer, since underground hip-hop producer such as Flying Lotus and British dubstep legend Benga were brought into the mix to infuse a more trip-hop, Left-field sound to the album.

Case in point: The title track which loops Dennis Brown’s sample-worthy remake of a Carlos Santana classic, “Black Magic Woman” (which was itself was a reinterpretation of a Fleetwood Mac original).

In James’s song, the voice of reggae’s late Crown Prince is overpowered by the mesmerizing but murky bass-line prominent in Brown’s version.

Out of the three, which one do you like more?

I’m partial to Brown’s rendition, since hearing him cry out (“I just…I just…I just can’t leave you alone!/You got your spell on me, baby”) before the song’s fadeout clenches it for me.   Not too mention, it’s hard to top any classic Trojan Record production.

José James’s “Blackmagic”

Hansspeekenbrink/Flickr

Dennis Brown’s “Black Magic Woman”

Photo Courtesy of Roots Archives, the place to go for rare LP covers (like the one above) and discographies for classic reggae & rocksteady artists.

Carlos Santana’s “Black Magic Woman”

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