Bet you want these goodies

Sa-Ra producers take their time between albums to find the best samples on ‘The Hollywood Recordings’

Megan Kadrmas

Seven years passed between the time bicoastal production powerhouse Sa-Ra formed and the release of its first full-length album.

What took so long?

Maybe it was the countless hours the trio spent crate digging. The album, “The Hollywood Recordings,” is an extensive compilation of ’70s psychedelic funk, ’80s electroclash and contemporary soul, jazz, R&B and hip-hop.

Sa-Ra

ALBUM: “The Hollywood Recordings”
LABEL: Babygrande Records

Or maybe it was scheduling studio time with some of the biggest names in R&B and hip-hop today. Guests on “The Hollywood Recordings” include Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Pharaohe Monch and J. Dilla (RIP), along with almost a dozen others.

Both the constantly shifting sound of Sa-Ra (pronounced sah-RAH) and its ability to boast such an extensive and impressive guest list are what make “The Hollywood Recordings” almost worth a seven-year wait.

Before officially combining forces in 2000, Sa-Ra members Om’Mas Keith, Taz Arnold and Shafiq Husayn were all individually reputable producers. They worked with the likes of Dr. DRE, Heavy D, Pharoahe Monch, Jurassic 5, Jill Scott and Erykah Badu.

“The Hollywood Recordings” is more or less an explanation of its unique and ever-morphing sound. The songs shift from vintage soul to spaced-out electronica to Euro pop and hip-hop that isn’t too obvious or assuming in its existence.

Although it feels like Sa-Ra was trying to be all things to all people on the album (probably as an apology for the long-awaited LP), they do succeed more than they fail.

The guys stay behind the sound panel for the majority of the album, notably kicking off by flexing their vocal stylings on “Hey Love.” The song is laid-back R&B with a funky edge, and their wispy vocals almost sound like hometown-boy Prince in some spots.

“The Hollywood Recordings” is best when the trio relies on its incredibly able guest vocalists. Its production background shows on tracks like “Fly Away,” where Sa-Ra’s soul/hip-hop beat accentuates but doesn’t overpower the forceful vocals of Erykah Badu and Georgia Anne Muldrow.

Unfortunately, the trio sounds less sure on the through-and-through hip-hop tracks, finding difficulty in resolving the differences between its softer beats and hip-hop’s heavy edge.

Guests like Capone-N-Noreaga, Lord Nez, Kurupt, and Ty of Ty & Kory join the more prominent J. Dilla, Talib Kweli and Pharaohe Monch.

“Not on Out Level,” featuring the flossy Capone-N-Noreaga and Lord Nez, sounds out of place sandwiched between two abstract tracks. The spacey electronic bleeps on the track and voice warps sound amateur.

While hipsters can finally stop wondering when and if Sa-Ra was making an album, the trio leaves room for improvement. Once they stop trying to please everyone and focus on expanding their eclectic, groovy sound, they might deserve that seven-year dry spell.