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on January 27, 2003
L.A.'s quirky The Negro Problem have always been a listenable yet arch proposition. Leader Stew - a bear-like black bohemian - favors psychedelic fancy, both lyrical and musical. In the past, this has occasioned pleasant, mostly leaden work. It's unfortunate as Stew has shown, on two solo releases, an incisive and spirited talent. Can it be that leading a band is more burden than release for him? On the recorded evidence, yes. Yet on Welcome Black Stew calms down some. The Negro Problem begin to right past wrongs. The first half of the CD - especially "Lime Green Sweater" and "Watering Hole" - utilize Stew's narrative eye to tell recognizably human (and still surreal) tales from the bohemian fringe. By the time the tracks devolve to limitless whimsy, you just might stick around for the ride.
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on January 15, 2003
I'm guessing that the only people who find this CD are already converted. I have bought all the albums for this band through Amazon.com, because it's not like you can find them at Best Buy. I have read description after description of how this band sounds, but no one gets it because Stew is a land to himself. Plus he has that gift of writing lyrics which make less sense, but are more compelling the more you listen to them, a gift shared by Dylan, Ian Hunter and Steely Dan and very few others. The Negro Problem are the pure pop saviors of modern music, and no one seems to know who they are.
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on May 29, 2006
As always with the Negro Problem, there's a big paradox built into their music. The songs here are mellow pop (more mellow than their previous CD "Post Minstrel Syndrome"), with bright melodies and vocal harmonies to die for; both Stew's lead vocals and the backing vocals are gorgeous. The lyrics, however, are full of sarcasm, irony, and cleverness, to the point of often being arch. So there's a cognitive dissonance-- surely deliberate on the musicians' part-- between the pretty melodies and sweet singing, and the super-sarcastic lyrics. The album has a punk sensibility, but the music does not sound punk at all; it often sounds like gorgeous show tunes or classic American pop songwriting.

Really, if you think Steely Dan or Elvis Costello write literate, sarcastic lyrics, Negro Problem is like that times 10. If you have a high tolerance for sarcasm and irony (like me) you'll love this, but most people can't take it. The first time I played it, I didn't like it nearly as much as "Post Minstrel Syndrome". After a couple plays, I was hooked. It may take a couple plays to grab you.

The lyrics here are so sharp, so often funny, sometimes really poetic, and packed with perfect, unexpected rhymes. I'm tempted to quote all of "Bermuda Love Triangle", which tells a funny story with great, internal rhymes built into each line; but then I'd give away the twist ending. "I'm Sebastian Cabot" and "Lime Green Sweater" likewise have lots of wit and perfect rhymes with great back-and-forth between the singers.

Sometimes they're too clever for their own good. The song "Is This The Single" makes fun of record companies guys who are focused on producing hits. It's a big 'f--- you' to the record company. I can only imagine what TNP's record company's executives must have thought when TNP first played that song for them. As for the song itself, it's almost a single-- catchy, almost a hit-- but too laden with synthesizers to really ignite. So, once again, TNP has no single.

The songs on this CD are more mellow than on the previous "Post Minstrel Syndrome" -- there is nothing as energetic as "Buzzing" from PMS. Whereas PMS sounded unlike anything except maybe They Might Be Giants or Elvis Costello, "Welcome Black" sounds like nothing except the song book for the coolest musical never written. Stew should really write songs for Broadway musicals-- he'd be better than Stephen Sondheim and the execrable Andrew Lloyd Webber, because Stew is edgy and rock n' roll.

Now I've got "The Watering Hole" stuck in my brain. That song is the mellowest on the CD, and I can't get it out of my head, it's so slow and cool. Worth it to buy the CD for that song alone. "You can find me... at the watering hole..."
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on October 7, 2003
I have had the good fortune to see The Negro problem (TNP) live, being an L.A. native, and this is the most fun you'll ever have at a small concert venue. Once they even did a Madonna tribute that was, well, it was different, hilarious and cleverly executed. Stew is undoubtedly the funniest performer going, telling rambling little stories with his own unique sartorial wit. The songs speak for themselves, often reflective, sometimes rowdy, usually beautifully executed, even making repetitious verses sound incredible and thought provoking.
I own everything they've put out & am anxiously awaiting the arrival of his new solo effort from this very website (in essence, "TNP" is Stew, so solo, or with band - the music is superb). Buy their albums, await their arrival, and only tell your close friends. Overexposure is death to any good band! (as you're probably well aware). Listen and judge for yourself. I'm sure you'll get hooked.
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on May 23, 2003
What can say... While staying late one night after work, I happen to catch airplay of "I'm Sebastian Cabot" (Hey, Ringo... Beatlesque to a tee!) & "Is This the Single?" (80's New Wave, but better...) on the Internet Village Voice Radio Station, and like the writer before, I could not get these tunes out of my freakin' head! For all practical purposes, "Father Popcorn" actually starts off the album and just cranks! Stew's voice is as powerful as they come on this tune. My favorite on the album would have to the universally soothing "Watering Hole". It is an injustice that this tune is not plastered all over the radio waves... Or maybe not (wouldn't want all the bandwagoneers to find out and actually water its holey flavor down now, would we? Says, The Punster)!
Seriously though, this is classic music at its best! I've not done this album justice enough by this review, but take my word for it, practically every song on this album is great easy listening and fun for the whole gang!
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on June 4, 2008
I picked up this CD at a second hand store because the cover looked interesting and the band had a great name. Imagine my pleasant surprise when I listened and discovered an album filled with clever lyrics, great hooks and melodies, and beautiful harmonies to complete the beautifully eclectic puzzle. Picking a favorite song is like picking a favorite flavor of ice cream, but the song I'm listening to the most right now is Lime Green Sweater (the background harmonies put the song over the top). Having watched a lot of Family Affair as a kid, Sebastian Cabot struck me as well and The Watering Hole is beautiful and melancoly without being sappy or sentimental. All praises due to Stew.
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on November 18, 2012
As I've mentioned in other reviews the ability to preview bands / cd's on music streaming services, web sites etc. makes user reviews largely irrelevant. You are unlikely to come across Stew and The Negro Problem by accident. The songs are well crafted, witty, ironic, observational and musically pleasing. Their latest disc 'Making It' is available on Spotify. If you want to acquire any of their back catalogue you'll need to go to States based web sites but of those available on Amazon.com not all are available to the UK. Shame!
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on November 3, 2002
I first heard "Sebastian Cabot" on Barry Smolin's radio show, and I couldn't get it out of my head. Wonderful album.
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on December 11, 2002
This is simply one of the most amazing recordings I've heard recently. Get this CD!
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