Let's Talk About It
Bad Boy Records
a three year absence from the music scene, Bad Boy Records singer/songwriter
Carl Thomas returns with his sophomore CD, Let's Talk About
It. The album is the highly-anticipated follow up to his 2000
debut, Emotional, which established Thomas as a stand-out
in the arena of R&B/Hip-Hop male singers.
Thomas didn't alter the formula for Let's Talk About It
and once again teams with Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, label-mate
Mario Winans, Mike City, Just Blaze and Deric "D-Dot" Angelettie
for the new CD. He continues to deliver fresh but nostalgic sultry ballads
with poignant lyrics and soulful vocals.
"In the years since my last album, there's been a lot of serious
things happening in the world and I don't think people feel as safe
as they once did," the R&B singer postulates. "People
have lost a sense of security. So what I'm trying to do is get back
to the business of feel good music." He believes that music, like
the variety of sultry and surprisingly upbeat soul found on Let’s
Talk About It, will serve to free folk from the weight of anxiety
and tension they face.
Undoubtedly, many real Carl Thomas fans may find themselves doing just
that, once they embrace the understanding passion of "Make It Alright"
or the gentle, acoustic guitar glide of "Let Me Know." Unlike
the last go round, Carl has been able to put his production talent to
work on Let’s Talk About It, the results are
nothing short of magnetic. And his honesty as a songwriter who focuses
on themes of love is transformative.
"These songs were the ones I just had to get off my chest,"
Carl acknowledges. "And it was really very different to take complete
responsibility of them. It wasn't just about going into a booth. I had
to nurture these."
The concept of Let’s Talk About It, is about
becoming aware of how we react to different situations we are presented
with in life, he affirms. "More than anything, this music is about
learning from ourselves, touching our own souls, about being proactive
and not being afraid to talk about it."
few decades ago, when the release of a George Benson album was an event
for either jazz guitar or R&B vocal enthusiasts, his projects indeed
lived up to the album title he employs here.
While the new collection probably won't be an essential part of the
Benson enthusiast's library, it's fun to see him trying to stay in the
post-millennial urban groove hip with some of the younger generation's
top songwriter/producers like Joshua Thompson (who's produced for O-Town,
Aretha Franklin, and Babyface) and Joe. Those who wish he'd remember
his prowess as a jazz guitarist have to content themselves with its
general background capacity behind pleasant romantic vocal textures
and easy grooving hip-hop shuffle grooves.
Fortunately, Benson's in particularly fine voice, and most of the hooks
are catchy from the get go. Conceptually, the best tunes are "Six
Play" (which we soon realize is a love song to his six-string)
and "Cell Phone," which postulates the idea that God and our
late loved ones are accessible by wireless.
There are a few stylistic deviations from the basic cool formula here,
most notably the gospel-tinged "Whole Man," and the lush,
gently exotic, flamenco-flavored soul tune "Strings of Love."
The hope is that Benson's collaborations with the hipsters will expose
his legendary talents to the kids who might otherwise shy away from
the charms of an elder statesman.
I Can't Stop - Al Green
Blue Note Records
his debut for Blue Note, the Reverend Al Green reunites with the man
whom he produced his most exceptional work, Willie Mitchell. From 1970
through to 1976 Green was simply untouchable, his soulful voice matched
against the brilliant songwriting and production of Mitchell, resulting
in a series of classic LP’s on the Hi Records Label including
'Gets Next to You', 'Call Me' and 'Livin’ For You'. These records
and singles such as "Let’s Stay Together" and "Tired
Of Being Alone" established Green as the leading soul singer of
his generation, and a benchmark for which modern soul music would be
After a tumultuous period in the late seventies that included personal
tragedy, Al moved away from the pop scene and made several Gospel albums
during the eighties and early nineties and even picked up eight Grammy’s
along the way.
'I Can’t Stop' is a dream many fans have waited
years to happen - a return to the landmark R&B he does so well.
To make that unique Hi Records sound once again all involved have gone
to great lengths - recording Green’s vocal parts in the same Royal
studios booth and with the same microphone. Green’s magical voice
is as strong as ever, his joyous delivery is perfectly complimented
by the rich and warm production, and with a band that includes Leroy
Hodges on bass and Steve Potts on drums, you know quality is what you
can expect. Check the deep soul groove of “I’ve Been Waitin’
On You” or the achingly beautiful “Rainin’ In My Heart”,
the up-tempo “Play To Win”, or slightly poppy “I’d
Still Choose You”, and it becomes obvious that the man is truly
back in top form.
The songs have a real authenticity and Green’s voice is always
nothing less than emotional - 'I Can’t Stop'
should be a surprise but its not - it just sounds like another classic
album from that 1970-76 period. In fact, so authentic is 'I
Can’t Stop', you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s
a re-issue of a lost master tape. As producer Mitchell declares, “His
voice is like an instrument, he can do anything with it; he’s
the best I’ve ever heard”, and this LP simply makes you
glad you’ve got a pair of decent ears.
A very very welcome return from this undisputed master and heartily
Emotions - Will Downing
Emotions, Will Downing opens the door to the inner
sanctum of his heart and mind with an intimate, intensely sensual 'no-holes-barred'
look at his current state of mind. Downing sets it off at the top by
intoning: "This is for the fellas."
Emotions , I wanted to get things off my chest,"
says Will. "A person listening to my music can get a clear and
vivid composite of where I am in my life. Emotions
offered me the opportunity to challenge myself," Downing adds.
Emotions is about Downing's personal experiences, his
inner life, and his feelings about love, a topic of great interest to
us all. "Men are so used to being in control. When you fall in
love you have to come to the realization that you're not in control,
and when you can finally surrender to it, that's when it all comes together,"
One of the album's many standouts is "Beautiful to Me," which
is a musical ode to the special relationship, which exists between fathers
and daughters. Downing's relationship with his youngest daughter served
as the inspiration for the song, which describes a father's feelings
as his watches his daughter, grow and transform into a woman.
"I wrote this song in my daughter's bedroom, surrounded by her
Barbie dolls and stuffed toys," offers Downing. Adding rich texture
to the song is George Duke who Downing notes is "an especially
sensitive pianist who understands what you're saying. Working with George
is like being surrounded by a big blanket."
Downing's cover of Aretha's beloved "Daydreaming" is also
one of the album's standouts. "I was driving in the car one day
listening to one of those 'oldies' stations when that song came on.
For the next couple of days, I couldn't get it out of my head."
Downing sums up his latest release with: "My goal was to create
ultra-fine, quality music with a team of brilliant collaborators. The
result is a sincere, scintillating trip into the universal feelings
of the soul . that's why I named the album 'Emotions'."
Go with the Flow
Few artists are as dependable as Walter Beasley. By now we've come to
expect the infectious laid-back grooves with just the right blend of
lush romantic tunes that evoke the jazzy equivalent of a candle lit
dinner for two.
The real surprises however are the choice of "covers" that
get the Beasley makeover on each new release.
Covering songs made popular by other artists can be a risk. Witness
the countless covers of Alicia Keys' Fallin a few years ago.
Do any still come to mind?
Unless an artist can take a song and wrap in their own signature sound
and add something to its legacy, why bother?
Fortunately, Walter Beasley has always shown a knack for taking those
songs we had forgotten, and giving them a new, refreshing rebirth. On
Go With the Flow, Walter reprises the Billy Ocean classic
"Suddenly" (what happened to that brother anyway?). He also
adds his signature sound to Norah Jones' "Don't Know Why."
The real standout however is the R&B classic "Do I Ever Cross
Although we've heard these songs countless times before, Beasley's tight
arrangements, clean saxophone lines and above average vocals transform
the originals into his own distinctive sound.
Go With the Flow also showcases Beasley's skills as
a talented composer, with over half of the songs composed and produced
by Walter himself including the grooving "Brother."
Today's Contemporary Jazz market is well represented by instrumentalists
in the saxophone category. What sets Beasley apart from all others is
his ability to create a mood and inject his distinctive flavor into
every aspect of a composition.
Composer, arranger, producer, vocalist, instrumentalist, Walter Beasley
does it all.
Get Go With the Flow at local record stores, or through
Walter Beasley's website: www.WalterBeasley.com
Check out Walter's interview with BlackBostonOnline here.