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Carl Thomas
Let's Talk About It
Bad Boy Records

After 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."

Bernie Williams
The Journey Within
Najee
Embrace
Stanley Clarke
1,2 to the Bass

Christian McBride
Vertical Vision

Previous Reviews:

George Benson
Irreplaceable

GRP Records

A 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
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I Can't Stop - Al Green
Blue Note Records

With 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 judged.

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 recommended
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Emotions - Will Downing
GRP Music

With 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."

"With 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," says Downing.

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'."


Walter Beasley
Go with the Flow

N-Coded Music


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 Your Mind?"

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.

 




George Benson
Irreplaceable


Al Green
I Can't Stop



Will Downing
Emotions



Walter Beasley
Go with the Flow



Erykah Badu
Worldwide Underground


Music is Life
Jeffrey Osborne


Lizz Wright
Salt


Earth, Wind, Fire
The Promise


The Isleys
Body Kiss


Kem
Kemistry


BlackStreet
Level II


Brian McKnight
U-Turn


Donnie McClurkin
...Again



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