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Instantly inviting, strong yet supple and as memorable as your high school crush. When people have grooved to your voice since the 70's and continue the tradition with their own kids, you've practically become a member of the family, and that's how many fans would say they feel about "Uncle Charlie" Wilson. The youngest of the Tulsa, OK-born Wilson brothers that comprised the R&B/funk trio known as The Gap Band, Charlie's buttery tenor fueled some of soul's greatest hits ("Outstanding," "Yearning For Your Love," "Early In The Morning") and influenced an entire new generation of performers in the process (most noticeably, Aaron Hall and R. Kelly). It was his primed vocals and old-school sensibilities, coupled with a modern urban/hip-hop edge, that made 2005's Charlie, Last Name Wilson
such a hit, but Uncle Charlie,
his latest collection, can't quite replicate its seamlessness or its self-assured sense of soul. A major reason why there's a different taste to the stew, so to speak, is that there are different chefs seasoning the pot; and although The Platinum Brothers return, R. Kelly, who executive-produced Charlie...
does not. And where Mr. Wilson's previous CD retained enough of a classic R&B touch to satisfy his waaaaay-back-in-the-day fans, Uncle...
seems to pander more to the hip-hop set, which creates more of an uneven listen. There isn't a single track among the twelve, for example, that's as effortlessly seductive as ...Wilson's
"Magic," but it's an exercise in futility to resist the 70's-inspired, lushly lovestruck "There Goes My Baby," authored by Babyface and featuring the ubiquitous (but luckily, barely discernible) Justin Timberlake: "She gon' be the one, we gon' fall in love, and we're gonna have some babies," he resolves to himself after his first fateful encounter with Miss Thang. "Homeless" isn't a statement about society in the post-Bush era, but a lament produced by the Underdogs that describes how lost he is---literally and figuratively---after getting the boot: "'I don't want to work cuz' I can't spend it on you, and I'm talking to myself cuz' I ain't talkin' to you." "Love, Love, Love," another Underdogs creation, is a bouncy mid-tempo that will get necks rocking and bodies swaying, and "Can't Live Without You," although it's this close to being a Ne-Yo-esque retread, is a slice of sweet sincerity.
Unfortunately, it's the rest of the tracks that oscillate between mediocre to maddening: "Supa Sexxy," even with its awkward Jamie Foxx cameo and zillionth appearance by the odious T-Pain, is more enjoyable than "Musta Heard," the awful opener that finds Mr. Wilson forcing his elastic tenor through needless acrobatics and shallow lyrics that depict him as posted up at the club trying to out-mack his younger competition for the ladies. Ewwww. "Shawty Come Back" has the unfortunate distinction of sampling that inescapable 70's song so popular in today's Swiffer ads (another ewww) , and what could've been a fun romp with Snoop Dogg, "Let it Out," disentegrates into a tired recycling of The Gap Band's "Early In The Morning."
So, just like family, this Uncle Charlie has his oh-no-you-didn't! moments that make you want to disclaim him as kin, but also demonstrates that the man's still got it. Well-sung, yet too self-conscious and slick for its own good, Uncle...
comes mildly recommended.
By Melody Charles