From the University of Neo-Soul (which has given us talented alumni such as D'Angelo, Eric Benet, and Maxwell) comes Rahsaan Patterson with perhaps his most eclectic project to date, Wines and Spirits. After releasing two critically acclaimed projects for MCA (Rahsaan Patterson and Love In Stereo) in the mid 1990s, this free spirited soul sophisticate started his own record company and, in 2005, dropped a gem of a CD, After Hours. With each offering, Patterson has proven himself one of the most important talent to emerge in the past decade.
The 12-track disc immediately kicks into high gear with an infectious joint entitled "Cloud 9." With longtime collaborator Keith Crouch on the keyboards and synth bass, Sly Stone's essence is all over this track right down to the "boom-shaka-laka" -- and it is indeed funky. Rahsaan keeps the groove going with the follow-up cut, "Delirium (Comes and Goes)" and then mellows the listener with some smooth vocal harmonies on "Feels Good." The tight bass line of the rock-influenced "Pitch Black" is mesmerizing and the song features a penetrating guitar solo. And then Rahsaan dives into another musical direction, hitting with the club banger "Time," which features lyrics of fury courtesy of rapper Johnny Onyx.
"Water" finds Patterson creating an ambient sound and Jamey Jaz's production on "Deliver Me" is brilliantly hot. However, it's the stunning "Oh Lord (Take Me Back)" -- recorded by Patterson as a member of the international group SugaRush Beat Company with a Danish vocalist and an Australian producer -- that finds Rahsaan digging into the bottom of his soul and bringing the kind of gospel influences that will have Sister Rosetta Thorpe beaming on high from Heaven. Also blessing the project with his production skills is newcomer Timothy "Twizz" Bailey, Jr who's "Higher Love" is inspirational in lyrics as well as music. The Janis Ian-penned "Stars" closes out this phenomenal CD.
There are not many artists who have the guts and the skill to incorporate this wide a variety of musical genres on one album. Patterson's risk-taking makes the superbly crafted Wines and Spirits the Sign O' the Times for the new millenium. Highly recommended.
By Christopher Whaley