Al B Sure - Honey I'm Home (2009)

Al B Sure
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It's hard to imagine, but it has been almost two decades since Al B. Sure's last project. For those too young to remember Al B. Sure, he was for a healthy, but brief period the heartthrob of ‘90s romantic new jack swing. Kicking off his solo career with the 1988 Top Ten pop hit "Nite and Day" and the #1 R&B hit "Off On Your Own Girl," Al B. Sure went on to sell over a million copies of his debut album, In Effect Mode. On its 1990 follow-up, Private Times...and the Whole 9, Sure had another #1 R&B hit with "MisUnderstanding," and raised his artistic cache through an appearance on Quincy Jones' "Secret Garden" that same year. But, Sure's solo reign came to an abrupt halt following the failure of 1992's Sexy Versus. While in semi-retirement, Sure remained active as an important behind-the-scenes songwriter and producer for Usher, Johnny Gill, Jodeci and Faith Evans, eventually becoming the vice-president of Motown Records.
It's hard to imagine, but it has been almost two decades since Al B. Sure's last project. For those too young to remember Al B. Sure, he was for a healthy, but brief period the heartthrob of ‘90s romantic new jack swing. Kicking off his solo career with the 1988 Top Ten pop hit "Nite and Day" and the #1 R&B hit "Off On Your Own Girl," Al B. Sure went on to sell over a million copies of his debut album, In Effect Mode. On its 1990 follow-up, Private Times...and the Whole 9, Sure had another #1 R&B hit with "MisUnderstanding," and raised his artistic cache through an appearance on Quincy Jones' "Secret Garden" that same year. But, Sure's solo reign came to an abrupt halt following the failure of 1992's Sexy Versus. While in semi-retirement, Sure remained active as an important behind-the-scenes songwriter and producer for Usher, Johnny Gill, Jodeci and Faith Evans, eventually becoming the vice-president of Motown Records. For the last seven years, he's been a popular "quiet storm" DJ in the San Francisco Bay area. And for a time, one thought Sure would just remain another fond footnote in R&B history. Not anymore.  

On Honey, I'm Home, his first effort on the Hidden Beach label, Al B. Sure returns to his craft of swooning the ladies with more musical mojo than Pretty Ricky and The-Dream dare to touch. On Sure's latest there are chunks of urban "quiet storm" and barely a trace of an up-tempo number, but that's what Sure's devout supporters would have requested. "I Love It! (Papi Aye, Aye, Aye)," full of steamy moans, calming strings and Sure's midnight radio tone, and the mid-tempo swooning of "Top of Your Lungs" puts you in mind of his now-classic, seductive new jack swing slow jams. On the surprising remake of Michael Jackson's "Lady In My Life," Sure works out a vibe that easily justifies his cooler insertions and comfortable falsetto while also complimenting the production of Quincy Jones' original. Songs like the Sting remake "Fragile," the slow jam "Only You" (sung over a familiar Tami Davis "How Do I Say I'm Sorry" groove) and the pop/rock flavored "Never Stop Loving You" are carefully performed and represent the album's better moments.

Honey, I'm Home also has its shamelessly unpretentious moments ("All I Wanna Do," "Dedicate My All," "Whatcha Got?") with songs lacking strong melody and comparative production qualities, crowding out the favorites. The newfound braggadocio persona, highlighted with bloated tags like "Papi Chulo" and pickup lines fit for a 20-something, are troubling signs of putting gimmicky character exaggerations before the music. On one hand, Sure and his long time co-writer and producer Kyle West, do deliver a project that works well as a consistent successor to his earlier albums. On the other hand, it feels as if the sounds on this project came a few years too late in the game. While not a total sleeper, Honey I'm Home isn't the perfect ride one comes to expect from the Hidden Beach camp. Mildly recommended.

 

By J Matthew Cobb

 
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