Carlos Morgan - The Compilation

Carlos Morgan
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With a distinctively velvet vocal style and pleasingly balanced selection of uptempo grooves and reflective ballads, Toronto native Carlos Morgan's sophomore CD provides an appealing palette for R&B and pop listeners alike. First drawing the attention of new-jack-swing fans with the 1996 singles "Baby C'mon" and "Give It to You," the singer-songwriter won the Juno Best R&B/Soul Recording award for his debut disc, Feelin' Alright. He's made the transition from major-label act to independent artist in the decade since, appearing on records by a handful of Canadian artists in the process.

With a distinctively velvet vocal style and pleasingly balanced selection of uptempo grooves and reflective ballads, Toronto native Carlos Morgan's sophomore CD provides an appealing palette for R&B and pop listeners alike. First drawing the attention of new-jack-swing fans with the 1996 singles "Baby C'mon" and "Give It to You," the singer-songwriter won the Juno Best R&B/Soul Recording award for his debut disc, Feelin' Alright. He's made the transition from major-label act to independent artist in the decade since, appearing on records by a handful of Canadian artists in the process.

The Compilation, released through Morgan's SolRoc label, collects a variety of his unreleased recordings from the past decade into one surprisingly cohesive package. Fans of the funky numbers and sexy slow-jams that graced his debut will find the hook-smart "Fascinated" and enticing flow of "Whatcha Got" particularly flavorful, while listeners preferring a more understated vibe will appreciate the serene narrative of "Just Jane" and the smooth neo-soul update of "Forever for You" (originally on Feelin' Alright). Throughout the material, Morgan maintains a stylistically consistent approach that sounds just as solid on the upbeat romps as on the downtempo moments. Although the intricate phrasing and ad-libs he employed on his first set are not as prominent here, his energetic dynamics and sexy tone are still distinguishing characteristics of his technique.

Mellow keyboard underpinnings provide an engaging vibe on the opening number, "Pashmina Girl," a soulful house-leaning track with radio-friendly sensibilities. Morgan evokes a calm eagerness to get closer to an untouchable lady of beauty with the song's straight-ahead, respectful lyrics, as the subtly persistent beat encourages pulling the top down while breezing across the coast. The dance floor-ready mood continues with "Something 'Bout You," a swag club joint which effectively showcases a deeper register of his voice.

There's a slight bluesy edge to "Just Jane," a surprising ballad written by noted dance-music engineer Earl Torno. Morgan sounds more at home delivering this tune's pensive lines than the party-over-here quips of "Hey Yo T.O."—although the latter is an admittedly catchy ditty. "She gives more than she takes/And she takes my breath away/In the world's eyes she'll always be just Jane/But because of her my world has changed," he sings with believable sensitivity. Meanwhile, "T.O." bumps with a hard-to-resist beat and retro-esque synth licks that bring to mind SOLAR funk. However, Morgan's declaration, "Fresh kicks, yeah they're workin' right/I look good and I'm feelin' right" is not as convincing as his other performances on the album.

The Compilation serves as a satisfying round-up of what Carlos Morgan has been up to since disappearing from the mainstream in the late 1990's. The well-rounded repertoire and on-point interpretations demonstrate that he's still got the chops—and are positive signs of what's to come.  Recommended.

by Justin Kantor

 


 
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