Dennis Coleman - Back In The Mood (2008)

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    Dennis Coleman
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    It's fairly common for prolific musicians, such as Prince and Lenny Kravitz, to build studios to fulfill their recording needs - often resulting in their best works - and to occasionally invite other artists to use their facilities. While certainly not a household name or major chartbuster of Prince's caliber, the debuting smooth jazz artist, Dennis Coleman, has also built a recording studio, Pristine Studios. Only Coleman's studio is not primarily used to crank out personal recordings for radio. Rather, the software developer and moonlighting singer/songwriter seems extremely content using Pristine Studios to allow hobbyists, enthusiasts, and up and coming artists to begin fulfilling their dreams by recording demos of their music. Coleman started welcoming singers and musicians, whether amateur or professional, about two years ago inside the Long Island, New York based digital, state-of-the art 24-track facility.
    Besides hosting his clientele, Coleman, whose deep appreciation for old school royalty from Earth Wind & Fire to The Whispers, invests some additional evenings in his second job to fulfill his lifelong aspirations to become a commercial recording artist. The end result is what he deems ‘a full entertainment experience' with his debut, Back In The Mood.

    Colman definitely feels the love and respect of those with whom he's interacted as a studio mogul, as evidenced in the guestbook section of the Pristine Studio website - A majority of the clientele enter into a non-pressure environment to realize their karaoke superstar fantasies, record songs for weddings, or present special musical memories for friends and family members. Occasionally there are the future stars awaiting their first recording close-up, such as singer/songwriter Lindsey Brandt, who delves into the darker side of rock - think Evanescence or Plumb - and teenage Broadway star and pop singer Elora Rosch, a potential American Idol-type threat.

    While Coleman gets the thumbs up for his behind the scenes achievements, will the general listening public be in a loving mood after savoring his soulful savoir fare on "Back In The Mood?" In the long run, that mood will probably be soured. Considering his expertise running a studio and producing pristine (excuse the pun) tracks for Rosch, Brandt, and other microphone fiends, the overall production quality for his own endeavor is average at best. The exception is the flowing background vocal tracks that surpass Coleman's lead performance. In the instrumental execution, the keyboard generated horn and strings are stale in some instances and sometimes overwhelm Coleman's sharp saxophone and flute work. A few rhythm tracks also suffer from robotic drum programming.

    Coleman's background vocals fare nicely, but his wavering tenor seems to be stuck in neutral on most occasions. There are moments of soulful glee, however, especially when he exercises his satisfying falsetto as on "If This Were Meant To Be." The latter cut finds Coleman paying homage to Phillip Bailey in a falsetto that certainly sweetens this musical pot.

    The instrumental, "Inter-Mood," is the absolute project highlight. Accompanied only by minimal synthesizer strings, Coleman's spacious saxophone on "Inter-Mood" is allowed to breathe for the song's entire two and a half minute run. As for that full entertainment experience Coleman boasted, the eight tracks does provide a well balanced mix of smooth jazz, old school R&B, dance and funk. Unfortunately, the arrangements are less accommodating as they do not generate that immensely soulful atmosphere I feel a classic soul music record should possess. This, despite Coleman's music evoking his influential old school sources on songs like "Whatcha Gonna Do For Me," a cut that echoes many of The Whispers' slick dance flavored hits like "Keep On Loving Me."

    Back In The Mood has the best intentions, but overall will not entice persons to reminisce about the fun and funky old school days. When Coleman decides to enter the studio again, he should keep the old school/smooth jazz concept but with an instrumental focus touched up with those tight background vocals. For a purer listening experience on those future recordings, I recommend that Coleman emphasize more of his crisp sax and flute skills-his strong suit-while deemphasizing the heavy-handed synthesizers that excessively clutter his productions. With these slightly altered ingredients, perhaps the listeners will bring back more love for the diverse musical side of this pristine studio mogul.

    By Peggy Oliver