Jason Champion - Reflections (2008)

Jason Champion
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If the name Jason Champion is new to you, the voice certainly shouldn't be; once one-half of the Gerald Levert-mentored 90's R&B duo Men at Large (most famous for the tear-stained ballad, "So Alone") and a backgound singer for contemporary gospel phenomenon Kirk Franklin, Mr. Champion, like many other soul crooners before him, felt compelled to return to his church-cultivated roots. Thankfully, the transition is a smooth and sincere one, demonstrated with relish on his first solo release, Reflections. 

Despite its somber and introspective title, Reflections is brimming with jubilant songs orchestrated using a live band, many of which the performer competently co-wrote. Some of the subject matter is left open enough to interpret in either direction ("Friend Of Mine," "I'm Sorry"), but even listeners who don't regularly go for gospel music will feel the conviction in sunny tracks like "Find A Reason," "Friend Of Mine" and "The Life." Mr.

If the name Jason Champion is new to you, the voice certainly shouldn't be; once one-half of the Gerald Levert-mentored 90's R&B duo Men at Large (most famous for the tear-stained ballad, "So Alone") and a backgound singer for contemporary gospel phenomenon Kirk Franklin, Mr. Champion, like many other soul crooners before him, felt compelled to return to his church-cultivated roots. Thankfully, the transition is a smooth and sincere one, demonstrated with relish on his first solo release, Reflections. 

Despite its somber and introspective title, Reflections is brimming with jubilant songs orchestrated using a live band, many of which the performer competently co-wrote. Some of the subject matter is left open enough to interpret in either direction ("Friend Of Mine," "I'm Sorry"), but even listeners who don't regularly go for gospel music will feel the conviction in sunny tracks like "Find A Reason," "Friend Of Mine" and "The Life." Mr. Champion isn't accompanied by a choir, or any other well-known vocalists for that matter, but there's no need, considering that the songs remain compelling thanks to the strength of his buoyant and buttery tenor (a cross between Rueben Studdard and Dave Holister). It propels the uptempo numbers to soaring heights, and the ballads, like the lamentful "I'm Sorry," are downright tremulous in their heart-rending honesty.

Many R&B artists have gone public with their desires to go back to gospel, but few have done it with as personal and profound a touch as Mr Champion's. A deft blend of the sanctified and the secular, Reflections---whether he's crooning about the ups and downs of marriage in "For Better or Worse" (with wife Paula) or comforting a defeated believer in "Ain't So Bad"--- conveys the gamut of human emotions with soul and sincerity. There is one glaring misstep, the vocoder-polluted opening track, "Always" (I blame T-Pain), but overall, Reflections will put pep in your step on the way to Church on Sunday morning and could very well keep your spirits up thoughout the rest of the week.

By Melody Charles

 
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