Joe - Signature (2009)

Joe
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The name "Joe" has always conjured up a comfortable, if not outright characterless, image: "Joe Blow," "average Joe," "Joe Sixpack" and even "cup of Joe." And after a dozen-plus hits ("I Wanna Know," "More & More," "Don't Wanna Be a Player," "All the Things {Your Man Won't Do}") and over 15 years in the music industry, it would've been quite easy for Joe Thomas to coast on his rep and rely on his chocolatey good looks to keep the checks coming in. But in order for one to stay in the game, it requires thriving, not just surviving, which is what he accomplishes on his eighth CD, Signature.

As a vocalist, Joe is nothing if not consistent: whether he's in full-blown mack-daddy mode("Friends Don't Let Friends,") nursing a broken heart ("Miss My Baby") or looking at the front door ("Worst Case Scenario"), his soulful, silky tenor always gets the job done.

The name "Joe" has always conjured up a comfortable, if not outright characterless, image: "Joe Blow," "average Joe," "Joe Sixpack" and even "cup of Joe." And after a dozen-plus hits ("I Wanna Know," "More & More," "Don't Wanna Be a Player," "All the Things {Your Man Won't Do}") and over 15 years in the music industry, it would've been quite easy for Joe Thomas to coast on his rep and rely on his chocolatey good looks to keep the checks coming in. But in order for one to stay in the game, it requires thriving, not just surviving, which is what he accomplishes on his eighth CD, Signature.

As a vocalist, Joe is nothing if not consistent: whether he's in full-blown mack-daddy mode("Friends Don't Let Friends,") nursing a broken heart ("Miss My Baby") or looking at the front door ("Worst Case Scenario"), his soulful, silky tenor always gets the job done.  What would've been just a self-serving ‘let's-go-ahead-and-hook-up-on-the-rebound' jam with another artist, for example, comes across as sincere when conveyed by Joe: "Breaking up is serious, tonight I need a little healing---my body's got me catching feelings, for you..." he moans  during "Friends...," while "Metaphor" acknowledges that the ardor has chilled considerably between them and that he's searching for a solution, since "everything I do, I do it for you, every breath I take, I breathe for two, every word I say, my whole life through, is just a metaphor, for ‘I love you.'" He campaigns harder than Barack Obama during the 2008 Primary on "I Wanna Be Your Lover," promising his intended that "when it comes to love, I'm qualified: experienced, I'll be your guide. I aim to please...I make it happen all night." In contrast is the percolating mid-tempo "Sensitive Lover," which flips the script and praises his lady for being all that he could want or need. "Come Get To This" is one of his most straightforward "give it to me baby" tracks yet, adding a modernized doo-wop Motown twist with its Marvin Gaye sample and air of salaciousness.

Sometimes though, the consistency works against the performer, as the first three songs opening the CD range from slightly lethargic to outright comatose: given his recently-exposed feud with former Jive label mate R. Kelly, "Sex Girl" sounds ironically like one of the former's tamer-than-usual outtakes, "Very Special Friend" is a bloodless booty call at best, and "Majic"is dusted with anything but (yawn).  Luckily for himself and his fans, however, Joe uses the rest of the CD to redeem himself, and Signature ends up delivering what we've always come to expect and enjoy about this talented church musician turned cool, come-hither crooner.

By Melody Charles

 
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