Marc Staggers - Key To My Heart

Marc Staggers
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I tried to figure out why I found it so difficult to get into Key To My Heart, the latest CD by Marc Staggers. The problem wasn’t his voice. The brotha can blow. However, he front-loaded the record with some middle of the road material that was guaranteed not to offend. However, it also didn’t grab my attention. The exceptions were the mid-tempo R&B ballad title track and “Be The One And Only One,”  a tune that fuses jazz and soul along with tight harmonies from Staggers’ backing vocalists.

I tried to figure out why I found it so difficult to get into Key To My Heart, the latest CD by Marc Staggers. The problem wasn’t his voice. The brotha can blow. However, he front-loaded the record with some middle of the road material that was guaranteed not to offend. However, it also didn’t grab my attention. The exceptions were the mid-tempo R&B ballad title track and “Be The One And Only One,”  a tune that fuses jazz and soul along with tight harmonies from Staggers’ backing vocalists.

I figured it out by track seven, which is when Key To My Heart really took off.  That tune, “Lifetime Lover” is a simmering soul ballad where Staggers vocally lays it on the line with a woman who consistently chooses the wrong man and then cries on his shoulders. In that song, Staggers mines the lyrics and brings the emotions of longing and frustration that comes with unrequited love. The song brims with passion for the woman who he loves and compassion for her plight. That’s when I realized that most of the tunes in the first half of Key To My Heart were a bit too smooth, perhaps even formulaic. It seemed like something clicked once Staggers dug into “Lifetime Lover,” and the entire project acquired an energy and urgency that was mostly missing in the first half.

Staggers followed “Lifetime Lover” with pulsating dance jam “Stop Playing With My Heart.” The lyrics reveal a man who is at his wits end in dealing with his lover’s cavalier attitude. By the end of the song, Staggers engages in some Luther-like call and response and vocal improvisation. He seemed to be inspired by the chance to break free of those slow and mid tempo love songs. After that cut, Staggers was ready to spend some time lavishing praise on a member of the opposite sex, and he did so with gusto on the next two cuts – the brassy mid-tempo “Something About You” and the stepper's anthem “With the Things You Do.” Staggers fills the former with colorful and active verbs such as wishing, hoping, captivated and driving.

These lyrics paint a vivid picture of a man who can find the words to describe what this woman makes him feel even if he couldn’t explaining that feeling to you if he had to. But that’s how love is, and it’s that honesty and passion that elevates Key To My Heart once Staggers let loose and let his listeners in. The slow start on Key To My Heart probably cost Staggers the highest mark, and it might be asking too much of listeners to wait so long before the album finds its stride. Yet, those with patience will be rewarded because Staggers saved the best for last. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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