If only he could sing. If the Detroit-based singer/songwriter Mayer Hawthorne could do more than weakly croon a tune, his debut album for Stones Throw Records would be a perfect blue-eyed, retro-soul album. Following the Northern Soul tradition of innumerable UK artists, Hawthrone mines a delectable palette of soulful flavors from 60s and 70s labels we all know, but apparently never tire of hearing refrained. The punchy rhythm section on "The Ills" is just a start; Hawthorne has been gifted a brilliant band to help him realize sweetly designed songs meant to resurrect old school memories and new school boudoir opportunities. Though titles like the dark "I Wish It Would Rain" feel familiar, these are all original tunes that would have yielded major hits and cult classics for any Philly, Detroit , or Memphis artists of the day. The Temptations would have murdered "Make Her Mine," Smokey on "One Track Mind," and the Righteous Bros.
could have made heavenly hay out of "Let Me Know." Unfortunately you could play this game throughout the project. Only on the precious title track and the genius "Maybe So, Maybe No" do you just appreciate Hawthorne for Hawthorne and not for who he could have been.
Notable tracks: "A Strange Arrangement," "Maybe So, Maybe No" and "Just Ain't Gonna Workout"
Vocals: 2 stars
Lyrics: 4 stars
Music: 4 stars
Production: 3 stars
SoulTracks Call: Recommended
By L. Michael Gipson