MINI REVIEWS - Keri Hilson, Case, Mya, Nate James and more (2009)

MINI REVIEWS

cornfed picL. Michael Gipson's Mini Reviews 
April 2009 

This is SoulTracks Music Editor L. Michael's Gipson's take on several new CD releases which didn't get the full treatment by us but which are nonetheless of interest to SoulTrackers. You can click on the CD covers to check them out. 

Keri Hilson - In A Perfect World

cornfed picL. Michael Gipson's Mini Reviews 
April 2009 

This is SoulTracks Music Editor L. Michael's Gipson's take on several new CD releases which didn't get the full treatment by us but which are nonetheless of interest to SoulTrackers. You can click on the CD covers to check them out. 

Keri Hilson - In A Perfect World

Here's what I know: she can sing; she can dance; she's thin, blonde-streaked and beautiful. Oh, yeah and Timbaland introduced her as an artist in 2007 on his "The Way I Are." Unfortunately, I don't know who Keri Hilson is as an artist even after repeatedly listening to both this shiny, brightly produced debut project and its leaked predecessor, Ms. Keri. The lady who wrote songs for Ciara, Usher and Britney Spears has created a mix of radio cuts that could easily fit on any of these pop artists' projects, but reveals very little about Hilson's artistry, beyond a commercial savvy. While decently sung and highly listenable synth pop, little on this cotton candy project really sticks to the ribs or in the heart. Notable songs: "Energy," "Slow Dance" "Knocks You Down (feat. Kanye West and Ne-yo)," and "Turnin Me On (feat Lil Wayne)."  Vocals: 2.5 stars   Lyrics: 2 stars   Music: 3 stars   Production: 3 stars -- SoulTracks Call: Recommended


Day 26 - Forever In A Day

Legions better than their vacuous self-titled debut, on their sophomore effort the Making the Band boys of Day 26 more closely step into the shoes of their Bad Boy predecessors, 112. With synthy club anthems to spare, including a fun throwback flavored track by Jermaine Dupri, it's the ballads and mid-tempo grooves that rule the day. Proving Ne-yo can write no songwriting wrongs, Day 26 has what should be an Urban AC classic in "Then There's You." Their tenors are more pristine, the runs more accurate, and the harmonies blend better, offering stronger promise of their longevity-if they could just stop fighting. Unfortunately, like 112, Day 26's material is not always up to their talent and the production can be heavy handed to the point of electronic noise or worse, kitsch ("Bipolar" needs a production prescription). Still, Day 26 is the contemporary boy band of the moment, and these guys aren't half bad at the job. Notable songs: "Then There Is You" "Need That (feat. Jermaine Dupri)," "Perfectly Blind" and "Reminds Me Of You"  Vocals: 3 stars   Lyrics: 2.5 stars   Music: 2.5 stars   Production: 2.5 stars --
SoulTracks Call: Recommended

Mya - Mya and Friends: The Best of Both Worlds

Mya, doll baby, you waited six years only to release this mishmash mess? Really? The singer/actress/dancer (we may now want to reverse that order) recorded her fourth project Sugar and Spice but didn't release it after it leaked, instead opting for this wildly uneven oldies but goodies reunion of 90s stars like Ginuwine, Loon, G-Dep, Twista, Keith Murray, Mobb Deep and Layzie and Bizzie Bone. Only Ludacris and Bobby Valentino (doing his best Babyface impression on "W") can be said to be relevant here, particularly Luda's "You Don't Wanna." Mya's vocals have improved, but these Beyonce-lite songs are interchangeable with those of Ciara or worse, Christina Milian. Dance: 10, songs: 3. Notable songs: "Height of Love," "It's Real (feat. Ginuwine)," "W," "Might Not Be." Vocals: 2 stars   Lyrics: 2 stars   Music: 2 stars   Production: 1.5 stars -- SoulTracks Call: Not Recommended

Durand Bernarr - AlcoholHarmony: The Mixtape

Usually R&B mixtapes are self-indulgent and under-produced to a fault. There are those times, however, when an unsigned talent's mixtape is a welcome introduction to an astonishing gift. Twenty-year old Cleveland native Durand Bernarr has voice, voice and then more voice to bless your ears. His untrained, yet near flawless technique conjures references to Eric Benet and Rashaan Patterson, with the intelligence and fearlessness of Tonex. As a young man, his song choices for this cover heavy debut tend to be uber-contemporary, with material by Ne-yo, Rihanna, Gnarls Barkley, John Mayer, Kanye West, and J*Davey all getting his stratospheric vocal treatment, mostly favorably. Still, it's on more original compositions like the radio-ready cuts "Speak 2 Me" and "...In My Mind (U Ain't Got Me)," and the absolutely hilarious "Rodeo Jazz" that Durand is more brilliantly himself. Still young in his song craft, some songs meander and the production mix sports definite stumbles, but few to the point of distraction. Whatever the mixtape's deficiencies this YouTube star can outshine them all. Notable songs: "Closer/Don't Stop The Music," "Who's Gonna Save My Soul," and "...In My Mind (U Ain't Got Me)" Vocals: 4 stars   Lyrics: 3 stars   Music: 2.5 stars   Production: 2.5 stars -- SoulTracks Call: Highly Recommended 
Get it for free here: http://www.sendspace.com/file/zebb3v

Nate James - The Revival

What do you do when your self-funded labor of love, Kingdom Falls, befalls the dreaded sophomore curse? Run to the surefire winner. On his third release since the frizzy soul pop of 2005's Set The Tone, Nate James has seen the commercial writing on the wall and it has instructed him to create the perennially popular covers album. Sadly, despite decent production and supporting vocals, the critically acclaimed MOBO nominee cannot seem to muster his trademark enthusiasm for this eclectic mix of both oft- and rarely recorded material ranging from George Michael's "Faith" to Sly Stone's "Family Affair." It is an understatement to say that James's usually solid vocals are here in need of their own revival. Once you're past the curiosity of hearing a man cover Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor" or Loleatta Holloway's Sal Soul Orchestra hit, "Runaway," you're pretty much done. Notable songs: "Ain't No Stopping Us Now," "Feel So High," and "Runaway."   Vocals: 2 stars   Lyrics: 4 stars   Music: 3 stars   Production: 3 stars -- SoulTracks Call: Not Recommended

Case - The Rose Experience

Though his updated grown man looks speak of a newfound maturity, musically time has stopped for Case. The everyman singer who inexplicably landed a series of late 90s hits with a limited, throaty sound starting with 1996's "Touch Me, Tease Me" and closing 2001 with the high note of "Missing You," proved that a great song and a high-rotation video on BET goes a long way. Eight years later, Case returns with a project that doesn't come close to his artistically delectable Personal Conversation or underappreciated Open Letter. There are no classics like "Faded Pictures" or cult faves like "Love of My Life" to coax this rose to full bloom. Cut too soon, many of these petals have wilted with time, reminiscent of filler cuts from several years before. Only a few buds like the romantic "Place To Stay" make this rose worth drying and saving for old times sake. Notable songs: "Deja Vu" "Turns Me On," "Place to Stay," "Shoulda Known Better"  Vocals: 2 stars   Lyrics: 2.5 stars   Music: 2.5 stars   Production: 3 stars -- SoulTracks Call: Mildly Recommended

*For the latest on music and cultural musings, you can now follow SoulTracks editor, L. Michael Gipson on twitter under: lmichaelgipson.

 
Choice Cut - Maysa - "Lovin' You Is Easy"

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