Trizonna McClendon - Overtones and Innuendos (2007)

Trizonna McClendon
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In the 1990's there was a proliferation of producer-driven albums that were long on fun productions and innovative arrangements, but short on vocal prowess and lyrical depth. Smooth tones and stylized phrasings replaced the jazz and gospel influenced belting broads of 80's R&B. The introspective romance and power-to-the-people unrest of the 70's lyric vanished, giving way to high school love letters and bedroom boastings. The flirty fluff wasn't all bad; some of the pop R&B confections of the era may comprise tomorrow's oldies but goodies. However, when it was bad-those times when the production wasn't dynamic enough to compensate for the sophomoric lyrics and flat vocals-it was disastrous. Trizonna McClendon's new project Overtones and Innuendos represents the best and worst of the era's excesses.

In the 1990's there was a proliferation of producer-driven albums that were long on fun productions and innovative arrangements, but short on vocal prowess and lyrical depth. Smooth tones and stylized phrasings replaced the jazz and gospel influenced belting broads of 80's R&B. The introspective romance and power-to-the-people unrest of the 70's lyric vanished, giving way to high school love letters and bedroom boastings. The flirty fluff wasn't all bad; some of the pop R&B confections of the era may comprise tomorrow's oldies but goodies. However, when it was bad-those times when the production wasn't dynamic enough to compensate for the sophomoric lyrics and flat vocals-it was disastrous. Trizonna McClendon's new project Overtones and Innuendos represents the best and worst of the era's excesses.

Overtones and Innuendos' first half is a diverse drive through a series of atmospheric musical landscapes amply worth the journey into this Chi-town songstress's forecasts. Throughout these radio-ready car jams, Trizonna's voice teases and caresses the ear with tunes that immediately delight. On "Heavy Precipitation," Trizonna rides a throbbing hydraulic beat to a bumping, finger-popping' good time, rain be damned! Clouds part on David Sampson's subsequent cruise control production, allowing Trizonna to lean out the window and rest her soprano in the cool breeze of "Sunshine and Lemonade." Trizonna glides "Flowers Bloom in Spring" over the potholes of lyrical repetition steering us to another smooth ride. Leaving the weather reports aside, the artist's self-penned namesake "Trizonna" is the album's drop-top convertible. Trizonna's voice effortlessly weaves through intersections of flute and percussions on producers Damon "Dizzy Fingers" and Chris "Cee Rule" Forman sumptuous Afro-Caribbean groove to hypnotic effect. The trance continues as Chris Vega chauffeurs Trizonna through the "Extra Special" marching drums and funky bass line. Trizonna's confident interplay with rapper Olskool Ice Gre of Abstract Mindstate on "Extra..." recalls the new car gleam of hip hop's first rap/R&B hybrid experiments. Indeed, Overtones' initial six songs are meant for summertime rides in the park.

Unfortunately, the ride comes to a screeching halt on the latter half of Overtones and Innuendos. Producers Preston Glass and Chris Vega pump the brakes, landing Trizonna a vocal and musical flat. Both producers lack their project predecessors' sleight of hand on tunes like "Dude" and "Giddy," consequently failing to camouflage Trizonna's vocal limitations and lyrical thinness. "Night of My Life" is the project's booster shot from Overtones' final stage virus of forgettable tunes. Infectious Latin rhythms demonstrate Vega's producer promise and strong musicianship while a sublime Lizz Fields serves it up on the background vocals. However, the placebo "Remedy" quickly dilutes "Night's" medicinal effects. Sadly "Joyous," a throwaway track by Trizonna's Chi-Town compatriot, producer Kanye West, doesn't nurture the project back to health. West's regrettable imitation of a ghetto portrait ala Stevie Wonder with its cluttered sounds of playing children, street noises, guttural preaching and a gospel choir fail to resurrect the "Joyous" wellness of Trizonna's earlier healing balms. A bonus cover of Minnie Riperton's 1974 "Reasons" is the project's most organic therapy, but-despite a wise decision to sidestep the astral high notes of Minnie's original chorus-a cure all it is not.

Overtones and Innuendos illuminates the reasons for both the popularity of this genre's short-lived era in R&B and why it ended, heralding the return of singers and songwriters who are able to make lemonade out of the most sour song treatments. Lucky for Trizonna there's enough sweetness in Overtones' Lynchburg Lemonade to make it worth the accompanying hangover.   

By L. Michael Gipson

 
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