Kelly almost single-handedly brought the Isley Brothers back to relevance a couple years ago, he opened the door for other classic funk artists to get their props from modern R&B and hip-hop producers. Charlie Wilson has been known for almost three decades as one of soul and funk music's greatest singers, so the coming together of an A-list of modern producers for Charlie, Last Name Wilson was well deserved. Unfortunately, the album largely sounds like a typical, faceless modern R&B producer's album, and could have been subtitled "The new Omarion/Usher album, featuring guest vocalist Charlie Wilson." Most of the seven sets of producers strike out in their work here, with the low point being Wilson's trio with Justin Timberlake and Will.i.am on "Floatin'," a bland uptempo number with such asinine lyrics ("I wanna freak ya, freak ya, freak ya; get kinky, put your booty on the speaka'") that it will probably be in heavy rotation on your local hip-hop station.
Thank God for R. Kelly (now you don't hear that very often). His contributions are the album's highlights, with the hit title track and "No Words," a chilling ballad (from an ignored wife's perspective) that allows Wilson to run free vocally and creates the album's best moment. The disc also works well on the uptempo "You Got Nerve" with Snoop Dogg and ends with a decent UAC ballad (the only Wilson composition) "Cry No More."
The return of Charlie Wilson is certainly welcome, but Charlie, Last Name Wilson bears little resemblance to Wilson's best work and largely stifles his great voice behind mechanical production aimed at the hip-hop crowd. Fortunately, there are enough good moments to make this album passable, though not entirely distinctive.
By Chris Rizik