Howard Hewett - If Only (2007)

Howard Hewett
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Some things are truly missed if you don't have them for a while. You realize how you take them for granted like, times to hang with your boys, undisturbed. Moments of true peace and quiet when all you hear are your own thoughts. Romantic evenings with the one you love, alone, in the mood, and uninhibited. For a day when, for this reviewer, all these moments were in sync, If Only provided a timely and sensual backdrop.

Howard Hewett's talent has provided enjoyment going as far back as fans' first ride on the Soul Train. Ever since Shalamar, listeners knew this voice would last, and it has. That's understandable, since he's given his instrument no time to get rusty. During the 80's and 90's, Hewett was a busy chart-topper first in a group then as a solo act. He furthered his success with duets featuring some of the most impressive pipes in the game, including Anita Baker, Dionne Warwick, Brenda Russell, and Stacy Lattisaw.

Some things are truly missed if you don't have them for a while. You realize how you take them for granted like, times to hang with your boys, undisturbed. Moments of true peace and quiet when all you hear are your own thoughts. Romantic evenings with the one you love, alone, in the mood, and uninhibited. For a day when, for this reviewer, all these moments were in sync, If Only provided a timely and sensual backdrop.

Howard Hewett's talent has provided enjoyment going as far back as fans' first ride on the Soul Train. Ever since Shalamar, listeners knew this voice would last, and it has. That's understandable, since he's given his instrument no time to get rusty. During the 80's and 90's, Hewett was a busy chart-topper first in a group then as a solo act. He furthered his success with duets featuring some of the most impressive pipes in the game, including Anita Baker, Dionne Warwick, Brenda Russell, and Stacy Lattisaw. The collaborative lessons were not lost, as on If Only he teams with a bevy of producers and musicians that would make any vocalist drool; but for Hewett, these are reunions with old friends. Some artists may wish they could expand their ability. This CD revealed how experience improves it.

Like a maestro conducting his orchestra, Hewett unfolds the opening half of this release with stalwart selections highlighting all the nuances of his vocal and lyrical agility: "I'll Be Right Here," "If Only," "To Please U," "Make Me Say Ooohhh." He wrote lyrics for most of these songs and they are distinguishable. All these tracks are poetic, and romantic in the purest sense of Hewett. The first single, "Enough," is a Hewett original that has already pulled into the top 20 on the charts. "Can You Feel Me" is his latest release gliding the airwaves and it also rings true of his distinctive style. Love is Hewett's air and now he has the chance to exhale, filling our space with romantic sustenance.

As the CD continues, its spirit changes. Hewett relinquishes control moving from conductor to instrument as the talents of George Duke, Gerald Albright, Nathan East, Stanley Clark, and Paulinho Da Costa among others are added to the mix. Hewett does not forsake himself, and yet the combinations are versatile and fresh, like a chef discovering new ingredients in a setting of his own choosing. Listeners will feast deeply on tracks like "I Wanna Know" and "Don't U Wonder 2." While the mood may detour with his rendition of "The Lord's Prayer," the groove does not. After a recent Mighty experience with the Clouds of Joy, I was tolerant of the ecumenical interlude, though it was an awkward interruption to the romantic theme music of the evening (as was the artist's soliloquy to listeners). However, reparations were heartily accepted with the remake of John Lennon's "Imagine" that followed. The recording features the incomparable Billy Preston's last performance, and many will hit the repeat button on this touching close to a love balladeer's return.

If Only failed to satisfy but one wish, for which it cannot be punished. If Only Howard Hewett had released it earlier, perhaps my good fortune would have arrived much sooner. Recommended

By Arnold Stovell

 

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