Preston Glass - Elevator Speech (2013)

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    With a lengthy resume that includes work with soul greats such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha Franklin, and Lionel Richie, Preston Glass spent three decades writing, arranging, and producing exclusively for others. In 2006, he began releasing his own albums— frequently enlisting impressive supporting vocalists (e.g., Eddie Levert, LaToya London, and Keni Burke) to assist in bringing his new concepts to life. Elevator Speech, his fourth solo disc, marks the first time he has taken on the all-encompassing roles of songwriter, player, singer, arranger, and producer as a one-man operation.

    With a lengthy resume that includes work with soul greats such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha Franklin, and Lionel Richie, Preston Glass spent three decades writing, arranging, and producing exclusively for others. In 2006, he began releasing his own albums— frequently enlisting impressive supporting vocalists (e.g., Eddie Levert, LaToya London, and Keni Burke) to assist in bringing his new concepts to life. Elevator Speech, his fourth solo disc, marks the first time he has taken on the all-encompassing roles of songwriter, player, singer, arranger, and producer as a one-man operation.

    The result is a well-rounded collection of sophisticated R&B and smooth jazz, peppered with a few servings of pop ballads, club rhythms, and light funk for good measure. Utilizing a variety of sequencing, as well as live instruments, Glass's approach is respectful of each song's melody and lyric. Consequently, the 12 tracks that make up Elevator Speech come off not merely as a random assortment of tunes, but as a thematic progression of material with different shades and hues of tone and intensity.

    Glass' opening inquiry, the gently funky "Do You Deliver?" is an ideal showcase of his knack for style and subtlety. Ensuring his female suitor intends to turn words into action, he glides through the groove with assured vocal phrasing, head-nodding rhythms, and mellow guitar licks that create an appealing midtempo ambiance. Elsewhere, he picks up the pace with the Euro house-vibed "Just Because the Camera's On," an instantly memorable number replete with clever metaphors and grabbing harmonic elements. The incorporation of a bit more acoustic instrumentation could take this cut to the next dynamic level; but Glass makes up for those budget considerations with an earnest vocal and an inspired arrangement.

    Apart from the kinetic vibes, Glass demonstrates his proficiency with ballads, most notably on the plaintive "Same Tears (Different Pillow)" and the old-school-influenced "Anyway Smile." The former benefits from poetic lines such as "Starts out golden, but it ends so blue," while the melody of the latter brings to mind classic soul tunes a la The Stylistics (one of the first groups Glass wrote for) while also bearing a unique country influence. Meanwhile, the slow pacing and church-infused feel of "You Can't Get It Back" is effective, but comes across more technically limited from a vocal standpoint.

    Perhaps the most brightly shining moment on Elevator Speech is the breezin' groover "Love It Unconditionally," which fuses a hip-hop-tinged beat with jazzy chords and Glass's singing strong points: spontaneity and sensitivity. With a gracefully flowing melody and mood-enhancing chordal structure, the song is a natural testament to Glass’s skill and style as both composer and arranger. These qualities embody the most redeeming moments of the CD, which will serve as a welcome treat for longtime fans and a positive introduction for new listeners. Recommended.

    by Justin Kantor

     
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