Raheem DeVaughn - A Place Called Loveland (2013)

Raheem DeVaughn
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Poetic, passionate and prolific: separately and collectively, those words describe the musicianship and the marketing strategy of Raheem DeVaughn. A renaissance-level soul provider with a velvety tenor, lyrical skills and a classically-conveyed approach, the performer has amassed an impressive resume in his first ten years as a pro, including three Grammy nominations, BET & BET J Awards and a reputation for songs that adore, rather than objectify, the opposite sex ("Customer," "Woman," "You," etc.). 
 
Becoming the casualty of a major-label collapse would be enough to slow the momentum of practically anyone, but since hustling has always been a part Mr.
Poetic, passionate and prolific: separately and collectively, those words describe the musicianship and the marketing strategy of Raheem DeVaughn. A renaissance-level soul provider with a velvety tenor, lyrical skills and a classically-conveyed approach, the performer has amassed an impressive resume in his first ten years as a pro, including three Grammy nominations, BET & BET J Awards and a reputation for songs that adore, rather than objectify, the opposite sex ("Customer," "Woman," "You," etc.). 
 
Becoming the casualty of a major-label collapse would be enough to slow the momentum of practically anyone, but since hustling has always been a part Mr. DeVaughn's agenda, he continues to bring the expected focus and finesse to his latest solo effort, A Place Called Loveland. 
 
In the three years since his last Grammy-nominated project, 2010's The Love & War MasterPeace, the social activism that dominated its contents and permeated Raheem's previous works is now a part of his weekly internet radio program (Good Music, A Social Conscious Perspective at http://www.blis.fm/raheem), so that may be why such material never surfaces here. What listeners will immediately recognize, however, are the lushly-intricate jams and ballads on which Raheem has built his fan base. Immediately-recognizable names such as Carvin and Ivan, Adonis and Mario Winans are part of the ensemble, as well as Dre King, Jay Phoenix, Ne-Yo and even jazz titan Boney James, but they still allow DeVaughn's creativity (he co-authored most of the 15 tracks) to shine through: James' sultry sax and Raheem's supple vocals are a heady match in the adult-contemporary addition, "Maker of Love," and the delicate and whimsical feel of "Complicated" belies the inner turmoil a friend experiences while gambling with a relationship's status change. "In The Meantime" is even messier, with Mr. DeVaughn begging Lenny Williams-style for patience as he leaves one woman for another---"Baby, please, please, PLEASE understand," he croons breathlessly, "that everything happens for a reason, but don't change like the seasons and take away all your love." 
 
Not that being the self-proclaimed "R&B hippie neo-soul rock star" is all roses, however: one of the very best tracks is the urban-edged "Wrong Forever," with catchy beats that mimic 80s-era rap as Raheem ruefully catalogs the sins that hastened her exit---"Wish I didn't have to face her, she didn't run away I chased her/Faded away like I erased her, balled her heart up like it's paper."
 
If the first few miles of ....Loveland's landscape covered the less-tangible aspects of togetherness (the Ne-Yo penned, "Customer"-recalling ballad "Ridiculous," as well as the lusty slow jam "Pink Crush Velvet," which borrows liberally from the Book of Prince), the remaining tracks are all about carnality: "Make'Em Like You" pours rap-flavored praise and adoration all over Raheem's lady love, and even the most jaded will be shocked at the unabashed eroticism that's unleashed in "The Greatest Lover"----"My sex was made to sweat out your weave/to make your MAC makeup smear and run." "Cry Baby" takes the bedroom bragging a step further, with 'The Love King' swearing that his prowess will bring a woman to tears (among other things), leaving the inevitable conclusion, parenthood, to be explored in another lascivious love groove, "Make A Baby." 
 
Could Mr. DeVaughn have pushed farther and dug deeper? Probably: "Love Connection," for example, played it waaaay too safe given his established artistic range, and the CD's preoccupation with lust and libido can wear on even the most loyal Raheem supporters. But that doesn't negate the fact that The R&B Hippie Neo-Soul Rock Star remains one of his generation's best entertainers and delivers a generous portion of meticulous, melodic and mesmerizing R&B. And with autumn just around the corner, along with the rigors of school and other bland life routines taking root before the holiday season, who couldn't use a few extended stays in the soothing and sensually-smooth destination represented by Loveland? Highly Recommended. 
 
By Melody Charles
 
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