Randevyn - The Randevyn Project (2009)

Randevyn
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When R&B singer Lina issued her Inner Beauty Movement CD back in 2005, filled with an unusual blend of modern R&B and 1920s swing, she turned quite a few heads.  The mixture was itself only intermittantly effective, but Lina received rightly deserved praise for going against the grain of the rest of the contemporary R&B crowd and delivering moments of real creative bliss.  Much the same can be said for the sophomore disc by Atlanta singer/songwriter Randevyn.

When R&B singer Lina issued her Inner Beauty Movement CD back in 2005, filled with an unusual blend of modern R&B and 1920s swing, she turned quite a few heads.  The mixture was itself only intermittantly effective, but Lina received rightly deserved praise for going against the grain of the rest of the contemporary R&B crowd and delivering moments of real creative bliss.  Much the same can be said for the sophomore disc by Atlanta singer/songwriter Randevyn.

Randevyn's 2005 debut album SolTrain showed him to be a solid -- if not entirely distinguishable -- young artist, with a decent sense of contemporary R&B and a subtle debt to more accomplished artists ranging from Tony Rich to Anthony Hamilton.  But nothing on that album even hinted at the sound that dominates The Randevyn Project, a piano-driven, largely acoustic pop set that hearkens back to the singer/songwriters of the 70s, perhaps most notably early Dan Fogelberg (more "Part of the Plan" than "Longer").  It is simulaneously a head-scratching and inspired move, with Randevyn sounding both sincere and personally moved by the musical change.

The nice ballad "Life Support" was leaked to radio a few months ago, featuring a pop/urban feel that seemed consistent with Randevyn's prior work.  But that song is the outlier on Project.  Much more typical is the leadoff track, "On The Hills," a celebration of the strength brought from conquering small battles in life, with a great chorus and harmonies that could be at home on country radio.  Just as engaging is "Colorado," a tribute to the beauty of Randevyn's home state ("Never seen the sun shine like it does in Colorado/And I've never seen snow on a mountain top" -- not your typical urban radio lyrical fare) and the acoustic love song, "Better Me"; both solid songs that could have found a place on adult contemporary radio three decades ago.  

Lyrically, Randevyn is one serious guy.  And he is liberal -- perhaps even ponderous -- with his advice for listeners.  Songs like "Pretenders," "Outside the Box" and "Graveyard Treasure" are overflowing with warnings for those who fail to follow their dreams or who succumb to the definitions or limitations placed on them by society.  They only barely avoid sounding sanctimonious because Randevyn is just so...darn...earnest.

Randevyn has clearly taken his intelligent poetry seriously, and at a time when adult music listeners are tired of songs about "shawtys" and "pimpin," it is refreshing to hear an artist singing about bigger things, even if occasionally bordering on preachy.  But in the end what makes or breaks this album are the melodies, and when Randevyn focuses on them rather than putting them in coach while his lyrics ride first class, Project is absolutely top notch.  So his righteous indignation works well on "The Jena Tree" (or the previously mentioned "On the Hills") in part because of the compelling subject and in larger part because it simply has a great hook.  And fortunately there are enough songs of that musical quality to make The Randevyn Project extremely worthwhile (though, at fourteen songs, perhaps a bit overweight).

With The Randevyn Project, Randevyn takes both a risky and huge creative step that has to be considered a success by any measure.  It is not perfect, but it is both different and admirable, and makes this reviewer even more convinced that Randevyn is a young artist who will develop into something special. Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 
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