Raul Midón - State of Mind (2005)

Raul Midón
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While highly anticipated, State of Mind presents a minor dilemma for an artist who has gained a sterling reputation as a live performer and who has been singing many of the disc's cuts in concert for several months.  Fortunately, working with legendary producer Arif Mardin, Midon has created a studio album that has the feel of a small club acoustic performance.  India.Arie popularized the term "acoustic soul," but her work sounds like Moby compared to Midon's sparse arrangements.  State of Mind is all about Midon's voice and guitar, with everything else taking a back seat.  This works well in highlighting not only Midon's soulful voice, but also his delightful lyrics, which are at times innocent ("Keep On Hoping," "Mystery Girl"), at times idealistic ("Everybody," "Never Get Enough"), and just about always worthwhile.

While highly anticipated, State of Mind presents a minor dilemma for an artist who has gained a sterling reputation as a live performer and who has been singing many of the disc's cuts in concert for several months.  Fortunately, working with legendary producer Arif Mardin, Midon has created a studio album that has the feel of a small club acoustic performance.  India.Arie popularized the term "acoustic soul," but her work sounds like Moby compared to Midon's sparse arrangements.  State of Mind is all about Midon's voice and guitar, with everything else taking a back seat.  This works well in highlighting not only Midon's soulful voice, but also his delightful lyrics, which are at times innocent ("Keep On Hoping," "Mystery Girl"), at times idealistic ("Everybody," "Never Get Enough"), and just about always worthwhile.

Musically, State of Mind has the raw but mellow immediacy of Bill Withers' early recordings, with a combination of soul and latin influences that keep the disc interesting despite its abundance of slow songs.  And Midon's strong performance is buttressed by a sterling set of compositions, including his playful duet with Jason Mraz, "Keep On Hoping," the soulful ballads  "Mystery Girl" and "Suddenly" (which feature Midon's warm falsetto), and the nice midtempo "If You're Gonna Leave."  Perhaps best of all is "Expressions of Love," a cut that sounds like a classic Stevie Wonder slow song, with Wonder even accompanying on harmonica.

It is unlikely that hip-hop-crazy popular radio will embrace an album like State of Mind, but over the past two years artists from Norah Jones to Gordon Chambers have shown that there is a sizable adult audience willing to bypass radio to satisfy their craving for intelligent, melodic music that is less temporal and more timeless.  And State of Mind is an album that could have been made twenty years ago or twenty years from now and still be both relevant and memorable.  Hopefully it is also the tipping point for the career of this talented artist.

By Chris Rizik

 
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