Alain Clark - Colorblind

Alain Clark
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The toughest album for any artist to create is the first disc after his or her breakout release. Think Peter Frampton's I'm In You or Bobby Brown's Bobby. That release is frought with peril because there is always the question: Did the artist just throw a lucky seven on the previous disc or is he really a player?

Dutch soul artist Alain Clark had his breakout a couple years ago with Live It Out, a certified gold album that was one the most unadulterated joys of the year -- a marvelous blend of pop and soul that spotlighted a young star with a crystaline voice and a sense of melody that rivaled Ne-Yo or Lionel Richie at their peaks.  So the big question with regard to his follow-up disc, Colorblind, is...is he the real thing?  From the opening bars of the joyous Summer song opener, "Wonderful Day," the answer is an emphatic "yes."

The toughest album for any artist to create is the first disc after his or her breakout release. Think Peter Frampton's I'm In You or Bobby Brown's Bobby. That release is frought with peril because there is always the question: Did the artist just throw a lucky seven on the previous disc or is he really a player?

Dutch soul artist Alain Clark had his breakout a couple years ago with Live It Out, a certified gold album that was one the most unadulterated joys of the year -- a marvelous blend of pop and soul that spotlighted a young star with a crystaline voice and a sense of melody that rivaled Ne-Yo or Lionel Richie at their peaks.  So the big question with regard to his follow-up disc, Colorblind, is...is he the real thing?  From the opening bars of the joyous Summer song opener, "Wonderful Day," the answer is an emphatic "yes."

An artist who could easily be lumped in the genre-bending groupings of John Mayer, Gavin DeGraw or James Morrison (or, going back a bit, Hall & Oates and Richie), Clark on Colorblind sounds perfectly comfortable in any of several camps, moving in out of mild R&B, rock, straight up pop and funk in surprising ways. His forays into racial social issues, "Corner of My Street" and "For Freedom," are "colorblind," largely eschew expected R&B arrangements for rock or pop sounds.  On his lighter songs, such as "Love Is Everywhere" or the joyous "Summer In My Mind"," Clark delves far into the horn drenched sound of Chicago or Tower of Power. Even his album closer, "Slowly Forget You," goes an unexpected direction, sounding like a classic Poco or Eagles song. But when Clark does move fully into R&B, such as on the sexy duet with Diane Birch, "Too Soon to End" (which should be an out of the box hit), he's convincing and authentic. 

Colorblind is undoubtedly more adventurous than its predecessor, with more confidence and widely varied sounds. Perhaps the most notable artistic change, however, is the new rasp in Clarke's voice, a remnant of two years of touring that removes some of the vocal purity that highlighted his earlier releases, but which adds a bit of oomph to a legitimate funk tune like "Rich." As was the case on Live It Out, there is zero filler on Colorblind.  If anything, the material may be slightly stronger; but the addition of strong horn sections and more tempo certainly make it a hotter disc that should appeal to both boomers and X'ers.

Last year I surprised some SoulTracks readers by choosing Live It Out as one of my top five albums of the year.  What may be an even bigger surprise is that Colorblind is already a frontrunner for a similar spot of honor for 2010.  It is another impeccable album of hooky, infectious songs produced and performed with the kind of care that harkens back to the best of Chicago, Detroit or Philadelphia decades ago.  And it is an emphatic statement by Alain Clark that he's the real deal.  Highly Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 

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