Anthony David - As Above So Below (2011)

Anthony David

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Talk about moving from the background to the foreground: in the seven years since his debut, 3 Chords & the Truth, singer, lyricist and musician Anthony David went from being known as India.Arie's occasional collaborator and opening act to a Grammy-Award nominated soul provider in his own right, thanks to his unassuming, yet undeniable charisma, a rich, gravelly baritone and his flair for rendering common life experiences into extraordinary songs ("Part of My Life," "Cold Turkey," "Spittin' Game," "Words").

Talk about moving from the background to the foreground: in the seven years since his debut, 3 Chords & the Truth, singer, lyricist and musician Anthony David went from being known as India.Arie's occasional collaborator and opening act to a Grammy-Award nominated soul provider in his own right, thanks to his unassuming, yet undeniable charisma, a rich, gravelly baritone and his flair for rendering common life experiences into extraordinary songs ("Part of My Life," "Cold Turkey," "Spittin' Game," "Words").

Now four CDs into his burgeoning career, As Above, So Below  represents a self-assured breaking-away of sorts: not only is it the debut release on Purpose Music Group/E One Entertainment, it pairs him with a new producer (Shannon Sanders) and shears away his reliance on what served as the centerpiece for many of his hits, the acoustic guitar. To flip a successful formula is a risky gamble for any performer, but in Mr. David's case, the differences are welcomed ones and his fans instantly reap the rewards.

Despite the changes, there's more familiarity to be found than foreignness: the subtle sexual overtones, social commentary and statements about love and life still resonate through the lyrics, and Mr. David handles each theme with deftly-applied swagger and soul: "Let Me In," anchored with a soothing percussive backbeat and wrapped in a gauzy, synthesized overlay of notes, tenderly pleads for a cautious woman to share her heart before it's too late: "How long you gonna keep me knockin' at your door/ how long you gonna keep treatin' me like the one that hurt you before/ How long you gonna keep me standing in the cold/ How long before you let me in your soul? Let me in...." "4evermore" is a head-nodding, hip-hop-influenced duet sweetened up by Algebra Blessett and tightened in the bridge with the phenomenal rapper Phonte, conjuring sunlit days and sultry nights full of pledges to have and to hold. If "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" sounds familiar, it should, since it's a reimagining of the 1980s Tears For Fears hit: the inclusion of David's silky-voiced cousin, Shawn Stockman (one-fourth of Boyz II Men), and the intricate rhythms that their voices intertwine with and glide through, make it anything but a standard do-over.

As capably as Mr. David delivers the love songs---there's the tangy playboy ode, "Getaround," and the undulating, island-esque "Body Language"---the subtle commentaries set to music are the most intriguing. "Backstreet" speaks to what happens in the shadows on the seedy side of town, while "Reach Ya" describes real-life dilemmas that afflict us so frequently, humankind has become all but immune to their impact: "See Ms. Savannah, she's been dying of some cancer/she has to keep this secret from her new employer. She can't afford the proper treatment from her doctor/and she's afraid that if they knew this they would drop her." "God Said" is the boldest of the three, calling out the contemptible hypocrisy of religious leaders (*cough cough, Pat Robertson*) who throw stones at the crises in Haiti and justify their stance by hiding behind their interpretation of The Word: "And with the righteous hand, I will bring you to your knees/I will strip you of your freedom without mercy. And when the earth quakes, and the blood runs in the sand/ there will be no battle stance with the unworthy. You can't put the blame on me, I'm doing what God said..."

Organically driven and authentically conveyed,  As Above.....may not be as acoustic as Mr. David's previous offerings, but thanks to the variety of beats, melodies and style influences involved, the musicality remains strong. If his roughened yet resonant vocals aren't enough,  those classic yet contemporary edges will keep his list of fans (which now famously include President Obama and The First Lady) expanding above, below, and all the way around. Enthusiastically Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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