Chante Moore - Moore is More (2013)

Chante Moore
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During the early 1990s, Chanté Moore filled an important void in the contemporary R&B universe. Boasting an angelic tone and admirable phrasing in the classic soul tradition (with a stylish nod to jazz improvisation), she satisfied the musical appetites of both young radio listeners and grown, CD-buying consumers. Slow- and mid-tempo jams like "Love's Taken Over" and "It's Alright" (from 1992's Precious) and "Old School Lovin'" (from 1994's A Love Supreme) found an ideal meeting point of sophisticated adult-contemporary melodies and fresh, hip-enough grooves. As the decade wore on, she remained mostly quiet, until her 1999 comeback record, "Chanté's Got a Man," introduced her to a larger audience with more youthful lyrics and and modernized production backing.

During the early 1990s, Chanté Moore filled an important void in the contemporary R&B universe. Boasting an angelic tone and admirable phrasing in the classic soul tradition (with a stylish nod to jazz improvisation), she satisfied the musical appetites of both young radio listeners and grown, CD-buying consumers. Slow- and mid-tempo jams like "Love's Taken Over" and "It's Alright" (from 1992's Precious) and "Old School Lovin'" (from 1994's A Love Supreme) found an ideal meeting point of sophisticated adult-contemporary melodies and fresh, hip-enough grooves. As the decade wore on, she remained mostly quiet, until her 1999 comeback record, "Chanté's Got a Man," introduced her to a larger audience with more youthful lyrics and and modernized production backing.

Since 2000, Moore has explored a handful of styles—and experienced varying levels of success. She dabbled with hip-hop influences on Exposed, meeting with mixed reactions from longtime listeners. She won new fans as part of a duo with then-husband Kenny Lattimore over several albums showcasing her knack for both soul standards and contemporary gospel. Her 2008 return to solo recording, Love the Woman, proved she still had the chops to convey the essence of quality R&B tunes in a palatable fashion.

Although Moore's voice has deepened and roughened some in recent times, she still has the stamina to carry the signature, thought-provoking kind of ballads with which she is most strongly associated. On her new set, Moore Is More, she sets out to not only up the ante on this trademark, but also to showcase musical diversity by way of midtempo, funk-style grooves, slow-paced urban-contemporary tunes, and even a stab at electro dance-pop. The results of this adventurousness are a bit scattered. Oftentimes falling prey to derivative melodies and reductive production styles, her well-conceived lyrics and enjoyable vocal arrangements don't always shine like they should.

The least impressive moment of Moore Is More is its opener, the embarrassing "Baby Can I Touch Your Body." Built on outdated programming, juvenile passages like "Baby can I touch your body/'Cause boy, you know I'm a hottie," and formulaic flourishes of auto-tune, the slow groove sounds like a cheap throwaway from 1999's This Moment Is Mine. Moore Is More's leadoff single, "Talking in My Sleep," comes next. Still suffering from canned production, this entry nonetheless is an improvement upon the introduction, with Moore sounding in stronger voice as she professes her innate struggle to come clean with her lover about "other man" daydreams. 

Moore finds better platforms to showcase her identity on the bumpin' "Alone," a straight-ahead anthem of independence; and the pensive, moving "Don't Make Me Laugh." Although the melody of "Alone" falls a bit short of driving the point home, the gently dispersed lines of "Don't Make Me Laugh" provide an ideal example of Moore's interpretive abilities. Some evidence of straining in her delivery has replaced areas where there was once more sweetness; but in the case of this heartfelt ballad, it adds to the intensity of heartbreak and truth portrayed in the story line.

But just when the coast seems clear, the recycled "instrumentation" of "Doctor, Doctor" inhibits the naturally groovy qualities of a sturdy melody from being a real party-starter—instead sounding like background music for a low-budget commercial. In a similar scenario, the reflective "Mrs. Understood" is hampered by tinny sequencing which seeks to emulate the spark of Alicia Keys' "No One" and "Girl on Fire." Though the desire to fit in with younger artists is understandable, the sonic results conflict with the message that Moore is trying to convey: "Mrs. Under finally Stood open, broken/Her time is ticking, she ain't got too long." 

Following "On and On," a carbon replication of recent electro pop-dance records by Rihanna and David Guetta worsened by an obnoxious rap, Moore finally taps into her element fully via the last three selections on Moore Is More. The smooth flow and comforting melodies of "Giving You My Always" elicit the pure sensitivity she first exhibited on 1992's "As If We Never Met"; the poignant "Jesus, I Want You," with an underlying core reminiscent of Leon Russell's "A Song for You," glows with both strength and vulnerability; and a cover of the standard, "Cry Me a River," finds her pouring generous helpings of sincerity and emotion into the classic lines, "I remember all you said/Told me you were too busy, and said you don't have time." 

Amidst the current wave of so-called contemporary R&B singers getting airtime on mainstream radio, Chanté Moore can more than hold her own when it comes to innate command of a song's lyric and authentic phrasing of its melodies and rhythms. Even though time has placed a few occasional cracks in her voice and altered the purity of its tone, there's a sense of life knowledge that permeates her style that will knock Ciara or Keri Hilson out of the ring any day. It's therefore unfortunate that in many cases on Moore Is More, she resorts to substandard material backed by lackluster musicianship. The ultimate outcome is that sometimes Moore Is More; other times, it's just not enough. Cautiously Recommended.

by Justin Kantor

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