Eric Benet - Eric Benet (album review) (2016)

Eric Benet
ericbenet-selftitled.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Eric Benet - Eric Benet (2016)

It was the late, great, Muhammad Ali who once said, "A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life." Growing older and growing better are ideal, but not everyone achieves that lofty goal. Fortunately for Eric Benet, who faces that half-century milestone come Oct. 15, stagnation isn't one of his issues. He's blissfully remarried and expanding his family, and he obviously poured that contentment and creativity into his self-titled seventh set, one of his most excellent and enjoyable CDs yet. 

Eric Benet - Eric Benet (2016)

It was the late, great, Muhammad Ali who once said, "A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life." Growing older and growing better are ideal, but not everyone achieves that lofty goal. Fortunately for Eric Benet, who faces that half-century milestone come Oct. 15, stagnation isn't one of his issues. He's blissfully remarried and expanding his family, and he obviously poured that contentment and creativity into his self-titled seventh set, one of his most excellent and enjoyable CDs yet. 

In the span of 12 tracks (13 if the bonus Tamia duet is included), Benet and his longtime collaborator, Demonte Posey, stay true to his proven template of classically-rendered instrumentation anchoring modern twists on love and relationships. Eric is traditionally soulful throughout, yet incorporates elements of other genres that invigorate and expand his style: "Can't Tell U Enough," one of his most irresistible up-tempos since "Love Don't Love Me," is a bold ode to his lady and how their love has enriched his life, and "Run To Me," featuring Arturo Sandoval, is a spicy salsa-injected invitation to leave a dull union and seek true love in his arms. Even a routine love affair carries a silver lining, as heard in Benet's first single, "Sunshine," if looked for desperately enough: "We've been asleep but I've heard the wake-up call Baby, did we get lost along the way?"

The nuances of love's life cycle can take twists and turns in real life and in the studio booth, but Eric's soothing, soulful croon and nimble nuances make all the difference in keeping it a smooth ride: the late Prince (80s era) gets channeled in the bedroom work-out ballad, "Insane," complete with breathlessness, voyeuristic tendencies and explicit directions on how the game should be played: "Let's kick it off slowly Babe, take your time/do that little tongue trick I love, from left to right." Gossamer-type cloudiness, Benet's supple falsetto and a post-orgasmic haze are what fuel the gentle, adoring standout, "Floating Thru Time"; and every soul man's worst nightmare, a groupie encounter gone wrong, is fleshed out in "Holding On," with eight bars of scorn dropped by another tried-and-true music vet, MC Lyte. 

There's more to Eric Benet, however, than toe-curling, hand-holding and post-coital cuddle time: "Broke, Beat & Busted" details throes of a lover's quarrel that he doesn't want to ever endure again: "Don't you ever do that no more, you put the fear of God in my core." "Fun & Games" is an autopsy set to audio about the demise of a relationship and throbbing "Home" chronicles the place he most belongs and the people who matter the most when the spotlight dims and the audience has left the building. 

Rarely do artists meet back-to-back milestones as adeptly as Eric Benet manages to do here: not only is he still the man with the come-hither countenance that puts younger men to shame, his music is as seasoned as its creator. One look at the cover tells you what's inside; the Grammy-nominated soul crooner is in full command. Yes, that Tamia duo is fly ("Sunshine" remix) and the other collaborations work too, but ultimately, this is Eric's vehicle...so even if he were rolling solo, the journey would still be worth taking. Highly Recommended. 

By Melody Charles

 
Featured Album - Will Downing - "Romantique, Part 1"
Featured Album - The Soul Rebels - "Poetry In Motion"
Album of the Month - Plunky & Oneness - "Afroclectic"
Choice Cut - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"

Leave a comment!