Eric Benet - Lost In Time (2010)

Eric Benet
EricBenet-LostinTime.jpg
Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

Just over five years ago, singer, songwriter and musician Eric Benet found himself at a personal and professional crossroads. In spite of a decade that had began with great promise, thanks to his gold-selling and Grammy-nominated Tamia duet, "Spend My Life With You," his reputation as low-key R&B love man was nearly destroyed thanks to acknowledged infidelity against his then-wife, actress Halle Berry. His third CD, the intensely-emotional Hurricane, finally ended his six year recording hiatus and produced a couple of hits, but he didn't completely restore the groove until 2008's Grammy-nominated follow-up, Love & Life. Now, over a decade into his solo career and nearly a decade removed from Hallegate, Mr.

Just over five years ago, singer, songwriter and musician Eric Benet found himself at a personal and professional crossroads. In spite of a decade that had began with great promise, thanks to his gold-selling and Grammy-nominated Tamia duet, "Spend My Life With You," his reputation as low-key R&B love man was nearly destroyed thanks to acknowledged infidelity against his then-wife, actress Halle Berry. His third CD, the intensely-emotional Hurricane, finally ended his six year recording hiatus and produced a couple of hits, but he didn't completely restore the groove until 2008's Grammy-nominated follow-up, Love & Life. Now, over a decade into his solo career and nearly a decade removed from Hallegate, Mr. Benet's fifth effort, Lost In Time, feels just as well-crafted as its predecessor, giving his faithful following exactly what they expect---lush, love-struck ballads and mid tempos featuring twists of sophistication and sensuality.  

When Mr. Benet entered the studio for Love..., he confessed (during an interview to SoulTracks, no less) that he'd sequestered himself in the studio with longtime collaborators George Nash and Demonte, employing old school methods to crank out melodies for the songs rather than the other way around. The process of anchoring lyrics to a strong musical foundation continues to serve him well, evidenced in vintage-sounding tracks like "Always a Reason," which could've been an outtake from a Stylistics album in the way it interpolates "Break Up to Make Up" and employs a tender falsetto to coax his way into a reluctant heart: "There's a lifetime of tears we could both leave behind, cuz' in so many ways, we've been broken inside/All the questions you ask, we'll find answers together in time , all you need is to believe..."

"Never Want to Live Without You" is another blue-light-basement-party special, filled with confessions of a man who's wronged his lady and vows to move faithfully into a brighter future.  The exquisite title track describes the heady sensation that new love creates, and vulnerability reaches new heights with the aching slow-burn of a ballad, "Sometimes I Cry," brimming with tear-stained, Prince-worthy pleading for another chance (or at least a fresh box of Kleenex): "There's a smile on my face, yeah, but I'm broken inside/Sometimes I cry, when I'm all alone with this heart of mine. "

Even the most successful performers need to shake things up from time to time, and that's what Mr. Benet accomplishes, surprisingly, on the Gamble-and-Huff-recalling "Paid." What could've been an ill-fitting and self-conscious duet is, instead, a freely funky jam that laments having more month than money and how the lean green is getting harder and harder to come by. Eddie Levert's baritone complements Mr. Benet's tenor as they grumble about getting "paid on the first, paid on the last, and struggle all through the middle/M-O-N-E-Y never seems to multiply for me," a rich experience for the singers and the audience alike.

Still, in spite of its overall excellence, a few songs in the line-up manage to fall short. "Take It," which pairs him with Chrisette Michele, sounds like a tentative I-don't-want-to-outshine-him/her vocal run instead of the fun frolic it was meant to be, and "Good Life," featuring Ledisi, has a great message but needs a more modern backdrop to really drive it home. "Something's Wrong" wants to wrap up the collection with a conscience, but it seems to contradict itself in stating that, yes, the whip is fly and the cash is flowing, yet the evidence of mankind's suffering isn't exactly making his day, thank you very much: "I avert my eyes as I travel them roads, of people begging on the street/Don't mess up my vibe and show another sick child ain't had enough to eat." Huh?

More nuanced than Hurricane, but less exuberant than Love & Life, Lost in Time---even with its missteps---powerfully demonstrates Mr. Benet's artistic assurance and finesse, qualities that will keep the Milwaukee, WI native from becoming, well, just that. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles


 

 

Leave a comment!