Heston - Transparency (2016)

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Heston – Transparency

The desire to make that night last and to keep her from walking out that door is a recurring theme in music that finds its ultimate expression in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a call and response duet written in 1944 by Frank Loesser that he premiered with his wife, Lynn Garland, as the female lead.

This song is much loved holiday song (see Will Ferrell and Zooey DeChanel in the film “Elf’), but since the ditty sports a story line that seems to be a wink and nod in the direction of criminal confinement, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has been much spoofed (see Key & Peele). Yeah, with so much focus these days on the issue of unwanted sexual contact, we might need find “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for the 21st Century – you know, a cut that addresses those same desires in a somewhat less “kidnappy” way.

Heston – Transparency

The desire to make that night last and to keep her from walking out that door is a recurring theme in music that finds its ultimate expression in “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a call and response duet written in 1944 by Frank Loesser that he premiered with his wife, Lynn Garland, as the female lead.

This song is much loved holiday song (see Will Ferrell and Zooey DeChanel in the film “Elf’), but since the ditty sports a story line that seems to be a wink and nod in the direction of criminal confinement, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has been much spoofed (see Key & Peele). Yeah, with so much focus these days on the issue of unwanted sexual contact, we might need find “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” for the 21st Century – you know, a cut that addresses those same desires in a somewhat less “kidnappy” way.

Fortunately, Heston Francis, the crooning native of Dominica, comes through with “Stay,” one of 10 tracks on his latest project, the stellar Transparency. “Stay” is a seductive ballad elevated by his rangy instrument that moves from growling baritone to sweet falsetto along with gospel infused keyboard work, making this track a dynamic fusing of the sacred and the sensual. Heston carries the weight of the vocals that are equal parts seductive and humorous as he pulls out all the stops to prevent this lady from taking that Uber. “The lions, the tigers, the cheetahs and the bears/They broke out the zoo/There’s chaos everywhere/But if you stay with me tonight/I promise you safe passage.”

Cuts such as “Stay” will solidify Heston’s reputation as a notable renderer of the R&B ballad – a reputation that has been well crafted on his previous albums. However, Transparency is a well-balanced record that includes numbers in a variety of tempos and genres, including numbers inspired by Heston’s Caribbean upbringing such as the gospel number “Dear God” and the “Standing in Love.” Heston’s ragged baritone, filled with vulnerability and angst, is the star on the latter track, which tells the story of a man jerked hither and yon by an indifferent and indecisive woman.

Heston moves from vulnerable to perplexed on “Contradiction,” an up-tempo cut that finds the singer exploring the qualities that attract and repel him. “You’re my contradiction/With you/I lose/Even when I’m winning.” That track is followed up by the hard driving funk of “Dangerous,” a track that recalls the 1980s with its whirling, disco infused strings and syncopated handclaps.

Transparency includes a few numbers that would have been worthy candidates for lead single, and Heston went with “Mind, Body and Soul,” and it’s easy to see why: The mid-tempo number provides him with ample space to showcase his vocal chops and he more than rises to the occasion, moving from the earthiness of that gritty baritone to the heights of his soaring heights of his tenor/falsetto.

I came kind of late to Heston Francis. His music has been all over the indie-soul universe for better part of a decade, yet I only heard a few tracks. So many artists, so little time. But reviewing Transparency allowed me to dive into his music, past and present, and his progression tells a story of growth. Those previous efforts showcased Heston’s gift as a vocalist, but what is clear is his continuing development as a songwriter. And Transparency treats listeners to the current version of Heston, the well-rounded artist who has come into his own. Highly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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