Leonard Julien III - Reflections of Soul (2007)

Leonard Julien III
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Reflections of Soul by Leonard Julien III is an easy album to listen to. Julien is a silky smooth singer who displays a real comfort in singing the mid-tempo love song. And it's easy to see why nearly all of the songs on Reflections of Soul have that 1980s smooth sheen. That's a sound that the "grown and sexy" crowd likes, and those fans will respond to Julien's tenor and his vocal range. Still, this would have been a far more rewarding project if Reflections of Soul had been a more balanced project in terms of tempo.

Reflections of Soul by Leonard Julien III is an easy album to listen to. Julien is a silky smooth singer who displays a real comfort in singing the mid-tempo love song. And it's easy to see why nearly all of the songs on Reflections of Soul have that 1980s smooth sheen. That's a sound that the "grown and sexy" crowd likes, and those fans will respond to Julien's tenor and his vocal range. Still, this would have been a far more rewarding project if Reflections of Soul had been a more balanced project in terms of tempo.

The songs that are most memorable on Reflections of Soul are the cuts in which Julien displays his grittier side. The best examples of that come at the end of the record. That's where Julien stretches out some both in terms of tempo and topics. It's not like anyone would call "What She Don't Know" and "You're Gonna Miss Me" up-tempo dance songs. Both of them are mid-tempo grooves that deal with relationships. While Julien doesn't altar the tempo, both songs have a feel that is different from the other tunes on the album. "What She Don't Know," with it's driving bass line and guitar flourishes, is a funk infused story of a man conflicted. He's trying to break off an affair before his wife finds out about it. The beat plows deep into the funk mine, which serves as the perfect contrast for Julien's soaring lyrics. He moves effortlessly from a growl to a near falsetto, and the lyrics make this the most compelling song on the album.

"You're Gonna Miss Me," a song in which Julien seems to channel the spirit of the great Sam Cooke, comes in a close second. This is a soulful screamer in which Julien admonishes a lover for taking him for granted. The soulful bass line and Julien's delivery - which draws it's inspiration from the church choir stands - is kind of fusion of sacred and secular that made men such as Cooke and Curtis Mayfield legends.

Both tunes were welcome changes of pace from the silky smooth ballads that preceded them, and the album would have benefited from at least one of them arriving earlier. Early on, the songs "I Can't Believe" and "And I Love You" do a good job of keeping the listener interested. "And I Love You," in particular, is a standout. It's a ballad with a simple melody that allows the listener to focus on Julien's excellent vocals and strong lyrics. "Just Because" is a nice fusion of jazz and R&B. The saxophone riffs and bluesy bass line make the tune one that get couples on the dance floor.

Reflections of Soul has some nice elements - and Julien's voice is one of them. Julien is a soulful singer with wide vocal range, and he operates well in the smooth balladeer tradition of singers such as Freddie Jackson. However, the most memorable moments on Reflections of Soul came with Julien got a little rough and gritty. I wish he taken that chance earlier and more often.

By Howard Dukes

 
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