Raheem DeVaughn - Love, Sex, Passion (2015)

Raheem DeVaughn
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Flaming candles and incense, delicate rose petals leading to a candlelit room and ending at a silk-draped canopy bed, where satin, gourmet chocolates and the promise of all-night ecstasy awaits. It's a blissful scenario on occasion and wonderful for a weekend, but a romance that's all sweets and no meat is hard to navigate on a daily basis.  Raheem DeVaughn, a performer who's spent over a decade cultivating his craft as the "R&B Hippie Neo-Soul Rock Star" and newly-crowned "Love King," is back to showcase his prolific soul power on his latest set, Love Sex Passion, a lavish and lustful affair that serves up the audio equivalent of a Godiva gift box.... following an over-sized slice of devil's food cake. 

Flaming candles and incense, delicate rose petals leading to a candlelit room and ending at a silk-draped canopy bed, where satin, gourmet chocolates and the promise of all-night ecstasy awaits. It's a blissful scenario on occasion and wonderful for a weekend, but a romance that's all sweets and no meat is hard to navigate on a daily basis.  Raheem DeVaughn, a performer who's spent over a decade cultivating his craft as the "R&B Hippie Neo-Soul Rock Star" and newly-crowned "Love King," is back to showcase his prolific soul power on his latest set, Love Sex Passion, a lavish and lustful affair that serves up the audio equivalent of a Godiva gift box.... following an over-sized slice of devil's food cake. 

First off, the positives -- and since it's new music from DeVaughn, there are plenty. Love....is overflowing with lush, lilting ballads and sensual soul grooves that are flush with narratives, melodies and discernable instrumentation. All 16 tracks were co-written by Raheem and he's been blessed with a tenor and falsetto range that are equally impactful.  DeVaughn's approach -- applying old school templates combined with his own unique flair -- demonstrates why he continues to flourish as an artist. Among the standouts are the snappy, trombone-laced "Pretty Lady," an ode to the good girl's bad side as she she shows the world what she's working with (if only for tonight) and "Queen," a song that hearken's to his Grammy-nominated smash "Woman" in tempo and message: "You gave birth to all the Land, you're the backbone of every man."

Growth from one-dimensional puppy-love is demonstrated in songs like "My Heart (All I Know)," throbbing with vulnerability and positing Raheem as an outsider looking in and confessing unrequited love, while Prince circa 1984 is channeled in the pro-monogamy anthem "Terms of Endearment" all the way down to the sparse backdrop and guitar plucks: "It's dropping to one knee and popping the question/my date on Sunday morning, to the church, to count blessings./It's jealousy and breaking up, then making love and making up."  Simply put, few modern soul men can generate, so unconsciously, the levels of lasciviousness ("Strip") and longing ("Baby Come Back," "Nothing Without You") that DeVaughn's Love.... accomplishes, and anyone who can remain unmoved after listening to numbers like "Sun Proof Room (50 Shades)," "Feather Rock Lovin'" and "Miss Your Sex" should probably schedule a wellness check-up. 

The drawbacks, if one can consider them as such, lie not in Love's technique or ambition, but in its ability to overwhelm. For every number that glides, there are a few that add clunkiness and unnecessary bloat. "Black Ice Cream," for example, meanderingly reduces the man and his woman to a treacly dessert while a 'chopped and screwed' refrain of "You're 31 flavors Baby, I'm 32/ Let me scoop that on my cone and let me show you what it do" comes across as more sinister than sexy. Others are simply, well, there ("Never Never Land," "Temperature's Rising"). 

In relationships that outgrow infatuation and truly go the distance, love, sex and passion aren't always simultaneous, nor is there always time for elaborate marathons, so maybe Love... is better experienced in portions rather than as a whole. However one disgests its contents, Raheem DeVaughn's newest creation is as mesmerizing and masterful as his skill set will allow. And like those aforementioned rose petals, following such a path can only lead to 'happily ever after.'  Highly Recommended. 

By Melody Charles

 
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