Rahsaan Patterson - Heroes and Gods (Advance Review)

Rahsaan Patterson
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Rahsaan Patterson - Heroes & Gods

It’s been nearly a decade since Rahsaan Patterson released his last album, Bleuphoria. Many sonic trends in R&B and popular music at large have since come and gone. Yet, despite not having new music out during such a long period of time, it’s easy to settle into the multitiered singer-songwriter’s seventh solo outing, Heroes & Gods.

From the 1997 release of his self-titled debut CD, Rahsaan has displayed a vocal agility rooted in the playbooks of pioneering soul vocalists ranging from Chaka Khan to Otis Redding and Patti LaBelle. Yet, he’s never needed to employ a heavy-handed approach to his music—either in old-school influence or a consciously up-to-the-minute fashion—to get across his lyrics and melodies. Continuing to tour through lengthy breaks between releases, he’s kept his chops in tip-top shape.

Rahsaan Patterson - Heroes & Gods

It’s been nearly a decade since Rahsaan Patterson released his last album, Bleuphoria. Many sonic trends in R&B and popular music at large have since come and gone. Yet, despite not having new music out during such a long period of time, it’s easy to settle into the multitiered singer-songwriter’s seventh solo outing, Heroes & Gods.

From the 1997 release of his self-titled debut CD, Rahsaan has displayed a vocal agility rooted in the playbooks of pioneering soul vocalists ranging from Chaka Khan to Otis Redding and Patti LaBelle. Yet, he’s never needed to employ a heavy-handed approach to his music—either in old-school influence or a consciously up-to-the-minute fashion—to get across his lyrics and melodies. Continuing to tour through lengthy breaks between releases, he’s kept his chops in tip-top shape.

Listeners unfamiliar with Patterson’s previous work will likely not guess upon listening to Heroes & Gods that he’s been doing this for over three decades. Not for any lack of life experience or musical know-how, but because he doesn’t display any noticeable hints of wear and tear that begin to plague many longstanding artists with less training and abilities after a few years in the business.

Heroes & Gods opens with the rhythmically supple, vocally nimble “Catch Me When I Fall,” which equips Rahsaan’s effervescent phrasing and harmonies with a mellow, keyboard-driven arrangement.  Similarly, but with a more seductive and deeper undertone, the kinetically alluring “Silly. Love. Fool.” demonstrates his expansive vocal range over its course of confided verses and evocative choruses. Meanwhile, the shuffling, self-produced mover “Rock and Roll” (on which he is accompanied by Trina Broussard and Latoiya Williams) presents an appealing melange of drum programming and live drums, bass, and guitar, capped off by a slowed-down outro with hushed spoken verse setting the stage for the subsequent slow-jam “Break It Down.”

Atlanta-based Joi Gilliam (formerly of Lucy Pearl) and none other than Rachelle Ferrell join writing forces with Rahsaan for “Break It Down,” a smoothly gliding midtempo jam featuring synth work by Lalah Hathaway. Vocally, the delivery is more understated than most moments on Heroes & Gods, bringing to light a Tony Toni Tone’ vibe with atmospheric vocal harmonies (featuring Gilliam) and bluesy guitar strains courtesy of Errol Cooney. A thoughtful rendition of Luther Vandross’ “Don’t You Know That” follows “Break It Down” in satisfying fashion. Rahsaan’s choice to go with this oft-sampled classic instead of the more obvious “Never Too Much” (to which it was a follow-up single in late 1981) is a wise one. Not straying too far musically from the original, he brings an innately different vocal light to the tune with soft tenor strokes subtly flowing into occasional baritone flourishes.

During the second half of Heroes & Gods, Rahsaan Patterson experiments with a variety of sonic palettes, going from the bona fide classic soul foundation of “Sent from Heaven” to the dual-faced “Soldier,” in its first half a decidedly techno-savvy slice of disco-fied electro-R&B which then transforms into an almost downtempo, hip-hop-etched breakdown layered with serene falsetto harmonies (performed with frequent vocal collaborator Mikelyn Roderick). One only wishes the beat would kick back into gear for a moment at the end.

Longtime production partner Jamey Jaz, whose stamp is on about half of the album, contributes to one of the set’s most sobering moments: “Oxford Blues” (not to be confused with the title song of the 1984 movie, but perhaps giving a nod to certain thematic elements of the flick). The reflective “I Try” entails a parallel musical mood scape while lyrically switching gears from lamenting love taken for granted to fighting a seemingly losing battle to keep a relationship going. The guitar stylings and rhythmic arrangement add a distinct rock element, which also underscores the closing title track.

Heroes & Gods is an impressively motley collection of sounds and experiences that once again showcase Rahsaan Patterson’s vocal singularity. As the years have progressed, he’s found increasing ways through his creative songwriting to evoke an array of moods and colors in a way that is both consistent and surprising. While some contemporaries have stood out with in-your-face stylistic choices and others have briefly impacted with here-today-gone-tomorrow posturing, Rahsaan has assured his ongoing musical relevance with a commitment to his craft and an enviable ability to stay in “the zone” while expanding its parameters greatly. Highly recommended.

by Justin Kantor

 

 
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