Tank - Now Or Never (2010)

Tank
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Forging ahead on course, bulldozing obstacles, and remaining a formidable weapon in the artillery thanks to its heft and strength: sure, the nickname probably originated from his gridiron years back in the day, but it's safe to say that Durell "Tank" Babbs has earned it with his steady successes as a singer, songwriter and producer. In the years between his first three sporadically-spaced solo CDs, Tank has created hits for Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Aaliyah, Fantasia and Ruben Studdard, to name a few, and is responsible for quite a few under his own name, such as the signature "Maybe I Deserve" and the Grammy-nominated "Please Don't Go." He's never been a shrinking violet, so it shouldn't raise any eyebrows that Now Or Never (which marks his recording debut for the Atlantic Records label) is more carnal than its 2007 predecessor, Sex Love & Pain, but some fans may find it less focused and self-assured.

Forging ahead on course, bulldozing obstacles, and remaining a formidable weapon in the artillery thanks to its heft and strength: sure, the nickname probably originated from his gridiron years back in the day, but it's safe to say that Durell "Tank" Babbs has earned it with his steady successes as a singer, songwriter and producer. In the years between his first three sporadically-spaced solo CDs, Tank has created hits for Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Aaliyah, Fantasia and Ruben Studdard, to name a few, and is responsible for quite a few under his own name, such as the signature "Maybe I Deserve" and the Grammy-nominated "Please Don't Go." He's never been a shrinking violet, so it shouldn't raise any eyebrows that Now Or Never (which marks his recording debut for the Atlantic Records label) is more carnal than its 2007 predecessor, Sex Love & Pain, but some fans may find it less focused and self-assured.

Featuring boardwork from Rico Love, The Sterotypes, Harvey Mason Jr. and Tank's own crew, Song Dynasty, some of the songs retain that expected sensual vibe, such as "Celebration," where, over a whispery and  watery beat, he offers himself as a present to a very deserving lady: "Baby let's close the door, about to teach you this sex education/since you passed every course, hat's off to your graduation." It's an instant hit and would've been enjoyable even without a cameo by the omnipotent rapper-of-the-moment, Drake.  

"Scream" is the most atmospheric song, where Tank asks for the same fervor during passionate interludes as he receives from high-volume conflicts: "You scream when you're fed up, you scream when you're sick and tired Baby/you screamed when you packed your bags and you walked right out the door/ Scream cuz' it feels good, scream girl cuz' we're making love like crazy/scream when you're calling my name and you're begging me for more."  Tank is pleading for forgiveness on "Keep It 100," where he tells his partner of an indiscretion and takes the heat for it all: "You ain't gotta sneak through my phone, I'ma let you know how it is...I told her I had a girl, it made her want me more/next thing I know we up in the suite rollin' all on the floor....I'm glad I got it off my chest, but that don't make it cool, let's work this out..."

To sum it up, Tank remains in command for most of the material, thanks to surprisingly vulnerable turns like "You Mean That Much" and the capable reimagining of the Bonnie Raitt classic, "I Can't Make You Love Me"----it's when he tries too hard to shake it up or incorporate trends that the quality falls short. His tenor is just as sinewy as ever, so the Auto-Tune he employs during the opener, "Sex Music," is as unnecessary as it is irritating. Chris Brown's vocals are as elastic as his are commanding on their duet, "Foreplay," but are they alter-egos of the same man, or two different people warring one another for a lady's affections? Either way, it's a dubious pairing and it makes for the most awkward track on the entire CD.

Perhaps, now that he's four CDs in, Tank wants to broaden his base, or maybe he's just experimenting with his low-key lothario style. As a result, Now Or Never retains enough polish to keep his loyalists happy, but the triple-threat entertainer should remember that, in the long run, it's better for him to cruise in the Grown and Sexy Lane instead of veering clumsily into unpredictable Hot and Trendy Territory. Mildly Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 

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