Ron Anthony - Ron Anthony II (2009)

Ron Anthony
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It's rare for a new artist to come to the table with as many credentials as Ron Anthony: it's not just his gospel roots, early training with prestigious schools (Erasmus Hall High School of Performing Arts, Mindbuilders Creative Arts Center) and his years as a performer (a lead role in 1992's Mama, I Want To Sing and gigs with Chico DeBarge, Phoebe Snow and Amel Larrieux); it's the fact that his talents were encouraged and endorsed by none other than the late, great Luther Vandross. After witnessing the Brooklyn native live, the superstar soul crooner signed him to his production company (LV Productions) and also hired Mr. Anthony as a background singer. So it's a given that listeners should expect more than average R&B on his third solo effort, Ron Anthony II. 

It's rare for a new artist to come to the table with as many credentials as Ron Anthony: it's not just his gospel roots, early training with prestigious schools (Erasmus Hall High School of Performing Arts, Mindbuilders Creative Arts Center) and his years as a performer (a lead role in 1992's Mama, I Want To Sing and gigs with Chico DeBarge, Phoebe Snow and Amel Larrieux); it's the fact that his talents were encouraged and endorsed by none other than the late, great Luther Vandross. After witnessing the Brooklyn native live, the superstar soul crooner signed him to his production company (LV Productions) and also hired Mr. Anthony as a background singer. So it's a given that listeners should expect more than average R&B on his third solo effort, Ron Anthony II. 

Does he live up to the heightened expectations? Pretty much: not only is he gifted with a sinewy, yet supple tenor, Mr. Anthony wrote all eleven tracks, which run the gamut from sensual  to step-worthy. "All Nite" and "Brooklyn Step" are fueled with percolating grooves, and selections like "Playa" (with a rap cameo) and "Superman" suit his youthful side. Where some young performers go too vague or vulgar, Mr. Anthony's lyrics and delivery display the lessons he learned at Luther Vandross University: convey the mood without overstating the obvious.

And when he breaks out the ballads, it's done with confidence and conviction. His lauded "You Are My Love Song" shimmers and soars, and one of the CD's standouts, the tenderly conveyed "Get You Back," would make his late mentor proud, rueing the past as he begs for forgiveness and another chance: "Someday soon I pray, that you will understand, that I made a big mistake: after all, I'm just a man." Another nod to his versatility, "King/Obama Dream" (featuring speech excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama), Mr. Anthony captures the spirit of this historic year by imploring listeners to follow their dreams no matter what any naysayers tell them: "And if someone says that you won't be anything, let them know, that God is your King."

If there's one quibble to be had for II, it's the less-than-stellar sound quality, which is noticeable in at least half of the tracks and distracts from the listening experience of this otherwise well-executed disc. But that irritating defect aside, Mr. Anthony proves himself worthy of Mr. Vandross' praise and his wealth of talents makes II favorably recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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