"Songs have so much power," states Kenny Lattimore. "Great songs are universal, and a great song can transcend time and speak to people all over the world. A great song can be interpreted in so many different ways and still communicate emotionally. That's what we set out to achieve with the new album, Timeless."
Indeed, Kenny Lattimore's new album (and Verve debut) Timeless is a testament to the transcendent properties of classic songcraft, as well as a vehicle for the performing talents that have long made Lattimore one of the most popular and respected vocalists in contemporary rhythm and blues. Although he's known for his own songwriting skills, Timeless finds Lattimore reaching into the past to apply his interpretive abilities to a compelling set of familiar-and not-so-familiar-material drawn from a wide range of sources from the worlds of pop, R&B, rock and jazz.
The eleven songs that comprise Timeless cover a broad emotional palette, inspiring Lattimore to deliver some of the most sensitive and technically accomplished performances of his career. The Al Green-penned "Something", which is updated here with timely clips of news reports, combines gospel urgency with righteous outrage. Lattimore's remarkable ability to convey tenderness and intimacy is displayed on his deeply-felt recordings of the Beatles standard "And I Love Her", Jeff Buckley's "Everybody Here Wants You", and the Norman Connors/Michael Henderson '70s hit "You Are My Starship", which is the first single from the album. Lattimore is equally persuasive when channeling the raw intensity of Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way", Otis Redding's "I Love You More Than Words Can Say", and the Donny Hathaway/Van McCoy cult classic "Giving Up". With the artist delivering equally impassioned performances of songs by Marvin Gaye, Terence Trent D'Arby, Elton John and Stevie Wonder, Timeless is possibly the most personal musical statement Kenny Lattimore has ever made.
"I wasn't interested in covering the same songs that have already been covered a million times, and I wasn't interested in just doing remakes. In some cases, it could be a little intimidating, and it felt like I might be treading on sacred ground. But I just kept asking myself, 'OK, what can I bring to this?'
"Some of these are songs that I've loved since I was a kid," he adds, "but others I discovered in the course of doing this project. I wasn't familiar with Jeff Buckley before, for example, but I loved the song so much that I really got into his life and career and went back and discovered how amazing he was. So that aspect of it was educational for me, and I like the idea that I can pass that on to my audience."
According to Lattimore, the experience of recording Timeless with veteran producer/arranger/musician Barry Eastmond taught him some valuable new lessons. "It really pushed me to expand as a singer," he states. This album really pushed me to just be more free, to throw caution to the wind and just go for it, to express whatever I was feeling at that moment. Sometimes in the past I've over-thought things and tried to make them perfect. But this project forced me to realize that Otis Redding wasn't thinking about making it perfect; he just went in and hit it and expressed how he was feeling. That was a major realization for me. After that, it became more like singing in church, because when I sing in church I sing completely free. The whole situation was very organic and natural, because Barry and I would sit down at the piano and build up the arrangements from there. It was really liberating to work that way."
Growing up in a musical family in Washington, D.C. area, Kenny Lattimore began singing early in life, winning junior-high talent shows and singing everything from R&B to classical, during his high school years. After studying architecture and city planning at Howard University, he became lead singer of the R&B group Maniquin, which released an album on the Epic label. After leaving that act, he concentrated on developing his songwriting skills, resulting in his compositions being recorded by Glenn Jones and Jon Lucien.
After moving to New York, Lattimore was awarded a solo recording deal with Columbia Records and released his self-titled 1996 debut. That album went Gold and spawned the hit single "Never Too Busy" and the perennial wedding song "For You", winning Lattimore a reputation as a dynamic and charismatic performer, with an image as a strong but sensitive romantic. The album's success earned Lattimore an NAACP Image Award as Best New Artist. 1998's From the Soul of Man documented the maturation of Lattimore's songwriting talent, and yielded the hits "Days Like This" and "If I Lose My Woman", as well as Lattimore's visionary reworking of the Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". He moved to Arista for 2001's Weekend, and in 2003 released Things That Lovers Do, a well-received album of duets with his wife and fellow R&B star Chante Moore. The couple released a second duets album, Uncovered/Covered, in 2006.
Despite his past successes, Timeless demonstrates that Kenny Lattimore is more interested in making expressive, enduring music than pandering to momentary musical trends. "I like that Verve is a label that cares about music," he asserts, adding, "They gave me the freedom to be myself and trusted me to follow my heart. I've been in so many situations where I'd finish an album and the record company comes back and says, "We need a radio hit", and they ask you to come up with a song that sounds exactly like what everyone else is doing. With this project, I felt like the label was more interested in getting the artistry right, and then presenting it to people and allowing them to decide if they like it."