Tony Rich - Exist (2008)

Tony Rich
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With gas prices up, Wall Street down and a historic presidential election just over a month away, it's hard to imagine applying an unhurried, uncomplicated approach to any facet of everyday life. It takes an accomplished musician to combine expertise and enthusiasm with an even-keeled delivery, and that's what the Tony Rich Project accomplishes with the Hidden Beach debut, Exist.

With gas prices up, Wall Street down and a historic presidential election just over a month away, it's hard to imagine applying an unhurried, uncomplicated approach to any facet of everyday life. It takes an accomplished musician to combine expertise and enthusiasm with an even-keeled delivery, and that's what the Tony Rich Project accomplishes with the Hidden Beach debut, Exist.

Implying a minimalist mindset, Exist delivers with its 11-song set that emphasizes free-flowing fluidity; each track conveys a different emotion while melting into one another. A strumming guitar buoyed by crisp percussion fuels the pace of the opening track, "Part the Waves," and Mr. Rich humbly confesses that his lady love became "everything I prayed for" in the mid-tempo mood-setter, "Sweet Addiction." There's breathless passion in the soothing, yet syncopated "I Already Know," and "I Wanna Be" finds a man aching to provide to his soulmate what she already provides in his life: "I wanna be what you are to me, and I wanna be all the love you need."

Unlike many CD's that R&B artists are releasing, Exist has unescapable jazz undertones, since the emphasis isn't on Mr. Rich's vocals (although they remain as smooth, skilled and supple as expected), but on the tapestry of tones and textures that his tracks provide. The instrumentation doesn't recede into the background---in fact, it blends with Mr. Rich's tenor seemlessly most of the time, speaking to his overall musiciality. It's evident in the hypnotic "Sugar Hill," and few will be immune to the aching vulnerability displayed in the falsetto-laced ballad, "Anymore." "Oh Baby" isn't a seductive call to surrender, but a sigh of resignation about an impending romantic demise, and "Jordan" is a tenuous mixture of anticipation and dread: "I'm sittin' here talkin' in letters, but I think it may sound just a little bit better if I, see you face to face, but you, you don't want to see my face, cuz' you feel, it'll only make things worse." "It Would Be a Sin" is unabashed praise to a woman so integral to Mr. Rich's day-to-day that he equates being without her to be downright sacreligious.

Mr. Rich's Hidden Beach debut sounds more like it should be entitled Escape, due to its capacity to carry the listener out of the present and into another mood and reality. It's an aquatic, atmospheric CD that is ideal for a grown and sexy gathering, the rush-hour drive home and cozy couple moments.  It's nice to get your groove on and the hips swinging every once in a while, but sometimes its just blissful to zone out, to reflect....and simply Exist.

By Melody Charles

 
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