Tag Archives: soul

Not a Music Journalist but… I Dig Mr. Nice Guy

Oh, today’s R&B singers should be so nice as Eric Roberson.  Now since I’m not a music journalist I can say without shame that I came late to this brother’s music in fact I started listening to him about three years ago.  The first song I heard by him was Softest Lips and I nearly  passed out when I heard him sing it LIVE about two ears ago.  But I digress.  Having added Left and Music Fan First to the collection Mister Nice Guy was a no brainer.  “Erro” is a guy that really doesn’t require a preview of the album and Mr Nice Guy is no exception.   Here’s the track by track breakdown.

Mr. Nice Guy – Roberson is telling an old story about the good guy who never catches a break.  He contemplates just chasing the a** but decides to stick to his guns with the believe that the nice guy will find a nice girl.  The vocals sound effortless and the beat matches well with the content.
Strangers – The full circle of meeting someone, falling in love, breaking up and becoming strangers just like in the beginning.  The beat is bouncy, the organ and piano makes it feel “churchy”.  Roberson is singing a simple song that is catchy.
Summer Anthem – Never mind that I’m hearing this for the first time in December, it’s still a nice summer/happy jam.  Musically I’m transported to Change during Luther’s tenure. Chubb Rock has a verse on the cut and it’s just enough.
Come With Me – Um wow.  This is another “featuring” cut but the featured artists Yaw and Khari Lemuel are carrying this one.  So much so that I had to go and look them up.  Lemuel is the composer and is the featured vocalist on this song about hope and gratitude. In fact I have listened to this song four times.  The three vocalists together – beautiful.  This song is just too short.
Picture Perfect – This could be considered a Roberson standard.  This is HIS sound, tone, music and content as he waxes poetic about the perfection of a woman .  The inclusion of Phonte rhyming and singing, just brings it all home.  The video is pretty nice too.
Fall – Mr Nice Guy become Mr Lover Man.  The music and the vocal style betray, (or maybe not) the content.  The chorus says “we fall in love” but this sounds like seduction music.
Shake Her Hand – Love this little ditty about temptation.  The music sounds classic, puts me in the mind musically of Narada Michael Walden’s production for Chaka when she went out on her own.  Content wise, we are talking about Mr Nice Guy, so he took the advice of the wise man, shook her hand and walked away, because he’s got a woman at home. Hope that he has this one his live show.
The Magician – This sounds orchestral with the strings and a bit melancholy as he laments his inability to use his Roberdini skills on the ladies and puts me in the mind of something by Sting that I can’t quite recall right now.  Great fit of the sound and the story.
Love’s Withdrawal – You can call this “the sprung song”.  He’s fallen in love with his friend and can’t get his mind off of this woman.  Waiting on a call, a ring of a doorbell, dreaming about her.  Near the end, we get Omari Hardwick (I had to look him up too, he’s an actor) talking all kinds of lameness.  I suppose this cut right here is the one I could do without.
How Would I Feel? – The music is really secondary to the story in this case.  This man has gone into his woman’s diary, looking for something that he didn’t find and Jean Baylor (formerly of Zhane’) asks him how should she feel? Just dope.
Talking Reckless – Riding a nice groove as he sings about going out with his new flame, spotting his old flame with her new dude.  It’s an uncomfortable situation as he’s thinking about what used to be while looking at her.  He realizes that he needs to put those thoughts down.  This one can go on repeat, definitely.
At the Same Time – The beat puts me in the mind of Jill Scott’s The Way, which is all good since they all sort of came out of the same experience. A beautiful song about bad love timing.
Male Ego – A bouncy hip-hop beat with a great message, about letting the ego go and sticking with the one you’re with.  Hezekiah, a Philly emcee has two nice verses on this cut.  I’d like to say this is a good radio cut.
Try Love – This continues along the themes of Male Ego, letting brothers know that is okay to love and okay to express it.  Musically it has big modern percussion, with an old late 60s early 70s sound with the featured horns.  Another song that would be great in a live show.
All For Me – this is a beautiful pop song. The vocals, the soaring orchestration, the whole nine make this an academy worthy dedication song.  Hopefully he will be recognized for it.
The the musical styles vary, the lyrical content makes the album cohesive.  Mr Nice Guy will be in heavy rotation on all available music players in this house because it’s music that make sense, that sounds good and is good for the soul.  My hope is that with this release, Mr Roberson will capture a larger audience and be more appreciate for his musicianship.
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How I got over

Two bad days in a row. My usual tools to get over the hump were either unavailable or undesirable. I turned to my sustenance. This is the end of WTF.

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Not A Music Journalist Listens to A Long Time Coming by Wayne Brady

A Long Time Coming
Wayne Brady

I was most familiar with Wayne Brady as one of the improvisational comedy actors from Whose Line is it Anyway and as a stage performer in the musical Chicago (which I did not see but knew he was in). From the work he'd done on Whose Line, especially bits that required singing, it was clear that he had talent. In 2008 he released a full length CD, A Long Time Coming. Here's my track by track opinion.

  1. Ordinary – This is a nice standard issue smooth R&B tune with smooth vocals
  2. F.W.B. – This is a catch phrase song, Friends With Benefits and was the first tune that I heard from the CD as it was in heavy rotation on the Michael Baisden radio show.  The song has a smooth vocal, with adult content and is the best track on the CD.
  3. Can't Buy Me Love – This oft covered Beatles tune is done proper justice by Brady.  The musical arrangement has a gospel tinge to it and Brady provides a sweet and understated vocal as it should be. 
  4. Back in the Day – This is an uptempo song about reminiscence, a tribute to the 80's with plenty of pop-culture references from that era. The music is fine, but the lyrics are corny.
  5. Sweetest Berry – This is your typical "girl you're so sweet" ballad that leads off with acoustic guitar backing Brady's vocal followed by the rest of the rhythm section. The vocals on this one are nice.
  6. A Change is Gonna Come – I always get leary when this Sam Cooke song is covered, but there was no reason to be on Brady's version. He sounds great on this cut, he channels Cooke a bit, but the vocal is really outstanding. The muiscal arrangement is true to the era of the original. I played this song for some of my co-workers who were in disbelief that this was Wayne Brady.
  7. I Ain't Movin – This is 60's psychadelica in feel and sound and Brady is singing about remaining steadfast with his girl, regardless of the circumstance. There is a break about 2/3 of the way through in which Brady speaks directly to said girl, which I could have done without, but overall this song has great energy.
  8. Make Heaven Wait – This is very adult contemporary in sound and is a beautiful but sad song about the loss of the love his life.
  9. All Naturally – This song has so much promise because of it's lyrical content, about how he appreciates the natural beauty of his girl, without all the makeup and frills.  Where the cut falls short is on the vocal and musical arrangement. This song's beat and lyrical flow is of the cookie cutter R&B male type. This song fails because he's a better vocalist than what this song gives him credit for.
  10. All I Do – many people cover Stevie's songs, some to great effect and some to great disappointment. Brady's cover vocally is fine but the musical arrangement is a miss. The music maintains the Stevie keyboards but it tries to have a swingy jazzy vibe as well that just doesn't work.
  11. Beautiful Ugly – This is a song about a beautiful girl that's done something very ugly to him. This is supposed to be a drama song, however it falls a bit short.
  12. You and Me – This is song describes the breakup of his family and the combination of the vocal and music works really well to convey the bittersweetness of the breakup.
A Long Time Coming had an average of a 5 star customer rating on Amazon.com which was surprising to me. This CD  was rated higher than Raphael Saadiq, Anthony Hamilton and Maxwell and I couldn't disagree more. This CD has some standout cuts, including F.W.B., Can't Buy Me Love, A Change is Gonna Come and a few others, but it falls short. Wayne Brady has got the vocal chops to sing anything, he's talented, however the musical arrangement on at least half of the tunes just doesn't match what I believe he's trying to convey on each song. I don't mind a mix of styles/genres on a CD.  This mix just doesn't work, which says to me, that there's a production problem. I'd give the CD three mics on the strength of Brady's vocals. I'm hoping that when he goes back to the lab, it's with a different production team that has a better understanding of him as a vocalist.
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Not a Music Journalist listens to BLACKsummers’ Night by Maxwell

Like many Maxwell fans, I breathlessly awaited the release of his latest CD on July 7. I pre-ordered on Amazon and ran to the mailbox everyday. is CD finally arrived over the weekend and I got a listen today. Here's my track by track assessment.

Bad Habits – The song is Maxwell sexy but the sound is a lot more organic that his previous work. There is an urgency in his voice but there's a difference. Maxwell is more matter of fact about his urgency, in the case of this song, the woman in question is a bad habit of his. The band is excellent on this cut. The sound is exactly the way you expect to hear it live at a club.  The horn section is reminiscent of Roy Hargrove circa his RH Factor recordings.
Cold – the presentation is a bluesy funky sound. Of course the song is about a woman, and she is cold and Maxwell can't handle it. Vocally he's holding it down and working well with the instrumentation.
Pretty Wings – is a pretty ballad type song. This song was the first song officially released, the one fans have been listening to for months. On my first few listens I thought it sounded like a pop record but in further listening the track gets better as it goes on. I really appreciated it more after watching him perform it at an otherwise dreadful BET Awards.
Help Somebody – This is a favorite for me on this CD. Max is talking about stepping outside of one's self to make it better for someone else. I'm not used to hearing him do these kinds of songs but this foray into message music is excellent.  The song is simple lyrically but the vocal paired with the music makes the listener feel the importance of the song's content.
Stop the World – I love this one. He's talking about how the world stops when he's with his girl. This a tribute song in it's purest form. Again, the presentation of the song is as if it is being performed live in a venue. Fantastic.
Love You – This is an up-tempo song with a slight rock tinge. It puts me in the mind of Purple Rain era Prince
Fistful of Tears – At moments this song is rock sounding and then a bass drops in to funk it up a bit. The song boils down to a girl who's left him in tears, he's effective at conveying his feelings.
Playing Possum – I like to call this song naked begging. For the most part Maxwell is begging this woman with only a rhythm section behind him with a drop in from trumpet. He makes the begging sound beautiful.
Phoenix Rise – This is an instrumental that I will probably play heavily.  This is some Kool Jazz Festival type music. The synth is very modern but the band puts it down in a way that great bands used to do back in the day. What I'm wondering is if this last cut is indicative of what's to come on his next release. If so the next one will be all about moving your body.
Overall Maxwell still has the sweet vocals, he's still singing about love but has changed it up with the musicians backing him that at least in my ear are coming from the traditions of jazz, blues and rock with a little funk thrown in for good measure. He's also expanded it bit by including a message song on this set, which I really enjoyed. Folks may complain about the CD's length, but I find it to be a really tight, "no skip" collection of songs, refreshing in the crowd of these 20 song and interlude Opus' that some artists put out these days, which generally only boil down to a five or six choice cuts. It's a great CD for those who are ready to stretch out in the direction that Maxwell is going.
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