Every now and then a new singer comes along and he or she makes me drop to my knees, kiss the ground and thank all that's good. I'm so grateful that there are still some artistes around who don't just simply set their sights on the pop charts, radio airplay, teen magazine covers and simply take things from there. Those that do may celebrate multi-platinum sales and have mantelpieces laden with awards but to me, such performers are artistically vapid and culturally irrelevant. In ten years time, no one will remember anything they did.
Thankfully, we still have some artistes with a vision, a dream of making real music, and an intention of sticking to their ideals. Despite all the obvious pressures, these men and women reject the `here today, gone tomorrow' fads of triteness, as they swim against the tide of mediocrity that passes itself off as popular music nowadays. Luckily, it is we, the discerning listeners, who get to enjoy the results.
Anthony Hamilton is one such singer in my book. I'm still enthralled with his debut, "Comin' From Where I'm From", two years after its release. It's difficult to say whether this new work is better in any way but one thing's for sure: it's definitely not worse and it offers up the same top quality soul that I've come to expect from this singer. That can only be a good thing. His voice is as smoky and smouldering as ever and the comparisons to soul heroes like Bill Withers, Al Green and Bobby Womack are no exaggeration.
I remember debates I had with friends in the months following the release of "Comin'". My friends and I were loving his music but were wondering how much commercial success he'd have, given the type of music that people seem to be into these days.
"Oh, he's gonna have to water it down somewhat for his next release," someone said. Thankfully, that hasn't happened.
"He'll definitely have to get a couple of rappers on his next CD. Maybe put a club banger or two in there," someone else said. Thankfully, despite the panic he generated in us by collaborating with Twista recently, that didn't happen either. If there are any club bangers on this album, I must've missed them.
"He's gonna have to change his image," one of us also said. "Maybe tidy his shave up a bit, change his wardrobe, maybe even show a bit more flesh. You know, for the laydeeeeies..." No one can be happier than I am, that none of this has happened either. Anthony Hamilton has stayed true to himself and may he be blessed for doing so.
As far as the songs on the album are concerned, I love them all. The production is clean and devoid of gimmicks, giving his voice centre stage. What might be worth mentioning in the context of this review though, are the collaborations. "Love And War" features Macy Gray and "Last Night" features Sunshine Anderson & Dolo Pichino. Interestingly, although I greatly admire the talents of the first two (I've never heard of the third), neither of them are exactly current TRL darlings. All of this just goes to strengthen my belief in Anthony Hamilton's musical character. Think of all the other female vocalists he could have gone for - and who no doubt would have been happy to duet with him - but didn't.
Anyway, both collaborations work very well and I hope both Macy and Sunshine appear on the scene again in their own rights real soon.
All in all, forget so-called "neo soul", (an unfortunate label if I ever heard one). If you like your soul real, full-bodied and full of authentic southern flavour, this is a must for you.
PS: I've only just discovered that this is not a release of new material but in fact stuff that he had done before his debut release on Arista. That explains the "change" of label and it also puts into question many of the statments I made above, especially about image, collaborations and so forth. Ah, well. That'll teach me to make sure I read the inner sleeve notes on a CD next time before I go flapping my mouth.
I still stand by my review though. I still think this is a great CD, worthy of the 5 stars I've given it. Only thing that's changed is I guess it seems we still await a "new" release proper from Mr Hamilton. We also wait to see if he goes on to fulfil the promise I've been crowing on about. I remain hopeful.