18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Michael Brent Faulkner, Jr.
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Anthony Hamilton is an exceptional example of the underrated R&B singer. Hamilton has pipes that could easily trump R&B male stars that sell perhaps twice, thrice, or quadrupel as much as his material. I was personally saddened when I saw AIN'T NOBODY WORRYIN' only be certified gold; personally, I think Hamilton is one of today's very best representations of what R&B should sound like because he draws so much from the past-- he's been constantly compared to soul great Bill Withers, and that comparison isn't so far fetched. With that said, "underrated" is an incredible understatement, considering the wealth of material Hamilton has recorded that most fans don't even know existed. SOUTHERN COMFORT is yet another compilation of past Anthony Hamilton which has some on-point numbers, as well as other numbers you wished had remained unreleased. The best are exceptional, or at least partially rival some strong Hamilton material ("They Don't Know"), while the worst/most awkward you wonder why it was even recorded ("Magnolia's Room"). Personally, I can tell you that if you are a fan of Anthony Hamilton ala 2003 or 2005 (COMIN' FROM WHERE I'M FROM or AIN'T NOBODY WORRYIN'), you won't be impressed with this set of unreleased material. SOULIFE, Hamilton's first set of unreleased tracks is much better than SOUTHERN COMFORT. Most important to know is that SOUTHERN COMFORT is a pick & choose sort of album.
"They Don't Know" is the best track from SOUTHERN COMFORT in my opinion, even if it doesn't quite accurately rival Hamilton's more heart-wrenching, soulful numbers (Think "Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens", "Charlene", "I'm A Mess", "Comin' From Where I'm From", "Can't Let Go", "Never Love Again"). The production is a bit more adventurous in one fold than we've seen on modern Anthony Hamilton, but Hamilton doesn't sound quite as soulful here as he does on his So-So Def releases. The "breakdown" portion of "They Don't Know" is top notch though, and it is something that in Hamilton's modern recordings, we haven't seen nearly enough. R&B used to have that gospel quality to it where an extended ad-lib, "church-like" section wasn't unheard of. If for nothing else, "They Don't Know" reveals a less conservative Hamilton, even if his voice sounds more gritty, bluesy, and souful on his two "studio" affairs.
"Magnolia's Room" is just plain confusing; the songwriting isn't particularly stand-out and it just feels awkward. The production maybe what makes it odder considering it features one of the most annoying synthesizer lines I've heard for a while. It isn't Hamilton's best, and you wonder why it was released on SOUTHERN COMFORT. "Why" is much better and makes up for the oddness of "Magnolia's Room". The production is subtle, but exciting enough. Hamilton sounds strong enough here, and the songwriting is more on-point than "Magnolia's Room". It isn't "Can't Let Go" by any means, but it is an accurate enough representation of the type of musician that Hamilton is. "Don't Say What You Won't Do" reminds me a lot of "I Used To Love Someone" from Hamilton's other unreleased affair, SOULIFE. It isn't bad, and the rubato introduction reminds me of how classic soul songs used to feature ad lib, rubato introduction prior to the groove/rhythm being established. This track would've been a welcome addition to any "studio" Hamilton album considering it is top-notch quality in my opinion. Again, all things relative, it isn't "Charlene" or "Can't Let Go", but it is pretty close. The hook and the background vocals in falsetto are immaculate.
"Glad U Called" will definitely come to be known as the Anthony Hamilton song that drops the infamous "f-bomb", ultimately causing SOUTHERN COMFORT to come in two formats. With that aside, "Glad U Called" is very beautiful and it is another standout from SOUTHERN COMFORT that makes you ask the question, why was it an unreleased track? The guitar laden-production is the first thing that sticks out in the listener's mind. Then Anthony Hamilton kills it with is heart-wrenched lyrics and his soul-drenched delivery. Phenomenal. "Falling In Love Again" features a slick-enough 80's R&B feel when New-Jack was the predominant style. It definitely makes you stomp your feet and bob your head. It isn't a hit per say, and it does feel slightly dated, but it is worth a couple of listens. Again, the vocals and background vocals are great, and partially make up for slack in songwriting. "Trouble" is a great production-standout, perhaps the very best of SOUTHERN COMFORT. This track reminisces back to the production work on Maxwell's URBAN HANG SUITE or NOW, or D'Angelo's BROWN SUGAR/VOODOO. "Trouble" again, doesn't stand out as the best track Hamilton's ever recorded, but it isn't terrible. Along with that though, it may not be the most inspired either.
"Never Give Up" proves to be another TRUE standout. It rivals the very best of SOUTHERN COMFORT ("They Don't Know", "Don't Say What You Wont Do", and "Glad U Called"). Again, "Never Give Up" would've been well at home on either Anthony Hamilton studio release. The hook is great, and Hamilton sounds closer to his 2000 albums here. "Better Love" keeps the soulful vibe continuing with incredibly urbanized production, while "Please" proves to be a signature Hamilton slow jam, not incredibly different from "I Tried" or "Float" from COMIN' WHERE I'M FROM. ON "Please", Hamilton sings in falsetto, and it is incredible. As a vocalist, Hamilton's versatility still shows strongly on SOUTHERN COMFORT, even if it is a previously unreleased affair. "Sailing Away" closes the album a bit faster than the great "Please". There is an inherent spiritual feel here and the production leads you to feel this emotion as well. It is an appropriate closure and it isn't too bad.
Essentially, SOUTHERN COMFORT is a pick and choose affair. There are a couple of weaker tracks and there are some incredibly strong numbers. This album is by no means bad, even if it doesn't show the Anthony Hamilton that we've come to know and love via his most recent albums. For fans, I think it is a must. If you only like Hamilton for his studio albums, then I don't think this is for you. WARNING: It is an previously unreleased album, it isn't his new studio release.