This week, our resident reviewers Bonga Percy Vilakazi looks at the new releases that are making waves in the R&B/Soul world including the latest albums from Keyshia Cole, Musiq Soulchild, India Arie, Lionel Richie and Leela James.
KEYSHIA COLE - A DIFFERENT ME
This is Keyshia Cole's third album, and who can forget about all those gorgeous ballads she gave us in her last album! Many have insisted on calling her the younger, grittier version of Mary J. Blige and they are right. This girl is super talented. This album shows a different, classier side of Keyshia and is nothing like her two previous albums. There are less ballads which I'm not really sure was a good idea, making the album so ‘happy' and too positive. The highlights in A Different Me make the CD worth buying, like Make Me Over (sampling Tina Turner's Tina's Prayer), This is Us (definitely the best song), Trust (featuring Monica). But this is definitely not her best album.MUSIQ SOULCHILD - ONMYRADIO
When I heard Musiq Soulchild's first single ONMYRADIO, I was immediately worried, thinking that Musiq Soulchild has changed his musical direction. I was wrong. Musiq is still doing the R&B that he's always done expect for that with this album, the music is more beat-driven and there are less ballads; with the exception of the sterling duet with Mary J Blige If You Leave. R&B fans will definitely enjoy this album and is a good addition to Musiq's discography. INDIA ARIE - TESTIMONY VOL 2: LOVE & POLITICS
Allow me to say that this will go down in history as one of the best R&B CD's released in 2009. India is one person you can trust not to conform to standards set by the commercial world of music. Her music and lyrics have always been authentic. What's most interesting about this album is its very R&B/Soul with major gospel influences. Not to say there are choirs and hand-clapping moments, but the majority of the songs are sing-along's and radio friendly; which hasn't always been the case with India. He Heals Me, Long Goodbye and Chocolate High are some of the songs you'll definitely be repeating on playback.LIONEL RICHI - JUST GO
Richie is one of the few artists who have managed to reinvent himself after more than 30 years, making himself appealing to the younger listeners. Just Go is Lionel Richie's long-awaited follow-up to the Grammy-nominated Coming Home (released in September 2006), his previous studio album. There's no doubt that this album will appeal to millions of younger fans, but I'm not sure if the older fans (especially the ones from the Commodores days) will be too impressed. Having enlisted giant producers like Akon, Ne-Yo and The Dream, Lionel only wrote one song in this album (Eternity), which for me is a great disappointment; considering that he penned all his hits from back in the day. The rest of the songs are great, but they almost sound like anything else that other younger R&B singers have done. Maybe that was the intention. Standout songs include Through my Eyes, Nothing Left To Give and Think of You. LEELA JAMES - LET'S DO IT AGAIN
When I discovered that Leela was releasing a new album with cover songs, I was quite disappointed. I thought it was too early in her career to be doing that. She's a great writer, so I was yearning for new material. The tricky thing about doing covers is that the songs will always be compared to the original ones. Luckily for the soulful Leela, she's done justice to the songs (by James Brown, Al Green, Betty Wright, Angela Bofill and Womack & Womack), and her fans will not be disappointed. She's completely taken ownership of Al Green's Simply Beautiful, the Rolling Stones' Miss You and James Brown's It's A Man's Man's Man's World.