The son of legendary O’Jays member Eddie, Gerald Levert returns with his second offering since a brief liaison with the R&B supergroup LSG (Johnny Gill & Keith Sweat). In opposition to its European counterpart, this album has reached the top 10 in both the Billboard 200 R&B charts. Indeed, the European release of the set appeared last November and went relatively unnoticed. However, a former member of Levert, Gerald has always been a little more popular on the other side of the Atlantic. Quite why the U.S. version appeared months later is anybody’s guess, but one thing that is certain is that there is a somewhat different track listing.
Indeed, the stuttering “Let Me Know,” a superfluous remix of “Nothin To Somethin’”, and more unfortunately, the socially conscious “Somebody’s Baby (interlude)” are all absent. However, in their place are the current U.S. single “Mr.Too Damn Good” and the exceptional “It Hurts Too Much to Stay”: the former being a good quality ballad in the vain of 1994’s “Can’t Help Myself,” and the latter being an impassioned tale of an estranged couple. Produced by and featuring the talents of Kelly Price this track is absolutely essential. If you thought her recent duet with Aaron Hall was a treat just wait until you hear this gut-wrenching account of betrayal and deceit.
Following his contribution to 1998’s Love & Consequences, Darrell “Delite” Allamby returns to produce the opening three tracks. Produced in his usual Timbaland-esque style, these cuts provide matter for a more contemporary R&B audience. However, the real quality is to be found elsewhere. Indeed, the emphasis of the remainder of the album is very much upon strong songs and lush instrumentation. Consequently, the string-laced “She Done Been,” the organ/Rhodes-drenched “Second Time Around,” and the groovy Craig T. Cooper collaboration “Baby U Are” all have considerable appeal.
However, as if that wasn’t enough, we also have the melodic “Strings,” the superb “These” and the simply stunning quasi-blues of “Misery” where Gerald really tears it up vocally. Indeed, as ever Gerald’s vocals are exceptional throughout. I once saw an episode of Motown Live where, with a little help from Patti LaBelle, the man managed to make MOR ballad “The Wind Beneath My Wings” sound like it was dripping with soul. Imagine that voice, top quality songwriting, throw in a duet with Kelly Price, and you might be somewhere near to imagining how good the majority of this set is.
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