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Falsetto Soul Crooners: The Chris Clarke Mix List


When I thought of posting review’s of other people’s music mix’s I had hoped what would occur is precisely what has occurred with my friend Chris Clarke. Chris has an excellent idea of what he likes in music and I am in agreement with him though not to the degree he enjoys it. John Legend, James Ingram, Maxwell, early R. Kelly: these are technically proficient soul crooners but only R. Kelly is a pop crossover act and not on the strength of the album this song came off.

Ingram in particular is a gifted vocalist with easily the best voice (a rich, wide ranging instrument) on Chris’s list and a great songwriter (he co-wrote MJ’s “PYT”) but despite a coupla crossover hits (with Patti Austin and Linda Ronstadt) he is not a crossover artist.

There are few crossover artist’s here. I saw Maxwell in 96 at Radio City Music Hall and he had the most easily defined demo in the world: black women. He doesn’t even crossover to guysville and this despite all three of his albums being very, very good. In comparison, I saw D’Angelo at the same venue in 00 and his audience was multi-ethnic and multi-generational.

Maybe this speaks to the concerted old fashioned nature of Chris’s choices: there is no hip hop background here, not even on R. Kelly who is certainly no stranger to hip hop. Also, with the exception of Legend’s “Another Again”, lyrically this is boring stuff. I am going to quote a lyric from the greatest falsetto soul crooner of them all, Smokey Robinson:
 
“THERE YOU WERE BEAUTIFUL
THE PROMISE OF LOVE WAS WRITTEN ON YOUR FACE
YOU LED ME ON WITH UNTRUE KISSES
YOU HELD ME CAPTURED IN YOUR FALSE EMBRACE
QUICKER THAN I CAN BAT AN EYE
SEEMS YOU WERE TELLING ME GOODBYE

OH, JUST A MINUTE AGO YOUR LOVE WAS HERE
ALL OF A SUDDEN IT SEEM TO DISAPPEAR
SWEETNESS WAS ONLY HEARTACHES CAMOUFLAGE
THE LOVE I SAW IN YOU WAS JUST A MIRAGE

(YOU PROMISED THAT LOVE WE FOREVER SHARE)
(BUT ALL I HAVE ARE MEMORIES OF LOVE THAT WAS NEVER THERE)
WE USE TO MEET IN ROMANTIC PLACES
YOU GAVE THE ILLUSION THAT YOUR LOVE WAS REAL
NOW ALL THAT’S LEFT ARE LIPSTICK TRACES
FROM THE KISSES YOU ONLY PRETENDED TO FEELAND NOW OUR MEETINGS YOU AVOIDAND SO MY WORLD YOU HAVE DESTROYED

OH, JUST A MINUTE AGO YOUR LOVE
WAS HEREALL OF A SUDDEN IT SEEM TO DISAPPEAR
THE WAY YOU WRECKED MY LIFE WAS LIKE SABOTAGE
THE LOVE I SAW IN YOU WAS JUST A MIRAGE”

It is not just the extended metaphor in is the camouflage/sabotage/Mirage perfect rhyme.
 
Now here is Avant’s lyric to “My First Love”:

“Silhouette of a perfect frame
Shadows of your smile, will always remain(always remain)
Beginners love, soon fades away ah baby
We go on, I will always
[Chorus](Avant & Girl)(long as I live)long as I live
you will be my(my first love)ah baby,
you and only(long as i live)long as I live
(My first love)you will be my first loveand i choose you again.”
 
Avant’s lyrics aren’t sophomoric only because no college Professor would allow him to get away with it.
 
So I asked Chris why his fave songs soul (sic) reason for being was background music for acts of seduction. Without disagreeing with my premise he noted that I had given him zero time to think up his list. A valid comment so off the top of my head here at seven songs:
Hypnotise – Biggie; Hit em Up – Tu Pac; Positively 4th Street – Bob Dylan; Road To Joy – Bright Eyes; Whenever God Shines His Light On Me – Van Morrison; Hit the Road, Jack – Ray Charles; She Loves You – The Beatles.
 
So what does this tell me? 1) male centric, 2) nothing very recent; 3) not particularly of a single sound but all of these songs are great AS SONGS. No Latin, no classical, no jazz. As a type of Rorchach taste in music, it’s essentially a mix of R&B and folk-rock. And I would say if it isn’t a pinpoint control exposition of my taste in music, it isn’t a million miles away either.
 
If You’re Not The One – Daniel Bedingfield – Ugh. BD’s sole reason for being is to make Robin Thicke look good on this bathetic blue eyed soul travesty. “I know it isn’t good,” Clarke admits, “But I love it”. I hope they’ll be very happy together.
 
I Can’t Sleep Baby (If I) – R. Kelly – Questions of personal merit notwithstand I have loved R. Kelly since his public announcement but his first solo album “12 Songs” was better than anything on his eponymous sophomore effort. It’s the second album that brought us this soporific effort -a lullaby to loneliness. There is an R. Kelly type song I just can’t listen to “If I Can fly” is a much more egregrious noise then this but this is pretty bad.
 
This Woman’s Work – Maxwell – Maxwell can’t write a lyric if his life depended on it but he is a brilliant arranger whose songs always leave me flat footed so I am never sure why he has constructed them so belligerently. It’s like they are art rock or something -the strings here are in the wrong place and you have to listen harder then you are doing to find where it’s going. It’s as though he is channelling his subconscious and the back up vocals are coming from a dream that isn’t quite sweet. This song and the James Ingram are the real keepers on this list.
 
My First Love – Avant & Keke Wyatt – The start of this song sounds like “Knockout TKO” and Avant is an interesting minor talent and this is an interesting, minor song.
 
Kushumpeng – Frankie Paul – This is pretty good dancehall reggae -not Buju but not bad. The intro is from the Beatle’s “Norwegian Wood” no idea why, and the beat moves on a high hat flip. Hot stuff.
 
Another Again – John Legend
Take Me Away – John Legend
I thought Legend was on his way to becoming the R&B Kanye West -just a completely gifted songwriter, a fucking genius who knew he was a fucking genius. And “Another Again” from his sophomore effort stands up well to all hype as well as having a great lyric filled with iterations to reflect the circular keyboards. “Evolver” was the first truly disappointing extended work in Legend’s career and “Take Me Away” is a snooze.
 
Baby, Come To Me – James Ingram, Patti Austin, Quincy Jones – Reached # 2 in the pop charts and deserved it based upon Ingram’s lush life vocals and the very wonderful Patti Austin (she is so good even Jimmy James and terry Lewis worked with her) from “From Q, With Love”.
 
Tiny dancer – Elton John – Off Elton’s second album, a songwriterly song that thinks it knows more than it does (the lyric is very uncomfortable: “Blue jean baby, LA lady”) and a piano that is all trills and fake blues fills.
 
And that my friends is that. Chris seems to live for keyboard ballads by high pitched blokes so why Chris hasn’t offered up any songs from the late lamented Luther Vandross is beyond me. As for me, the most important thing Chris shared with me is the gifted James Ingram and his own take on modern music. Thank you, Chris.

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