First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2005, Volume 12, #7
Written by John Metzger
Anthony Hamiltonís success hasnít come easily. His debut was lost amidst his record labelís financial struggles; his sophomore effort XTC floundered after a lack of support from the industry; and after shifting to Soulife (an indie-like subsidiary of Atlantic), his third outing was shelved when the small company went bankrupt. Although his fourth album Cominí from Where Iím From eventually went platinum and earned the songwriter and vocalist several Grammy nominations, its ascendancy wasnít immediate. Coming in the wake of Hamiltonís previous misfortunes, many wondered if he ever would catch the break he deserved.
Fortunately, once the spotlight finds someone, itís reluctant to move elsewhere ó at least for a little while ó and salvaged from the ashes is Soulife, a collection that compiles the previously unreleased material recorded by Hamilton between 1999 and 2001. Tweaked with ProTools and awash in programmed drum beats, the backing music that surrounds the ballad-heavy affair suffers from the same set of symptoms that plagued Cominí from Where Iím From, and the modernized textures severely diminish the organic essence of Hamiltonís songs to the point where they sometimes sound indistinct and manufactured. Although there are moments when the synthetic haze of the smooth and polished production is broken ó the horns that grace Ball and Chain, the touches of acoustic guitar that seep through the dense pulse of I Used to Love Someone, and the swirling organ that envelops Day Dreaminí, for example ó it isnít always enough to allow the tunes to transcend their drab accompaniments.
What gives Soulife its momentum, then, is Hamiltonís easy-going vocal prowess, which frequently succeeds in brushing away the artificiality in order to strike a more natural pose. With a voice that glides somewhere between Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers, he brings a sense of classic soul to much of his material, and there are countless hints scattered throughout the album that perhaps he one day will rival his idolsí greatest works. For now, however, Hamilton is merely an elegant singer who is struggling to find a way to remain relevant while also forcing the R&B world to shed its well-entrenched, formulaic approach to crafting albums.
Soulife is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box