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MP3 Music, March 20, 2007
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Once Again, the much-anticipated second solo album from the multi-platinum Grammy-winning artist John Legend. Once Again is the sophomore studio album by R&B/Soul singer John Legend, and the first single is Save Room. He has worked with a great list of producers and co-writers, including Kanye West, will. I. am, Raphael Saadiq, Craig Street, Sa-Ra, Eric Hudson, Devo Springsteen, Dave Tozer and Avenue. There is a special guest appearance from Mary J. Blige. Though he had worked with Blige before, Legend said he got to know her better this time around. "She's really sweet and she's very easy to work with, very humble. It was kind of refreshing. " the album has a range of influences, from soul to hip-hop to classic pop to alternative. "It's not dramatically different, but I think people see it as a growth and an extension for me. It's a richer sound. The production is more developed. I just tried to do it with the highest standards of quality. "
It takes guts, if not outright egomania, to abandon your given surname and adopt a loaded one like Legend, but the former John Stephens must have sensed that loftiness would one day be his calling card: Once Again, the follow-up to the Grammy-gobbling, platinum pile-on that was Get Lifted, surpasses expectations. Not that it bears much relation to its predecessor. Again again trots out a stable of talented, modern-minded producers--Raphael Saadiq, Legend comrade Kanye West, and the unsinkable will.i.am--but it's nowhere near as self-conscious about embracing the old-school as the knowing, R&B edge-skimming Lifted. Don't expect a derivative mash of smudgy, nostalgia-filching sounds, though, because despite its retro leanings, what's in store somehow crackles with currency. Call it neo-retro if you must, but never call it unimaginative: first single "Save Room" coasts, drifts, and floats along a ponderous path spiked by a cool keyboard-y crescendo; second single "Heaven" busts out a big, busy beat over a slow seduction; and a couple of selections--"Each Day Gets Better" and "PDA"--are so bright and twirly they seem custom-made for dizzy love scenes or jaunty, sunny-day skips through the park. Maybe the most unusual track is "Show Me," a rock song that pilfers elements of Hendrix and finds Legend climbing a few octaves to sound, weirdly, like Jeff Buckley, but it works: so slippery is its beat and so affecting are its hope-laced lyrics that, oddness aside, it's among the disc's best. Sandwiched as it is among 14 songs that all sound like future classics, that's saying something. --Tammy La Gorce
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John Legend is an original who happens to have a voice that is beyond reminiscent of Sam Cooke, one of the best singers ever to breathe. Instead of running away from the similarities, but has avoided the dreaded sophomore jinx by releasing a collection of songs that sound like a million bucks and already sound timeless. In the hands of a lesser singer, this mostly mid-tempo collection would sound repetitive and derivative. In John's hands, the release sounds so lush, and collectively represent a celebration of introspective lyrics and of people in general.
I buy a lot of music (should probably go to therapy to find out why ;-) and most of it sounds so blah, lacking inspiration. That is not the case here. I am listening to the release right now and I like it more and more every time I listen to it.
Warning: If you don't like mid-tempo/slow songs and find Sam Cooke to be a bore or never heard of him, do some research as this may not be for you. I also like/love artists like Lenny Kravitz and Mary J. Blige, but don't buy this looking for the type of emotional release generated by Lenny or Mary, John is more about smooth old school elegance and a singing style that is soulful but controlled. This is a CD that even your parents/grandparents will like. Scary but it's just that transcedant.
I love every song, but the first song is a classic. Although the lyrics talk of a cold day, I envision the beach, friends, endless fun, and maybe running into a person who will change your life as you are going to get a cold refreshment ;-)
Make no mistake about it, this album is his most melo album, which in turn makes it easiest to listen to whenever you're not doing anything at all and just want to hear good music. The awesome tonal qualities of his voice and the piano and guitar in his songs are always perfect matches.
The best songs:
"Save Room" - The has to be his best song ever. It's hard to not fall in love with his music after you hear this song - it's sexy while still having an old school soul and charm feel to it.
"Heaven" - The hook will probably hook you in this song - it's very catch, and his voice definitely shows some dynamic range here.
"Where Did My Baby Go" - Akin to Ordinary People, this is a great piano piece (it has a little bit of accompaniment mid-song) with beautiful lyrics.
"Maxine" - This was a sleeper hit to me. It doesn't start out the way the song ends up sounding, and even on my first listening of this CD it just stuck with me without me realizing it.
"Slow Dance" - This song firmly plants him in soul with its motown-ish old school sampling in the hook.
If you get a chance to hear these songs and you really dig them then chances are good that you're going to really love this album. If you like any of John Legend's more mellow his songs then this song is more than worth the purchase. It's hard for me to not neglect my other CDs when I put in this one.