Musiq Soulchild & Syleena Johnson
(Shanachie Entertainment Group)
If you need relief from this cruel winter, look no further than this soulful collaboration between R&B crooner Syleena Johnson (none other than the daughter of soul king Syl Johnson) and the reggae-flavored neo-soul of Musiq Soulchild. The current R&B/neo-soul scene is a small enough world that they’ve both managed to connect with some formidable influences, including producer JR Hutson (best known for his work with Jill Scott, Faith Evans, and Pharrell Williams) and Kanye West. The album fuses reggae beats with hip-hop and soul on the sweet and sensual “Slow Love,” which feels like a summer hit just when we could use it. “Bring Me Down” has an anthemic energy to it, its chorus bursting with positivity and sincerity, and “Promise” has a relentlessly danceable groove. The last track on the album is a treat, too. It’s a dancehall mix of “Feel the Fire,” and definitely requires the big speakers. Syleena Johnson’s voice is highlighted beautifully and the call-and-response style with Musiq gives it a sort of timeless quality. This album’s production style is a welcome throwback to the 60’s tradition of making the vocals front and center while still keeping the songs balanced and heavy on the rhythm. You should put this album on loud enough to dance to. Then stick your head out the window of your overheated apartment and think of spring as the sun hits your face and the music hits your soul. They don’t make ’em like this that often anymore.