Back in October 2002, an unknown Soul singer from Atlanta calling himself Cody ChesnuTT released his first album, a raw, unrefined project called The Headphone Masterpiece. The two-CD double album, which contained a total of 36 tracks flowing over the course of 98 minutes, sold few copies and made zero impact on the music charts. But it's brilliance didn't go unnoticed by a still-growing core of music fans. Eventually the album went on to become an underground classic, even as Mr. ChesnuTT himself, became increasingly removed from the music industry. But a full decade after Headphone Masterpiece, Cody has returned with his second full album, Landing on a Hundred. The album, which will be released in the U.S. Oct. 30, 2012, not only fully realizes the potential that was apparent on Cody's debut, it's one of the better R&B/Soul albums of 2012.
Although Cody ChesnuTT's debut album, The Headphone Masterpiece
, was a highly creative breath of soulful fresh air when it was released in 2002, it wasn't without its flaws. Probably chief among them was the sonic rawness. Cody, who had moved from his native Atlanta to Los Angeles in the years prior, recorded his solo debut using a four-track recorder at his home studio in the L.A. area. Without the benefit of the high production values afforded a large recording studio, some the album's songs had a very low-fi, basic sound that was uplifted only by the singer's rich, soulful, but rough-around-the-edges voice. Another drawback was the sheer volume of songs. Clocking in at over an hour-and-a-half, the album's rawness tended to weigh on some listeners, as brilliant standout tracks like "The Seed" and "Serve This Royalty" were surrounded by less focused material.
Happily, neither of those previous drawbacks hinder Landing on a Hundred
. Not only is the album much more polished -- sonically and vocally -- than his debut, but Cody also limits it two a dozen tracks, which clock in at a total of 54 minutes. And unlike some artists who take a lot of time off between albums before returning with a sound that's dated and out of touch, this is a Soul album that's right in tune with the times it's being released in. There's clearly no leftover tracks here from many years past; everything sounds up-to-date, yet at the same time has a timeless Soul feel that evokes favorable comparisons to classic artists, particularly Marvin Gaye
Maturation and Evolution
Cody has clearly matured as a songwriter as well, with most of the tracks here taking on complicated topics and personalizing them to the point where they sound like diary entries set to music. Among the standout tracks on Landing on a Hundred
are the opening track, "Till I Met Thee," where Cody talks about how love saved him, comparing his old self to a man asleep, a stranger in a foreign land, a person walking in darkness with no sense of direction, and person who's dead inside. The redemptive power of love is a recurring theme on the album; on another track, he sings a (fictitious?) song about turning his life around and going from smoking crack every day to teaching Sunday school in church, all thanks to love.
Other must-hear songs are "Don't Wanna Go the Other Way,"
about a man trying to hold onto to his soul and sanity: "I'm trying to hold on, trying not to fall but I feel like I'm losin' it, help me God," he pleads; and "That's Still Mama,"
where Cody plays the role of a wise older brother/uncle/friend and tells young men that they need to respect their mothers. "Only reason I make this song is 'cause I love ya, Only reason I take this time is 'cause I don't wanna bury ya," he sings to his brethren. "Church boy, school boy, dope boy, I ain't gonna throw my hands up, I'm gonna love ya." The older, wiser Cody is a nice evolution from the man who recorded the vulgar tune "Bitch, I'm Broke" 10 years ago, just as this album as a whole is a nice display of the maturation and evolution of Cody as an artist.