Even when Anthony Hamilton
's a little off his game, he's still head and shoulders above most of the competition, and that's certainly the case with his latest Jive Records album, The Point of It All
, released in the U.S. on Dec. 16, 2008. Although several of the album's songs aren't anything special by Anthony Hamilton standards, they're still far better than what most contemporary Soul and R&B singers have to offer. This album, Anthony's fourth with Jive (but sixth overall), is slightly geared toward the mainstream, meaning that his usual Southern grittiness is toned down, but the soulfulness still shines through.
Unsurprisingly, the album's best songs are the ones that Anthony Hamilton
collaborated on with producer Mark Batson, the man behind the previous Anthony Hamilton hits "Comin' From Where I'm From," "Charlene" and "Can't Let Go." On this album, Batson produces five of the 14 songs, including the album's two best, the brilliantly sorrowful relationship song "Hard to Breathe" and the absolutely electric "Soul's On Fire." Anthony has a great chemistry and long history with Mark Batson, but all of the other producers that guide songs of the album also turn in good work, particularly Jack Splash, who helmed the don't-leave-me-baby ballad "Please Stay," and Kelvin Wooten, who produced or co-produced four songs, including "Prayin' For You/Superman," an almost eight-minute tale of love that sounds like it would have fit right in being played in a juke joint back in the '50s.
Anthony's got such a remarkable voice and soulful presence that he can turn even mediocre material into something special. And he does that on a number of the album's songs, including "Her Heart," which if recorded by a lesser artist would have sounded corny and sappy; and the album's first single, the country-fried "Cool."
Image © Jive Records.
which features the rapper David Banner, is about not worrying about life's problems and just relaxing with the one you love. It isn't anything special musically or lyrically, and Banner's rap on the song is goofy and stupid, but Anthony's remarkably expressive voice lifts the song a level. He also elevates the fairly ordinary "The Day We Met," a love at first sight song with predictable, unoriginal lyrics like: "Right when I met you, the day that I met you, we fell in love ... you came and stole my heart, you turned my world around, we fell in love." Again, under a lesser artist, this song would have been instantly forgettable, but Anthony has such a remarkable talent for emoting in his songs, that it makes anything he records worth repeat listening, including songs like "Diamond in the Rough" and "I Did It For Sho," which are a little more glossy, upbeat and danceable than his previous work and less gritty. Many of these songs seem aimed at a sophisticated mainstream audience.
But Anthony's at his best when he gets gritty, and there's enough true grit and Soul here to satisfy his longtime fans, as well as enough smooth sophistication and heartfelt soul to maybe win some new fans.