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Album Review: Mint Condition - '7...'

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Album Review: Mint Condition - '7...'
Image © Shanachie Entertainment.
It was 20 years ago this year that Minnesota-based R&B band Mint Condition released its 1991 debut album, Meant to Be Mint. And over the course of those two decades, the music landscape has changed drastically numerous times. But although styles and tastes have shifted through the years, MC has remained one of the best acts in all of R&B. And on their seventh studio album, appropriately titled 7..., the band shows that it still has plenty of life left. Although 7..., which was released in the U.S. on April 5, 2011 doesn't break much new ground for the band, the ground they tread on is still musically firm and fertile.

Taking You Back

Anyone who loved Mint Condition during their 1990s heyday -- especially the five-man band's biggest hit, "Breakin' My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)" -- is likely to enjoy 7..., because the majority of the album is an exploration of the band's vintage sound. The opening half of the album, which includes the songs "Can't Get Away," "I Want It," "Walk On," "Mind Slicker" and the first single, "Caught My Eye," will take you back to the days of '90s R&B, before Auto-Tune, before multiple live instruments on songs became a rarity, and before the producer became more important than the artist being produced.
All five songs, which cover tried and true R&B topics like love triangles, cheating lovers, romantic infatuation, lust, broken hearts and regret, sound like material that the band could have recorded 15 to 20 years ago, but that's not a bad thing. There's no point here where the group sounds outdated of out of touch with contemporary music; in fact, everything sounds crisp and on point both vocally and instrumentally. But it really isn't until the album's second half that the album gets more daring and adventurous, particularly on the sixth track, "Bossalude."

Highly Listenable

Image © Shanachie Entertainment.
"Bossalude," which is a bossa nova-style instrumental, serves as a bridge between the album's traditional first half and more experimental second half. Along with "Bossalude," the album's hip-hop title track is noteworthy, as is the funky second single, "Ease the Pain," which is about a man trying to win the trust of a woman who's been hurt during past in relationships, and now has a cynical heart. Also deserving mention is "Not My Daddy" which, despite what the provocative title suggests, isn't filled with Maury Povich-style drama. It's actually a mature romantic duet between Mint Condition singer Stokley and R&B/Gospel singer Kelly Price.
But the most interesting of the 11 tracks on 7... is the last one, "Twenty Years Later." On the song, lead singer Stokley plays the role of a 47-year-old loser whose life hasn't progressed in the past two decades; he's still doing the same things he was 20 years ago, like living with his mother, mooching off his friends and doing drugs. It's this song more than any other on the album that showcases the band's knack for versatility and creativity. And unlike most current R&B albums, this one's solid from start to finish.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by Shanachie Records. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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