Philip Bailey

Philip Bailey

Soul On Jazz

Heads Up International

Frankly, I was prepared to hate this CD. I mean, c•mon, an old R&B crooner wanting to do “jazz.” It reeked of “Smooth Jazz Flavors” • the refuge for has-beens who want to make a quick buck (that•s what Jeffrey Osbourne did). And Bailey hasn’t done anything since his “Easy Lover” hit with Phil Collins except perfect his Maurice White impersonation so he and the White-less Earth Wind & Fire could start touring again.

Thank goodness for all of us, Phil Perry was nowhere near this project. Or else, we’d be drowning in the schlock. Soul On Jazz does have its fair share of that (the horrible rap on “My Indiscretions” • along with Bailey’s White imitation), but it•s still not half-bad. It’s a hit or miss kind of adventure. In “Dear Ruby,” that fragile, beautiful falsetto Bailey’s known for almost brings you to tears until that cheesy-ass chorus gets you to wailing.

That is the saving grace of the album, though: that voice. M. Bailey sure can sing purdy. And, as long as he does that, an album can’t be so bad, right? Also, I think he’s actually taken a few pointers from the neo-soul heads. Where before this album could’ve been dripping with Velveeta, there•s a bit of energy and verve here. There’s the jaunty jazz of “Bop-Skip-Doodle” and the neo-soul-inflected “Unrestrained.” And, of course, there are ballads without those smooth jazz back-up singers (“Tell Me a Bedtime Story” and “Nature Boy”) that pierce the soul.

As I said, not a bad album • and considering what the other boomer crooners are doing these days (nothing!), quite pleasurable. Now, if we can only somehow get Amir Thompson involved with Bailey’s next project, we’ll have a classic on our hands.

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