JOHN LEGEND: Evolver (Label: G.O.O.D. Music, Columbia)

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  • JOHN LEGEND: Evolver (Label: G.O.O.D. Music, Columbia)

This is John Legend’s third album and as the title suggests his music is ever-changing, moving and developing. The lead single, ‘Greenlight’ is a good example. A collaboration with Andre 3000, it certainly does have a feel of Outkast about it but its pace draws on drum and bass structures while the melody is catchy, the lyrics clever and the voice… well, it’s perfection. In other words young Mr. Stephens has taken familiar elements and fused them into something all his own. Similarly he offers a couple of “traditional”, classic boy/girl duets – one with the ever-lovely Brandy, the other with protégé Estelle, and on both he manages to come up with something new, though clearly building on the traditions of the past. ‘Quickly’, with Brandy, is a pleasing, pleading item while the Estelle collaboration, ‘No Other Love’ is a skanking romp with a dubby feel. The Caribbean flavour is repeated on ‘Can’t Be My Lover’ but never one to stay with one feeling for too long, the preceding track ‘If You’re Out There’ is very different: it’s a big slab of classic stadium rock! Blinkered soul people might have found difficulty connecting with both cuts if it wasn’t for that voice – arguably the most distinctive and most attractive in modern soul music. Hear it to best effect on the simpler tracks – most notably the ballads that are ‘Take Me Away’ and ‘Good Morning’. Both are as good as anything you’ll hear this year. The former is built around lovely shuffling beats, while the latter has a simply beautiful melody… wait for it to be requisitioned for a TV ad near you very soon. The other big ballad is ‘This Time’ which, with its delicate piano figures, was, I guess, intended to be the next ‘Ordinary People’. Sadly, it’s a tad too complicated to be elevated to that status, but it’s still very, very good. The Kanye West collaboration, ‘It’s Over’ is another goodie. Big and brash, Legend even has the balls to bring in Teddy Riley to give a crisp and tight remix of the tune right at the end. Using New York’s finest, is another example of how Legend and his music are evolving. He has the confidence to dare, yet his music remains rooted in true soul values.
(BB) 4/5