JAHEIM: The Makings Of A Man (Label: Atlantic)

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JAHEIM: The Makings Of A Man

Amongst the varied new breed of soul and R&B singers, Jaheim Hoagland is possibly the one held in most affection by the old breed of soul fan. Despite his contemporary, street-tough lyrics and thug posturing, his music is steeped in old school soul tradition and his voice is the voice of the classic soul man. Indeed I’ve heard more than one commentator suggest that Jaheim is the true successor to Bobby Womack – not that said commentators would make the suggestion to Bobby’s face – he’s not about to give anything up just yet. Be that as it may, Hoagland pays respect to the Soul Poet with his new album’s standout track – ‘Lonely’. This lovely song generously samples Bobby’s ‘If You Think You’re Lonely Now’ and manages to take the sensitive passion play of the that original to new levels. What’s remarkable about the track is that Jaheim shows that it’s perfectly possible to craft something thoroughly contemporary and new from familiar, even stylised ingredients. He achieves the same wonderful results on ‘Have You Ever’ (where the sourced material is the Force MDs’ ‘Tender Love’), ‘Life Of A Thug’ (sampling Harold Melvin’s ‘Hope That We Can Be Together Soon’) and ‘She Ain’t You’ (with the uncredited melody coming from the Delfonics’ ‘La La La Means I Love You’). Even without resorting to samples, Jaheim shows that it’s possible to make modern music and retain a dignified respect for the past. Best examples here are the R Kelly written and produced ‘Hush’ and the Babyface-helmed ‘Just Don’t Have A Clue’. Either of those cuts would star on a lesser set, as too would the sizzling duet with Keysha Cole that is ‘I’ve Changed’, but there’s so much quality here that you have to listen again and again to appreciate that what at first appear lesser cuts are in fact real nuggets. It’s a reviewer’s prerogative to resort to clich√© and claim “there are no duds here“, but believe me, it’s true. On the opener Jaheim claims he’s the ‘Voice Of R&B’ and if we accept that that “R&B” here is what our US cousins refer to as modern soul, I, for one, am not about to argue.
(BB) 5/5