ANTHONY HAMILTON: The Point Of It All (Label: Arista, Sony)

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Anthony Hamilton’s been around for a while now but he’s still waiting to achieve large scale public acceptance… this despite six Grammy nominations and a quartet of albums that have won the hearts of true soul fans. And it’s that phrase ‘true soul’ that’s at the heart of the situation. Hamilton is a comparatively new singer, but his roots are in old school soul and though his music is totally contemporary you can trace its soul lineage with total integrity back to soul’s torch-bearing pioneers. Hamilton is not prepared to compromise his principles by packing his work with gimmicks, fads or retro references; he just wants to make honest soul music that speaks to like minds and here he sets the tone from the word go. The opener, ‘The News’ is a broody, dark piece of work with a hint of menace about it – an atmosphere maintained on ‘Hard To Breathe’, ‘Soul’s On Fire’ , ‘The Day We Met’ and ‘Fallin’ In Love – all benefiting from some shimmering keyboards courtesy of producer Mark Batson. The non-Batson produced cuts offer something a little lighter, but the catchy ‘Cool’ and the cooler ‘Diamond In The Rough’ are no lightweight affairs. They’re two of the album’s standouts, but best tune by far is the wonderful ‘Please Stay’. It’s a new song which Hamilton worked on with Plant Life’s Jack Splash who’s also in the producer’s chair. The tune’s a beautiful ballad which perfectly illustrates what I was indicating up top – 21st. century soul with its roots in the classics. Hamilton’s heartfelt delivery is perfect and Splash provides just the right arrangement – gentle brass and understated guitar prove that in real soul it what’s left out, not what’s rammed in, that brings the emotional magic. The Dianne Warren-penned ‘Do You Feel Me’ is almost there too and though not in quite the same league, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a Hi tune. If there’s anything to criticise about the LP, it would be its length. Some of the ballads like ‘Her Heart’ and ‘Fine Again’ really are ponderous affairs and their omission, I feel, would allow greater focus elsewhere. Still, Hamilton wanted them there to reinforce the album’s overall statement and for that uncompromising seriousness he deserves credit. Credit too to Sony for sticking with him. It’s good to have – and to be able to enjoy – a serious, real soul singer on a major label.
(BB) 4/5