Rahsaan Patterson is a name that is familiar with Soul music fans and could even be called a veteran, having worked with a young Brandy on “Baby” from her debut album before launching his own career. Together with one of his collaborators from that song, Keith Crouch and another frequent musical partner of his, Jamey Jaz, Rahsaan produces his fifth studio album Bleuphoria.

The album opens strongly with “I Only Have Eyes For You,” which is originally from the 1934 film Dames, and has been popularized over time by Jazz vocal legends such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holliday, with iconic crooner Frank Sinatra also having covered the number. Rahsaan does well with the track, bringing it right up to date with his modern production, however the drum programming and sounds are very reminiscent of the type Prince would have employed in the ’80s.

The Prince influence doesn’t begin and end there though. “Easier Said Than Done” has a first verse melody that is very obviously inspired by “Darling Nikki.” It is a very well composed track, with the bass synthesizer arpeggio working well alongside the vocal part in particular.

Rahsaan Patterson – “Easier Said Than Done”:

“Goodbye” is another joint that is even more blatantly a hat tip to the Purple Yoda. It’s lyrics, strings and the electric guitar that enters late in the track all scream Prince. The end section is about as “Prince-y” as one can get, but all this talk of Prince shouldn’t detract in the slightest from Rahsaan’s music, and it is quite clearly a manifestation of his love for the artist, as opposed to ripping him off.

Rahsaan is often compared to Stevie Wonder, and it’s not hard to hear why if you listen to “Crazy (Baby)” featuring Faith Evans. The track itself begins with a very nice and almost playful ditty, set against a steady backbeat and moves into Rahsaan’s voice soaring to heady heights. He’s so far up in his vocal register, he begins to sound like Stevie and it’s hard to believe any male can ever sing that high with such vocal dexterity. I had to rewind the section a good few times to believe it was Rahsaan and not Faith Evans singing those parts.

It seems Rahsaan is fond of female features, with Jody Watley (who was an original member of Shalamar) being featured on “Ghost,” and frequent collaborator Lalah Hathaway on “6AM.” The former track is a funk flavoured jam that has some lush vocal harmonies on the lyric “I’ll be gone” and the chordal movement is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” particularly in the breakdown. MJ is undoubtedly a huge influence of Rahsaan’s.

“6AM” has a very cool, retro ’90s feel to it, particularly in the melody composition and drum programming, with the vocal timing seemingly shifting against the two step beat as opposed to moving with it, showing that Patterson takes his arrangements seriously. The title track “Bleuphoria” also shows strength in arrangement. Although it has a very nice atmosphere, it is very repetitive, but the instrumentation progresses enough underneath it to give you a sense of development, culminating with a nice lead synth excursion that Stevie Wonder would have appreciated.

“Stay With Me” and “Makin’ Love” feel too much like fillers, however the latter moves into a very sensual section that I highly appreciate and wish the theme was used throughout the track. I also warm to the atmosphere and lyrics of “Insomnia,” particularly how the vocal production brings the meaning of the words to life; sometimes set far back, at times over-processed and sometimes upfront, especially in the more hard hitting section the song flips in and out of.

“God” seems the most ‘modern/progressive’ sounding track on the album, with sweeping synth pads, a four to the floor drum pattern and a bass line that works the subwoofer quite well. Adding to the ‘modern’ flavor is the use of auto tune, which I usually despise, however it’s alright for Rahsaan to use it because we know he can sing his backside off, hence it’s less of an aid and more of a deliberate effect here.

“Mountain Top” has the feeling of an old ‘Negro Spiritual’ in it’s sentiment, further enhanced by the choir that joins in half way through and Rahsaan’s choice of vocal scales during the ad libs at the end, giving the track a definite gospel music feel.

The strongest track on the album has to be “Miss You,” which is rather empty but not in a bad way; with only a simple organ/string pad holding down the chords and finger clicks providing the percussion, the lyrics and melody are given space to come the fore.

Bleuphoria is certainly a progression of Rahsaan’s musical style and, although it doesn’t showcase his phenomenal voice as much as I would have expected it to, it does show his strengths in other musical departments, namedly composition and arrangement. The album explores new sounds, but not always in a new way, constantly referencing Patterson’s musical influences, however, far from being a cheap rip off of any of those mentioned, Rahsaan Patterson continues to be a unique sounding artist moving his art forward.

Rahsaan Patterson – Bleuphoria
Released: July 19, 2011
Label: Artistry Music/Dome Records
Buy: iTunes UK / iTunes US / Amazon UK / Amazon US