Russell Taylor – Confessional (Album Review)

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Six years after his debut release Something In Between (2004), soulful singer-songwriter Russell Taylor is back with the re-release of his sophomore album Confessional this February.  The album is written in its entirety by Taylor, who also produced at least half of the tracks himself under the producing pseudonym of ‘Rt!’.

After a couple of listens, the songs are catchy, however Taylor’s voice could be described as a little rough around the edges. Although soulful notes are reached on ‘Mad 1 More Night’ with a high register reminiscent of (but not quite as magnificent as) neo-soul greats D’Angelo and Kem, his control on some of the melodies could stand to be more polished – especially on the ballad ‘Way I Feel’.  For me, the album starts to pick up in the latter half, with beat-heavy numbers like ‘Fairgame’ and the catchy ‘Blueprint’.

Standout tracks are the opening song ‘Hands 2 myself’ and ‘The Way It Is’, both produced by Khari Cain aka Needlz, who has worked with names like Talib Kweli, Ludacris, 50 Cent and Lupe Fiasco to name just a few. ‘Hands 2 myself’ was the first single from the album, quietly released back in December ’09.  It has a current sound and – even though it makes use of the dreaded autotune – it works, making it a great choice for a single release. ‘The Way It Is’ is also definitely a favourite.

The majority of the album is produced by Twizz, who has made songs for MIMS, Rashaan Patterson and Tamela Mann.  ‘Another Life’ is a lovely, soulful love song comparable with Maxwell and the closing track ‘Let Me Love U’ soars and really does Taylor’s tenor voice justice.  The song plays to a woman’s fantasy of having a man who will soothe the hurt received from past unworthy lovers, as Taylor offers: “Why don’t you just let me love you. Just open up and let me in/Come with me to forever, where you’ll never be hurt again.” The electric guitar and drums give it a soul-rock feel and it’s a great ending to the album.

The Philadelphia native made a video last year for ‘Press Pause’, which is the second single following the re-release of the album:

It’s an amusing song about a woman getting too comfortable – leaving toothbrushes behind and drawers on the bathroom floor  – all sorts!  Although the concept of the track is interesting and relatable, the execution lacks finesse and the chorus sounds more amateur than hit-worthy.  For me, it was lost amid the other songs on the album. Hopefully subsequent singles will be better chosen.

Overall there’s a good mix of up-tempo and calm, soulful songs to keep listeners’ attention.  If you’re a fan of artists like Raheem Devaughn and Dwele, then this is an album for you – although be prepared to work a little harder to sink onto the songs as Taylor’s vocals aren’t as smooth as those of some other neo-soul artists out there.

A good effort and, even though I feel that it’s an album with more fillers than singles, I’ll will be in rotation on my playlist for a while.

–Amber Yeshpaul

Russell Taylor performs this Thursday in London at Aesthetic Sounds, alongside Choklate – click for event details.

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