Charlie Wilson – Just Charlie | Album Review

Not many people know that Charlie Wilson is one my very favourite singers ever. He inspired early ’90s R&B vocalists such as Aaron Hall and R. Kelly with his musical output from the ’70s and ’80s alongside his brothers in the magnificent Gap Band. Since the turn of the century, he has made appearances on music by The Neptunes, Snoop Dogg and most recently with Kanye West.

On the whole I have enjoyed his feature appearances. His album releases have unfortunately not impressed me half as much; Charlie, Last Name Wilson and Uncle Charlie haven’t touched me anywhere near his earlier output. I’m sorry to say, Just Charlie is a continuation of my yearning for a return to an Uncle Charlie that resembles his former self.

I think the problem I have with this album is I find it very pedestrian. I found myself listening through to it and most of the songs seemed to meld into one another. Not only that, but it seemed at times that Charlie Wilson, an innovator and influence to the forefathers of R&B music, is now chasing the pack, and I feel he doesn’t need to. This type of music doesn’t really suit a 57 year old and part of me feels he’d be better off trying to shift these songs off to the Chris Browns and Trey Songz of the industry. No one song made me feel more like this than ‘Lotto.’

‘You Are’ is the single from this album, with a recently released video to accompany it. Although it has nothing new to offer us sonically, I believe the chorus is well written as it is melodically and harmonically strong. The great thing about this song is that it is full of Charlie Wilson-isms, those infamous vocal ad-libs that belong exclusively to him.

‘I Wanna Be Your Man,’ features Fantasia and is a cover of the Roger Troutman classic. We see no real raise on the original from either Wilson or Fantasia and it floats aimlessly to a close without having any real effect on the listener. I’m a lover of the original song and much of Zapp & Roger’s work and this version didn’t do the original any justice, although the vocal run from Wilson near the end is something even Roger Troutman would have some trouble playing on his talkbox and is proof that Wilson is still an absolute beast of a vocalist.

‘Crying For You’ doesn’t fully deliver to it’s potential, however the groove is a lot nicer than some of the others on this album. ‘I Can’t Let Go’ initially has a promising old school vibe in it’s production, however, it doesn’t deliver to the standard it tricks you into believing it will at the jump.

In my opinion, the standout track is ‘Never Got Enough’ which sees Uncle Charlie in more familiar territory with a playful lead synth and strong drum track. It’s uptempo and funky and, although the lyrical content (like much of the other songs on this album) is predictable, the song seems more like the kind of attire that looks good on someone of Charlie Wilson’s musical legacy.

It saddens me to say Charlie Wilson has once again disappointed me with this album, yet I continue to enjoy his features. This leaves me wondering what Charlie Wilson could potentially create if he hooked up with his collaborators on his own albums and once again became an innovator instead of an imitator. I’m off to listen to some Gap Band!

Just Charlie is out now via Jive Records.