Ledisi – Pieces Of Me | Album Review

Four time Grammy Award-nominated singer, songwriter and producer Ledisi returns with her highly anticipated fifth studio album Pieces of Me and we’ve not been able to put it down for the week or so that we’ve had it in our possession. It’s certainly not her previous LP Turn Me Loose, and why would it be? It doesn’t need to be because she’s already done that and fans that were expecting another record in that same vein will be disappointed but only for a short while as Pieces of Me proves to stand on it’s own as a definitive body of work showing progression, growth and certainly a more mature outlook than it’s predecessors.

The album starts off beautifully with the album’s titled track and lead single, an easy but effectual piano-driven ballad produced by Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly upon which Ledisi proclaims her many different sides, complexities and strengths as a woman.

Pieces Of Me” gently eased into what is an early contender for one of the stand-out songs on the album – the Rex Rideout and Ledisi-produced “So Into You.” This is a well crafted R&B slow jam in every sense of the word with gentle keyboard chords, drum patterns and guitar strings complimenting Ledisi’s lush vocals and “love-struck” lyrics rather beautifully while a glorious guitar solo, two-thirds of the way through the song, with interjected adlibs and backing harmonies from Ledisi adds much panache to this record about falling head over heels for that someone.

Pieces of Me is well and truly into its stride by the time the second of four of Ledisi’s collaborative composition works with Rex Rideout comes right around. The Jaheim featured “Stay Together” is the only song on the 12-track album that features a guest artist/vocalist and this rather faultless collaboration is easily my favorite song on the album. Ledisi and Jaheim trade splendid verses, harmonies and adlibs perfectly over this easy breezy Summery Rideout-provided musical backdrop in this well-balanced R&B duet for the lovers.

Rex Rideout and Ledisi collaborate beautifully again on the Blues-infused soulfully soul number “Hate Me” which sees Ledisi painstakingly and passionately sing about how her lover hates her because he’s ever so addicted to her and how he can never get enough of her. Ledisi’s vocals on this record are so very exquisite with the R&B singer showing more of her incredible vocal range on “Hate Me” than she has on the album so far.

Shut Up” and “Shine” follow after “Hate Me” to great effect with a well transitioned move from Blues to contemporary R&B – the Mike City produced up tempo “Shut Up” sees Ledisi in full frontal fierce mode and addressing the naysayers/haters over this lavish backdrop led by thriving kick drums and keyboard arrangements while the wonderfully produced “Shine” which Ledisi also co-produces is her ode to a significant other or loved one for encouraging her, protecting her and holding her down – basically letting her “shine.”

Ledisi – “Shut Up”:

The final third of the album begins with the supple and tender “I Miss You Now” produced by Phatboiz and sees Ledisi show us a much more vulnerable side to her than we’ve seen through out this album – a side she gave us a glimpse of on the album’s opener. Over soft keyboard chords and gentle kick drum patterns, Ledisi sings shamelessly and painfully about missing her lover, needing him back and wanting to come back home to him. Ledisi takes us to church in excellent ’50s/’60s Soul music fashion on “BGTY (Be Good to Yourself)” over another dreamy blues musical backdrop – this time provided by Salaam Remi. The piano-driven 2-step ballad is packed with signature inspirational lyrics and a powerful vocal performance from Ledisi.

Worth mentioning is the mid-tempo motivational number “Bravo” – which (at times) tends to lean a little towards the R&B sound of current times with the use of signature syths, layered keyboard chords and a heavy bassline but still remains a Ledisi record through and through as Jon Traxx and Claude Kelly on production never over do it with the typically unnecessary shenanigans and Ledisi completely owns this song to give an uplifting and inspiring message. Another song worth mentioning is the album’s final track “I Gotta Get To You” which is as a true R&B slow jam should be – lingering, affectionate and makes you long desperately for that lover plus if you’ve ever been in a long distance relationship or are in one now, you will especially be able to relate to this song.

As if to “save the best for the last” and confined to a bonus track position, Ledisi provides us with a very excellent remake of Aretha Franklin’s 1965 classic record “One Step Ahead” (also popularly sampled by Mos Def for “Ms. Fat Booty”) to ride out her album. By remaining faithful and keeping as close to the original record as she could, Ledisi pays perfect homage to The Queen of Soul and provides a beautiful ending for what is a beautiful listening experience and journey.

I really like the album as a whole and apart from “Raise Up” which does not quite grab me on any level at all and “Coffee” which sounds more corny and uncomfortable than enjoyable and sexy, Pieces of Me is a stellar and well crafted R&B album from Ledisi. In an age and time where questions are constantly asked about R&B as a genre – where it went, if it is dead and all that malarkey – Ledisi comes through with a beautiful reminder of what R&B truly is and what it should be and a firm declaration that true R&B music never went anywhere but that’s not all Ledisi does.

More importantly, what Ledisi does on this album is put herself – as a woman, a lover, a fighter, an artist, a composer, a human being – all the way out there with beautifully penned and arranged personal and forthright songs about love, friendship, relationships, sex, self-assurance, life-assurance in a fluently mature, passionate and meaningful way – a way that only Ledisi can.

Ledisi – Pieces Of Me
Released: June 14, 2011
Label: Verve Music
Buy: iTunes US / Amazon US

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