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R&B

Raheem DeVaughn

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January 22, 2008

Love Behind the Melody (Jive)

On the opening track of his new album, Raheem DeVaughn calls himself a neo-hippie soul rock star, which might make you think Lenny Kravitz is talking, but DeVaughn is just one super-smooth, throwback R&B vocalist. After his 2005 debut, DeVaughn ups the ante with a sprawling effort that works as a showcase for his lush vocals. In an era of studio-created voices, this is a step-back-and-listen-to-him-blow disc. And like his obvious influences, Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye, DeVaughn knows how to deliver a song. Unlike many peers, DeVaughn is in no rush to do so. These jams have a focus and ambition - in fact, "Mo Better" rolls out over eight minutes with DeVaughn swooping, swaying, and finding the sweet spot. He turns up the beat on the brisk "Shut the Club Down," which bows to another influence as it samples "My Girl," while the Scott Storch-produced "Energy" is vivid and infectious. The set is too long, absolutely no one can sustain 18 good tracks these days and the latter portion meanders, but the man behind the melody confidently steps front and center here. [Ken Capobianco]

ESSENTIAL "Energy"

'Sky' is by no means her limit

A lost treasure found alive

Love, slow

and easy

Around the world with Saba

Illuminating Southern rock's nuances

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