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Album Review

Kem, 'Intimacy'

August 16, 2010

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On Kem’s first record in five years, he will, no doubt, seduce all female listeners as he promises to kiss his lover’s toes on the sensuous “Human Touch.’’ But this 12-song set runs much deeper than what most male R&B artists offer up as late night, lights-down fare. In fact, that song is more about the point where sensuality and spirituality converge. On first listen, the disc seems unassuming because of its subtlety, but slowly it reveals its layers. The tracks about love, devotion, and transcendence are refreshingly honest and (mercifully) lacking in leering lasciviousness. “Share My Life’’ is emotionally true, while “Why Would You Stay’’ aches with real regret. Kem has developed as a vocalist, and he glides easily from upper to lower register (a few times offering Barry White-like murmurings). Throughout, the production hardly strays beyond the organic keyboards, guitar, and percussion ensemble; and the tight dynamic neatly mirrors the themes about the ties between two people. Kem, who’s had a troubled personal past, also offers up a couple of songs about staring down life’s obstacles, including the jazz inflected “Golden Days,’’ with its lithe spoken word interlude from Jill Scott. Reminiscent of Maxwell’s “BLACKsummers’night,’’ this CD marks a return to the real for today’s often sterile R&B scene. (Out tomorrow)

KEN CAPOBIANCO

ESSENTIAL “Human Touch’’