Volume 93, Issue 27

Tuesday, October 19, 1999


Shamus in league of her own

Reiner tells a candid story worth listening to

Exhibit shows many Faces of art

McKnight ignites R&B

McKnight ignites R&B

Brian McKnight
Back At One

Following in the footsteps of great Motown crooners Marvin Gaye and Al Green, Brian McKnight is one of the throwbacks to the current R&B soundscape.

Combining a voice, which is as smooth as satin sheets, with the ability to involve himself in every portion of the song creation process, McKnight makes the listener feel the blood, sweat and tears he has poured into every track. His newest sonic purging, Back At One, is yet another one of his efforts which succeeds from start to finish – a claim one can make of few albums.

One of McKnight's secrets to success is his ability to sound original and classic at the same time. Drawing from a vast musical repertoire, including everyone from the Motown label down to recent crooners like Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond, McKnight learns from his elders, then travels in his own directions to create a truly unique sound.

Much of Back At One showcases his classic R&B education, including tracks such as "Last Dance," "Back At One" and "6, 8, 12."

Besides exhibiting meaningful lyrics as well as soulful bass, keyboard and guitar grooves (all of which McKnight plays himself), the appeal of the McKnight tracks is his ability to manipulate a note without breaking it.

Many of his predecessors in the modern R&B genre take their lyrics past the point of absurdity, holding onto them with white-knuckled grips in order to highlight their admittedly talented voices – McKnight doesn't need to prove his vocal gift in this manner.

Few flaws, if any, exist in Back At One. However, one noticeable speed bump in the smooth McKnight highway is his attempt to pump up the grooves and turn into something he's not – namely, a Ginuwine/Tyrese/R. Kelly sex machine. Much of the blame for tracks like "Played Yourself" and "Stay or Let It Go" falls on producer Rodney Jerkins, who is used to working with a different style.

It sounds like Jerkins had difficulty manning the sound boards for a singer with more to his resume than a set of rock hard abs and armfuls of tattoos. McKnight works best at a soulful pace, taking his time to sculpt rich sounds instead of sputtering out lyrics to keep pace with militant computer generated beats.

All in all, Back At One remains a truly memorable effort – one destined to remain in constant replay on the stereos of R&B enthusiasts everywhere. One must be warned, however, that playing this album with a significant other in amorous situations may result in moving and grooving of a more delicate nature.

–Luke Rundle

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Copyright The Gazette 1999