02 October 2008

The BLOGTOBER 2008 Album Reviews (02 of 23) Terrence Howard, Shine Through It

I know, I know, Terrence Howard? Realy!? Really, really?!? Sure, why not?

Terrence Howard, Shine Through It [Zune.net, Amazon]

This ain't no joke, he clearly takes this seriously and isn't just cashing in on his fame. It's a challenging album, completely out of sync with the current Soul/R&B music scene, which makes it kind of endearing. It's also more in love without itself than it deserves to be, but that's not a completely bad thing for an album or an artist.

1) Love Makes You Beautiful
Could be a lost track from the first album of that other Terence (Trent D'arby). Howard's singing has the same raspy whisper his speaking voice often displays. He uses it to good effect on this track. Even the child chorus doesn't completely sink this song under the weight of its own pretentiousness. Don't get me wrong, definitely pretentious, just not sunk by it, still listenable, despite the absurd amount of seriousness.

2) Shine Through It
The title track, more strings, more children choruses sneaking in. Rocks out a bit after the bridge. Also includes some Sgt.Pepper-ery horns and the children chorus grows up into a full men's choir, interesting touch.

3) Mr. Johnson's Lawn
Get off my lawn you damn kids! OK, his singing on this song is hilarious. He does the opposite of a falsetto, he goes into a falsely deep register and adds a growl to his voice that isn't normally there (presumably he's playing his own father, or at least a father-figure). Don't let that affectation cause you to miss the really nice arrangement built up in this song. Plus, FLUTES! Can't go wrong with jazz-flute. Jazz-flute rock! (as previously discussed, hereabouts). The song's not done, either, it goes for a full latin vibe by the end completely different from the beginnning. Not bad at all (except for his vocals, they rankle a touch, but his normal voice would have sounded out of place with this arrangment, so I get why he does it).

4) Sanctuary
It's pretty pop this time, a touch beatles-esque (by way of late period Prince and the Revolution). Dude loves his strings, that's for sure. It's a pretty song, layered, driven by a very insistent beat, this song moves forward throughout. A bit bombastic (and insipid) lyrically, but you can't have everything.

5) No.1 Fan
Clock ticking, tinkly piano, and more strings, cause that's ROCK N' ROLL!!! Yeah, this is one to skip if you are buying these songs individually. It's waaaaay too theatrical. He's bringing all his actorly skills to his interpretation of this song, and it's ridiculous (and not in a so bad it's good way).

6) Spanish Love Affair
Naturally, with that title, you start the song with a bit of Spanish sounding guitar, anything else would have been a disappointment. But where to go after the extended flamenco-esque intro? Why more flamenco, of course, overlaid with a bit of Herb Albert-like brass action. Cheesy, but it works. Queso isn't always a bad thing. If that's him on guitar, he ain't bad (says in his bio that he's self-taught on piano and guitar).

7) Plenty
Interestingly soulful track. Reminds me a bit of someone you've never heard of (Bronx Style Bob), it's a solid track.

8) I Remember When
Whistling, and harmonica, and a bit of a doo wop feel. Nice change of pace. Kind of a throwaway, but the L'il Stevie Wonder-esque harmonica saves this song.

9) It's All Game
Talking intro, always got to have at least one song with a talking intro. Another quality jazzy track, other than the talking bit at the beginning, this is a smooth instrumental. Your like or dislike for this sort of thing in general will color your judgement of this track, I happen to enjoy this stuff in the right dosage. He's got a solid group of musicians around him, that helps, a lot. Could you hear something nearly identical at any good jazz club? Sure, doesn't make it bad.

10) She Was Mine
Seriously working the strings and the whistling again. A bit of a Minnie the Moocher feel to this track (musically, not lyrically). Has an old fashioned walking bass line mated with some strings, and his raspy voice. It's all a nice combination.

11) War
Not sure what to say on this track, it's got a big sound to it, a bit Broadway-ish in its feel, and his vocals are distorted through the first half of the song (as if played through a scratchy loudspeaker). The whole thing's got a nice big feel to it, even as it meanders a bit and really doesn't make any sort of coherent point thematically, lyrically, or musically.

So that was that, not a great album by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a decidedly unexpected album and while full of pretense and artifice, doesn't seem like a pure vanity project. It's got its problems, this album, but overall it's an enjoyable listen, unlikely to be exactly like anything else in your collection, and is a great change of pace. Don't expect perfection, but if you like something a little different (even if it's swamped a bit by its own ambitions), you should give it a listen.

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