Recording information: 5 Walls, Dallas, TX; Wisdom Palace, Hillsborough, NJ.
Jaheim's time with Atlantic was basically as productive as his earlier Warner Bros. phase. For both labels, he released three albums. All six went Top Ten R&B. Despite commercial radio's increased marginalization of soul-rooted R&B, not one of the releases contained a stylistic concession. Album seven, released on the singer's reactivated Julia's Dream label (named in honor of his mother) through Primary Wave/BMG Rights Management, adds to the uniform discography. Jaheim does switch it up by employing a mostly new set of producers and musicians for support, and they duly serve up a fresh-sounding mix of songs based in traditional R&B. On "Songs to Have Sex To," he acknowledges his inspirations more explicitly than before, citing "Teddy P., Luther V." first among a list of classic balladeers, like a less silly but still humorous update of Twista, Jamie Foxx, and Kanye West's "Slow Jams." The album also continues Jaheim's tradition of referencing classic R&B ballads. This time, it's the Deele's "Two Occasions," embellished with a generous rhythmic bump to complement a yearning (well, thirsting) vocal. As much as the pure sound of his voice remains roughly 65-percent Vandross, 35-percent Pendergrass, the singer's flow is still his own, as his ability to deliver an explicit line without the slightest smirk. The way he completes a couplet that begins with "Let's cuddle to a flick" confirms that there should be a term defined as "Rewinding a Jaheim recording to confirm what he sang, only to conclude 'Of course that's what Jaheim sang.'" Those who can't stomach the foolishness nonetheless get some prime ballads resulting in no split sides, including the sparkling "If Someone Asks" and the nearly rending likes of "Something Tells Me" and "Back in My Arms." ~ Andy Kellman