Recording information: 116 Studios, Sacramento, CA, USA; Audio 7; Compound Studios; J2 Entertainment Studio, USA; The Sweat Shop, USA; WirlWide Studios.
Photographer: Dewayne Rogers.
Keith Sweat's first studio album since 2011 arrived as the singer's syndicated radio program, The Sweat Hotel, was approaching its tenth year. It could be deduced that the gig has sharpened Sweat's ears and pen, as Dress to Impress features his best round of songs in well over a decade. Beside a small cast of writing and production associates that includes Wirlie Morris and Derek Allen, Sweat focuses on romance and emotional connection. The album sounds fresh while drawing from numerous eras, just as the Sweat Hotel playlist roams from decade to decade. Most exemplary is "Just the 2 of Us," a duet with Takiya Mason that skillfully fuses classic Philly soul and "Make It Last Forever" without being too indebted to either one. As on the previous couple albums, background vocalists provide a lot of support, and Sweat's leads, more than ever, are about feeling more than technical prowess. Silk and Dru Hill, two groups whose success was due in part to Sweat's efforts, appear on separate tracks. The former enhance "Tonight," a sparkling traditional ballad co-written by Charlie Wilson. Speaking of legends, the pleading "Let's Go to Bed" concludes the album with a previously unutilized vocal from Gerald Levert. With its stream-fishing quantity of songs notwithstanding -- 16 cuts, well over an hour in duration -- Dress to Impress fulfills its intent. ~ Andy Kellman