Charlie Wilson | Love, Charlie
by Brent Faulkner
R&B/Soul veteran Charlie Wilson returns with 2013 anticipated sixth solo album, Love, Charlie. Wilson continues an illustrious solo career following his tenure in the legendary The Gap Band, which spawned numerous hits in the late 70’s and 80’s. Love, Charlie interestingly, is the fourth consecutive album to feature the name ‘Charlie’ in its title, following Charlie, Last Name Wilson (2005), Uncle Charlie (2008), and Just Charlie (2010). Arguably his most reserved and conservative affair, Wilson keeps things ‘classic’ and ‘classy’. Executive producing himself, Wilson co-produces with Wirlie “Optimas Prime” Morris (Freddie Jackson, Keith Sweat), Gregg Pagani (Babyface), Emile Ghantous (Bobby V), Erik Nelson (Bobby V) , and Charlie “Phantom” Singleton.
Wilson is strongest when he is given free-reign to stretch his vocals to their fullest, most nuanced potential. Opener “If I Believe” allows him to accomplish this feat, beginning the album soundly with Wilson accompanied initially by only piano and a keyboard string patch. Wilson’s vocals are rich, warm and produce chills, particularly as he ascends in to his signature upper register as the cut evolves in emotional intensity. Promotional single “My Love Is All I Have” stands out amongst the rest, patterned after the lush adult R&B sensibilities of 2010 hit “You Are” without re-treading it. Wilson easily showcases his powerful instrument, enhanced by solid vocal production and vocal arrangement. On the clever “A Million Ways To Love You”, Wilson carries one of the most creative lyrical showings of Love, Charlie, fusing numerical knowledge with the ‘language of love’: “There’s only 60 seconds in a minute / 365 days a year / trying to find the words but they can’t compare / there’s a million way to love you…” “If I Believe”, “My Love Is All I Have”, and “A Million Ways To Love You” represent the elite of the effort.
Love, Charlie also features other bright spots. “I Think I’m in Love” hearkens back to the vintage R&B days of the 1950’s and 60’s, showcasing Wilson’s most overt nod to retro-soul (he was born in ’53). “Our Anniversary” also recalls the past, likened to an updated 70’s wedding song (think Heatwave’s classic staple “Always and Forever”). Closing cut “Whisper” features fellow lover-man Keith Sweat in what proves to be a memorable, powerful duet between two R&B vets. Also less notable numbers appear like the ok, though unexceptional adult R&B number in “Oooh Wee” or the ambitious, throwback funk of “My Baby” which comes ‘close’ if it just misses the mark.
For the most part, the good easily outweighs the bad on Love, Charlie. Honestly, there is no outright ‘bad’ cuts; some are more memorable than others. Wilson isn’t concerned about being innovative on this outing – no hip-hop collaborations – just presenting an amorous, thoughtful R&B set. It’s rarely flashy, but always consistent even at its safest. Most importantly, Wilson’s voice shines regardless of which of the 12 songs he performs; he’s in his ‘zone.’ And frankly, what does a near-sixty year old veteran need to prove artistically? On Love, Charlie, he’s just ‘chillin’ while flying on ‘autopilot.’
The Urban Music Scene