Eric Benet | Self titled
by Peggy Oliver
When an artist bears their soul in concert or in the studio, their devoted fans will quickly soak it up like a sponge. Crafting powerful, profound music is an arena that Eric Benet takes extremely seriously since the day he struck a mighty chord in the urban market twenty years ago with his solo debut, True to Myself. Three years later, this four-time Grammy winner began hitting his soulful stride in 1999 with the poignant “Spend My Life with You” with Tamia and “Sometimes I Cry”, along with at least one chart topping song represented on most of his seven studio releases. Though his calling card remains in the R&B/soul charts, his extraordinary musicality reflects in the depth of his arrangements, echoed from influences of Steely Dan, Stevie (Wonder) Ella (Fitzgerald), the Beatles and Queen. An artist who remains firm in controlling his recording and business destiny, Benet currently heads up Jordan House Records, where he signed fellow soulsters Goapele and Calvin Richardson.
Benet’s second effort under Jordan House and his latest self-titled CD relishes passionately about the complexities of romantic relationships, whether joyful or depressing. Aided by his longtime associate Demonte Posey, Benet exercises that soulful dexterity, beginning with the top 5 Urban AC single, “Sunshine,” a smooth R&B jam about trying to rekindle a broken down relationship: “I’m not questioning love’s devotion/But there’s an emptiness in my heart…” As a special bonus, Tamia reunites with Benet on the remix side sparked with an edgier groove from the original organic version. Another old-school favorite, MC Lyte, contributes a biting rap for “Holdin’ Onto Me,” where deception rears its ugly head to an already doomed love affair: :”I was just practice….”. The bittersweet ballad, “Fun And Games” continues the down side of romance; “It’s all fun and games/Till someone breaks her heart.”
As for expressing love’s more triumphant side, “Can’t Tell U Enough” is a funky song of gratitude for being blessed in a solid relationship. Of course, Benet showers the extra sexy for “Insane” that injects a Prince-rock soul vibe and “Cold Trigger,” an eighties funk delight. “Run to Me,” featuring a tantalizing solo from trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, kicks in a lively fusion of Afro Cuban and R&B which highly favors Benet’s vocal textures and personality. “Home,” that balances pop and urban shades with its catchy guitar and piano hooks, declares there’s no place like home when it comes to everlasting love.
No matter what the tempo or the mood on this self-titled endeavor, Benet’s ear-catching tenor sets a high standard on every track. This is quite an impressive celebration surrounding Benet’s twentieth anniversary in dropping the soulful goods. Five out of five stars.
The Urban Music Scene