Kelly Price | Kelly

Kelly Price - Kelly

Kelly Price | Kelly
by Brent Faulkner

It is not unusual for artists who are namely R&B/soul artists to venture into the world of gospel. Oft times, the ‘change of pace’ is only for a season, with the occasional gospel release interspersed between R&B releases. Al Green and Aretha Franklin, both of whom have released gospel albums, for example, returned to their R&B ‘stomping ground.’ After her 2006 gospel departure (This is Who I Am), R&B singer Kelly Price returns with her first R&B album in eight years. The singer has always had a powerful, nuanced voice that straddled adult R&B and gospel, so it was not unusual for Price to release a gospel effort. The question was ‘would Price ever return to R&B?’ Thankfully for her most avid fans, Kelly answers that question with 2011’s polished Kelly. On Kelly, Price sounds as inspired as ever, channeling the greatness of her classic albums while also getting some contemporary inspiration from Mary Mary producer/songwriter Warryn Campbell.

“Tired” opens with album with luscious strings and commanding opening vocals by Price. What is notable about “Tired” is how the track slowly evolves into a quasi-gospel cut supported by beautifully harmonized background vocals. Sure, it could be argued the drama of the cut eclipses the depth of songwriting, but it is a superb way to ‘set the tone’ of Kelly. “And You Don’t Stop” may be considered the true first cut in purists mine, pairing Price with producer Warryn Campbell for the first time. The results are superb, with Price allowing her powerful vocals to shine across Campbell’s rhythmic production work.

“Not My Daddy” featuring Stokely of Mint Condition is superb, finding excellent vocal chemistry between him and Kelly. The bridge is incredibly dramatic, rousing emotion with heavy instrumentation and supportive background vocals. The chorus is pretty clever: “you’re not my daddy, you’re my man, and I think it’s time you understand, so just make me happy if you can, I’m not your momma I’m your girl…” “Himaholic” is another fine cut, particularly the chorus. “I’m Sorry” features great urban production work with the slightest hint of contemporary gospel – suitable for Price’s powerful voice. The only quibble may be that the track is too ‘melodramatic’ given so many abrupt switches in favor of more developed songwriting. Regardless, emotional performances have always fueled the Queens singer.

“The Rain” is a high point, incorporating the best of the urban and gospel worlds. The final portion of the cut is where the power lies, where Price allows here ‘big ole pipes’ to really excel and shine. “Vexed” is also valedictory, reuniting Price with Campbell for a couple of solid cuts. “Vexed” smartly mixes up the balladry formula, opting for an uptempo funky cut that accentuates Price’s best vocal qualities. “Speechless” and “Feel So Good” are also Warryn Campbell contributions, both working well without being overt ‘highlights.’

“You Don’t Have to Worry” may not strike one as a hit upon an initial listen, but once all the pieces are sorted out, this cut is as ‘fiery’ as anything else. Creative and solid songwriting contribute to the success of this cut. The best line: S“scream and shout, but do it while I’m on my way out, act a fool, but that won’t make me stay here with you, silly rabbit, I thought you knew the “tricks” were for kids, and I’m a full grown woman.” “Lil Sumn-Sumn” is solid, giving the album a nice ‘old-school’ sound. Closing cut “Get Right or Get Left” ends this effort on a high note.

Kelly is a solid, top-notch R&B album. It may not win over ‘the new generation’ of R&B fans who prefer gimmickry over vocal prowess per say, but it will please an audience of R&B purists who yearn for electrifying vocals, traditional R&B sounds, and emotional performances. There are no overt misses, only cuts better than others making Kelly one of the year’s best urban efforts.

Brent Faulkner
The Urban Music Scene