If you're discouraged with the state of modern R&B (and you have every reason to be with the rubbish that gets played on the radio), a little searching will lead you to the good stuff still being made these days. As with every genre of music, there is quality material out there, it just takes time to find it because chances are, commercial radio isn't giving it to you.
Case in point Daniel Merriweather. Best known as the vocalist on Mark Ronson's "Stop Me", Merriweather enlists the help of Ronson as producer on his debut solo release "Love & War". Retro-soul sensations The Dap Kings (who, of course, record with Sharon Jones as well as providing back-up to a number of other artists, including Amy Winehouse), are behind Merriweather here as well on this collection of vintage soul and R&B.
Merriweather's voice often recalls Terence Trent D'arby, especially on tracks like "Impossible" and "Chainsaw", but he is far from just a talented vocalist. He wrote the majority of the songs on the album and it is chock full of perfect slices of 60's soul, from the horns, to the incredibly funky basslines, to the inescapable melodies and harmonies. Ballads like "For Your Money" and "Giving Everything Away For Free" are awash in lovely string arrangements, as is a duet with the equally talented Adele entitled "Water And A Flame".
There are equal amounts of funkier moments on "Love & War" as well, with "Impossible" and "Could You" the standouts. But the album's shining moment is the ballad "Red". Start with Merriweather's soaring vocal performance, build on lush strings and add a melody to die for and you have a modern soul classic.
The only major mis-step on the album is "Change", a track ruined by the unnecessary addition of the rapper Wale. His tacked on raps stick out like a sore thumb on a retro soul release, they truly serve no purpose here and drag the song down.Luckily, that is just one out of thirteen songs. "Love & War" is not a masterpiece, but it is as impressive a debut in this genre as I've heard, and one of the best soul releases of 2010.
"Love & War" was released February 23, 2010 in the U.S. on J Records.