Joe Keeps Things Grown & Sexy on ‘Bridges’
R&B singer Joe is incredibly prolific in his output, particularly as of late. Once an extremely successful multi-platinum major label artist, following 2007 album Ain’t Nothin’ Like Me, Joe has released new albums, independently distributed, nearly annually. After one of his best indie offerings bowed in 2013 (DoubleBack: Evolution of R&B) Joe returns in 2014 with another adult contemporary R&B effort in Bridges.
“Future Teller” kicks off Bridges, hearkening back to classic R&B given its enthusiastic, sunny, and soulful quality. Actually, “Future Teller” doesn’t sound far removed from the neo-soul of say R. Kelly’s Chocolate Factory from 2003 (think “Step in the Name of Love”). It’s nothing ‘brand new,’ but a solid opening act. “Dilemma” proceeds enjoyably, embracing more modern R&B without compromising Joe’s old-school sensibilities. Vocally, Joe shines, particularly his falsetto and gritty ad-libs.
“Do A Little Dance” keeps things grown-n-sexy, intact with those sexy guitars and a lush, urban sound. “If You Lose Her” doesn’t miss a beat, with it playful strings and anchoring bass line. Joe keeps things smooth and sensual, leading into his boldest statement of Bridges, the playful “Sex Ain’t A Weapon.” Joe confidently addresses to his girl, “You can’t use sex as a weapon, ‘cause sex ain’t a weapon.”
Joe follows up DoubleBack’s “Love & Sex” with a sequel, “Love & Sex Pt. 2” featuring Kelly Rowland (Fantasia was featured on the original). Mid-tempo in the 80s adult contemporary R&B vein, even though “Love & Sex Pt. 2” is throwback and old-fashioned, it still has a freshness and appeal about it. Joe and Rowland sing the track well if nothing else.
On “Blame Her Broken Heart,” Joe takes all the responsibility for his ex’s broken heart, detailing her sadness. “If I ran into her today, I wonder /what would I do and what would I say,” Joe introspects regretfully on the bridge. After breaking hearts, Joe flatters ‘her’ on “First Lady,” a mid-tempo, danceable, feel-good joint. Like the majority of Bridges, the vibe remains ‘classic’ without the song itself being considered as a classic.
“Take it to the House” keeps the groove danceable, and the tone ‘sexy,’ hence why Joe asks his love interest, “can we take it, take it, take it to the house?” Things slow down for the retro-soul standout “Till the Rope Gives Way,” arguably the most meaningful and dedicated track from Bridges. Vocally, Joe gives his all, exemplifying his investment for the lyrics that he sings. The thoughtful “The Rest Will Follow” keeps energy and emotion on the ‘up and up,’ giving Joe consecutive standouts.
“Mary Jane (Remix)” receives an assist by 50 Cent, keeping things pleasant and soulful (the track contains a replay of Rick James’ classic). Title track “Bridges” arrives as the thirteenth track, in the form of a cool, six-eight adult contemporary R&B joint that lies as well as anything else. “Love Sex Hollywood” is another danceable joint for the grown-n-sexy crowd. Still, younger folks will dig it’s the third song with ‘sex’ in the title.
Penultimate track “For Love” continues Joe’s chivalrous nature – think the dedication of “Till the Rope Gives Way,” only with a quicker tempo and a key change. Closing joint “Love Undefeated” – track sixteen for those counting – opts for socially-conscious soul. Definitely, it’s a tribute of sorts. It’s a thoughtful flip of the script.
Ultimately, Bridges gives R&B’s most prolific indie artist another enjoyable, well-conceived effort. The album lacks flash or innovation, but that doesn’t degrade the quality or Joe’s masterful vocal performances. At over an hour, Bridges goes a bit long in duration. Some cuts likely could have made it just as effective, if not even more so. Still, Bridges is what you call a solid, enjoyable, old school R&B album.
Gems: “Dilemma,” “Sex Ain’t A Weapon,” “Love & Sex Pt. 2,” “Till The Rope Gives Way,” “The Rest Will Follow” & “Bridges”