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Review Special: In The Ring – Laura Izibor v Chrisette Michele



So, two of the most anticipated albums of the first half of 2009 have been released.

Golden-girl Chrisette Michele has released Epiphany as the follow up to the outstanding debut I Am, and newcomer Laura Izibor has released her debut album Let The Truth Be Told.

Both of these albums created a huge buzz on the soul scene, bloggers and reviewers (including myself) couldn’t wait to get their hands on the finished products … now they are here, what is the verdict?

ROUND 1: The Voice

Both these ladies posess fantastic vocal ability. CM has a unique edge to her voice that the majority of soul music fans fell in love with on her debut. I have never seen her live but hear from very reliable sources that her material sounds fantastic when you get her on stage. On ‘I Am’ she declared that she had studied the greats before her such as Billie Holliday, Sarah Vaughn and Natalie Cole … this was easily believable with her mix of jazz, Soul, RnB and even a bit of hip-hop … her voice was flawless. LI is equally talented, even if she does not have such a distinguishable sound. If i had to describe her voice it would be Alicia Keys meets Jaguar Wright. I’ve heard live recordings of 3 of the tracks on her debut and she sounds as good, if not better than the studio versions.

ROUND 2: The Material

This is where it becomes a little easyier to distinguish between the 2 ladies. Simply put, LI’s material is much better than that on Epiphany. Opening track Shine is a great, upbeat summery song that makes you wanna clap your hands and sing along. Don’t Stay is an emotional track where she asks her other half to leave if he isn’t ready to commit to her. This is one of the tracks i’ve heard live and i wish they had toned down the production a little and made it more of an acoustic track, however it is still great. The slight hip-hop edge of From My Heart To Yours provides another upbeat track that i’m sure will make it as a single. Other standouts include If Tonight Is My Last (I remember reading that she was a huge fan of Marvin Gaye’s ‘If I Should Die Tonight’ which has a similar theme) and Mmm… where she is backed by an amazing gospel choir.

The majority of the material on Epiphany is best described as ‘forgettable’. First single Epiphany was a track i quite liked on first/second listen, however the more i listen to it the less i like it. ‘Notebook’ had me interested for a while, but that too faded to disinterest fairly quickly. One track that does stand out, for me at least, is the NeYo duet What You Do the lyrics are solid and the chorus is catchy without sounding like some run-of-the-mill RnB tune (i.e. the type NeYo usually produces)… however i do have to add the comment that it would have been so much better had she chosen someone like Anthony David or Rahsaan Patterson to sing with. When listening to Another One i kept expecting her to start singing ‘to the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left’ … it sounds a bit like a Beyonce reject. It’s not all bad though, Playin Our Song and Porcelain Doll are both great (worthy of places on her fantastic debut) and Mr Right revisits Be Ok territory with it’s upbeat jazzy hip-hopish production.

ROUND 3: Verdict

Before i state who i think the winner is (as if it is not obvious already!) i just want to say that i do admire CM and i’ll be a fan no matter what. ‘I Am’ was verging on genius, in my opinion, and she has somewhat avoided the dreaded sophomore-slump that so many artists fall prey to (this album is still better than 99% ofthe mainstream music out there). It’s not that Epiphany is bad album, it’s just that she is capable of much, much more. The inclusion of NeYo, i feel, was a bit of a mistake. Yes, he produces/writes RnB tracks that are adored by millions all over the world, however his pop/RnB stylings are not suited to CM. On this album she has lost the jazz inflected soulfulness that she captured on I Am and instead went for a more watered down, straight up RnB/pop album that may appeal to the mainstream, but may alienate some of her original fanbase.

My rambling about Epiphany may have somewhat taken away from the excellance of Let The Truth Be Told … I hope that is not the case. Laura Izibor has put together a well crafted, soulful debut that should appeal to both mainstream listeners aswell as those who favour underground/indie soul artists. Every song on the album is a gem, and i’m sure it will be an album i return to again and again.

I suppose there isn’t really any need to say this but if you only buy one of these albums, make it Let The Truth Be Told.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. thaconoisseur permalink
    12/05/2009 2:29 pm

    I am with you on this one FGB. 😀

    I love Chrisette, however I feel that this album is a straight up pop album with a few sprinkles of other genres (hip hop and r&b), where as I Am was a definite in your face soul debut. Chrisette is no joke and I do hope she does well with the album regardless, because we do not have enough songstresses like her in the game, with her caliber. She is THE TRUTH live, which really changed my mind regarding some of the songs on Epiphany.

    As for Laura, she did good. She really came out strong on her debut, so I do feel she is off to a good start. I LOVE “From My Heart To Yours” that song has a kick! And the rest of the album is tight as well, so I do hope she gets recognized for a job well done.

  2. 12/05/2009 2:52 pm

    I also hope that Chrisette does well with the album. As i mentioned it’s still much better than alot of stuff that passes for RnB/Soul these days, and maybe this album will get her name out there to the masses.

    I just hope that her next album has more in common with I Am than Epiphany.

    As for Laura … I think it’s fair to say that a potential star has been born!

  3. 14/05/2009 8:10 pm

    Interesting to pit these two against each other in the ring.

    You already know my thoughts on this. I think CM’s album is a sophomore slide as opposed to a complete slump. There are really no standout, knock me in the gut songs that I expect to still be singing years from now as I have with her debut. She went darker on this one and it didn’t work like it did for say, Badu. However as I’ve said before, CM can do no wrong. I think I’ll love them more live.

    Laura is the truth. I need to spend more time on her album because it didn’t grab me on first listen like it did live. She is an outstanding performer and I urge everyone to see her live when she comes to your city. I plan to see her next month either in DC or Philly.

  4. politicallyincorrect permalink
    14/05/2009 9:46 pm

    CM advantage is that she sounds like CM and no one else. Is Laura gonna be able to shake the Alicia Keys comparisons? From the videos to the music, it looks like an Irish Akeys to me. Its not bad but its not a sound either

  5. politicallyincorrect permalink
    14/05/2009 9:46 pm

    not a new sound

  6. 15/05/2009 2:11 pm

    @Vivrant Thang: I agree re: a slide vs. a slump. It’s just disappointing because i loved her debut so much! She will always be on my WBW (Will Buy Whatever) list … along with MJB, Badu and a couple of others.

    I think there is a VERY strong case for Laura releasing a live version of the album (like Badu/Jill SCott did). I think the slightly more acousric versions of the songs would go down well!

  7. 15/05/2009 2:18 pm

    @ politicallyincorrect: I see your point … however i do feel Laura has the ability to shake off the AK comparisons. She is a very talented songwriter as well as a singer (i know, i know so is AK) but her voice, to me at least, is distinct (I know i used AK as a comparison myself which in hindsight wasn’t the best idea).

    As for CM, i agree wholeheartedly that she has a distinct voice and that’s waht sets her apart from her peers. However it wasn’t only the sound of her voice, it was her music and her ‘style’ of singing (i.e. the mix of jazz and soul), which i think is lacking on this album. Here she seems to have gone the RnB/pop route which i think for her is a mistake (i still wish her all the best and hope album 3 is more similar to I Am).

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