Charles Wright – Something To Make You Feel Good
R&B legend Charles Wright, composer of the seminal and frequently sampled track “Express Yourself”, continues to be on the abiding creative forces working within the genre. His latest full length release, Something To Make You Feel Good, is a powerhouse thirteen track offering that exuberantly echoes the past while remaining firmly planted in a vital present. This Clarksdale, Mississippi native might hail from the spiritual home of the blues, but his musical palette is much wider and resplendent with varied shades that far outstrip any easy labels. The collection is immaculately produced and highlights Wright’s various talents.
The opener “Answer to my Prayers” is a slice of beautifully simmering R&B soul favoring subtlety and nuance over heavy-handed overstatement. Wright’s voice plays well against tasteful backing vocals and he shows every bit of the phrasing command you’d rightfully expect from such a master. Wright isn’t afraid to indulge his audiences with some humorous, if still musically substantive, musical work. “Looking for an Ugly Woman” has to be heard in a certain light to gain a tight grasp of its merits. If you take it too seriously or straight, you lose the point. The real sad sack of the song, if there is one, is its narrator who thinks the only way he’ll get what he deserves is finding a woman too physically unattractive to fail appreciating him. The inventive bass playing and deep groove make it musically worthwhile, but it’s probably best listeners not take its lyrics very seriously. The multi-part vocal harmonies powering “Better Watch Out” are, arguably, the song’s most memorable component, but the careful and deliberate arrangement shows a sensibility for melody lacking in many young composers. It drives home one of the album’s central lessons – the abiding virtues of the genre can continue to thrive and gain the attention they deserve if addressed by artists deep and aware enough to frame them in sleek and modern frames. Wright does that on every song.
“She Don’t Believe In Love” is a romping funk number eliciting from Wright one of his most inspired performances on Something To Make You Feel Good. The quality driving this track illustrates another key point about the album – despite the melancholy subject matter underlying many songs, the music and individual performances never fail to capture a positive, eternally youthful energy. “Happiness” is cast in the same sunny mood and the forceful introduction of brass gives it additional melodic heft. “Throwing in the Towel” is one of the album’s most enjoyable later numbers, an irrepressible, driving song with percussive piano and an unique tempo. There’s ample humor here, as listeners will find elsewhere on Wright’s latest release, but it’s tempered with a certain restraint enriching its artistry. The album’s final song “Storybook” brings Something To Make You Feel Good to a surprising finale. Instead of slowing things down with some meditative curtain closer, Wright invokes a powerful funk groove to power his latest release home. Charles Wright is still a trailblazer and his idiosyncratic mix of talents grows more flavorful with every year.
9 out of 10 stars.