I’m of two minds when it comes to today’s Morning Groove artist. On the one hand, he’s a very talented singer, capable of doing Sam Cooke-like tricks when he sings. On the other hand, he can waste that voice on some very weak and lazy material. And that’s not even discussing his personal issues outside of music; I’m speaking strictly of his musical talent. I’m going to try and keep his outside issues separate from this post, though I imagine for many it is difficult to compartmentalize the artist from his own life.
For me, at least when it comes to today’s Morning Groove, I’ve chosen the good R. Kelly. What’s good is that the singer and the song are good. Today’s Morning Groove is “If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time.”
On songs like this one, or “Step In The Name Of Love,” or on complete albums like Love Letter and Write Me Back, Kelly can sound as great as his imagination will allow him to. That’s not to say he doesn’t sound great on other songs, it’s that in his chase to make hits, he’s come up with material that doesn’t match the gift he has in that voice. I like a lot of those songs too: “Fiesta,” the “Ignition” remix, “Bump N’ Grind” (the original and the remix) for example are great R&B and/or Pop hits. But the material, at least to me, is less than stellar.
When I first heard this song, I remember thinking, “wow, this sounds like a song Sam Cooke would own if he sung it.” To me, this song reminds me of the great Cooke, one of the first great male singers in the R&B genre. It has that chorus that Cooke would give several of his signature “woah” vocal licks or ad-libs. While Kelly is an extremely talented vocalist, he doesn’t exactly sing the song the way Cooke would. He still gives an outstanding vocal though, one that I think Cooke would like.
Commercial considerations being what they are, there aren’t going to be too many albums from R. Kelly that sound like the ones I mentioned earlier, or songs like these featured as singles. Songs like these don’t get a whole lot of love in what currently passes for R&B or on stations that purport to play it. Maybe the urban adult contemporary stations would (and probably do) play songs like these, but there aren’t many of the songs those stations feature that do well on the R&B charts. Amazingly, this particular song actually made the R&B top 5, and just missed the Pop top 10 back in 1999. I think it would face a tougher road in today’s marketplace.
Enjoy today’s Morning Groove; and as always, thanks for listening and reading.