Album: Cee Lo Green, The Lady Killer (Elektra)
Back in 2004, long before his hook-up with Danger Mouse in Gnarls Barkley, Cee Lo Green was proving himself modern R&B's renaissance man, equally adept behind mixing desk and microphone, on his landmark nu-soul album Cee Lo Green... Is The Soul Machine.
Since then, he's demonstrated the range of his talents primarily in the innovative environs of Gnarls Barkley, while his pension fund has been taken care of by writing and producing The Pussycat Dolls' unavoidable "Don't Cha". As he says in the introduction to this latest solo outing, "I'm often asked what I do for a living. My answer is, I do what I want."
And what Cee Lo likes doing more than anything is killing the ladies, in the nicest possible way. In "Satisfied", an obvious future hit single, he hopes his lady is unsatisfied, simply in order that he may satisfy her; while in "I Want You", his desire for freshness, both emotional and experiential, is generous to a fault: "I want you to run away with me, and experience something new". He's keen to please, but what's remarkable about "The Lady Killer" is that he manages to avoid all the bubblebath boudoir-soul cliches that litter most R&B albums. Instead, he shifts gears creatively throughout, slipping from the David Holmes-style cinescape funk of the opening "Lady Killer Theme" to the celebration of noirish urbanity that is "Bright Lights Bigger City", with shimmering 007 strings riding on what sounds suspiciously like the bassline to "Billie Jean"; then belly-flopping into the monster hit "Forget You" (later reprised in its ruder original incarnation).
"Forget/Fuck You" is cut from the same cloth as OutKast's towering "Hey Ya!", with the chunky, whip-smart groove and the chiming highlights triggering similar Motown memories, while the sheer ebullience of Cee Lo's vocal, brimful of scalded bonhomie, just grabs you by the throat. And the way he manages to slip in a few slick asides, such as "I guess he's Xbox, and I'm more Atari", is sheer genius. Yet even when he pushes the Motown buttons again, as in "Cry Baby", and "It's OK", it's done with such panache and wit that staleness never becomes an issue: rather than just footnotes to the source inspiration, these are fully rounded artworks in their own right.
Elsewhere, elements of Bobby Womack and Curtis Mayfield can be glimpsed in the delivery and arrangements of tracks such as "I Want You" and "Bodies", the latter building cleverly upon the lady-killer metaphor: "They said that chivalry was dead/Then why was her body in my bed?" At the opposite extreme, stylistically, is "Please", in which organ, glitchy beat and Cee Lo's reflective vocal are stirred into a brooding plea for love that could have come from the last Tricky album. Except that Tricky isn't the heir apparent to the great Southern soul stylists like O. V. Wright and Solomon Burke – the latter unavoidably brought to mind on the deep soul ballad "Old Fashioned", in which Cee Lo admits, "My love's old fashioned, but it still works the way it is". He's not lying, either.
DOWNLOAD THIS Fuck You; Satisfied; I Want You; Cry Baby; Please