Imported Volume 1.5

Oct 12, 2005 at 12:00 am

Detroit is a hotbed for noncommercial talent, so it’s timely that Cello — an unabashedly mainstream R&B singer from the Motor City via the Bahamas — is waving a radio-friendly flag, and is headed straight for Billboard’s R&B charts.

This picks up where his 2004 debut, Imported, left off. It’s cleanly produced and slickly packaged, complete with relaxed arrangements and a Caribbean twist. Cello’s vocals and arrangements recall D’Angelo, but he distinguishes himself with bits of heavy dancehall DJing over tracks driven by crisp kick drums, and staccato bass and guitar licks.

The guitar-driven “Shorty Got It!” kicks the album into gear, but Cello quickly downshifts to the smooth and easy “Hot Butta Soul” and “Can’t Deny.” “Brutha (I Luv Ya)” is a respectable spin on Angie Stone’s 2003 hit, “Brother.” “You Used To,” “Can’t Deny” and “It’s Over” all feature the dancehall cameos — the first two are funky, but “It’s Over” is angry and sounds too forced, its vibe tired. The album loses steam on “Mami Mami,” which is dated by seven years (think R. Kelly’s “Fiesta”). Of 14 full songs, 12 can sound-track any date. Good album.

Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].