Forever Charlie

by: Charlie Wilson

After five enjoyable 2000-2013 releases, a point at which Charlie Wilson could have been forgiven for delivering a poor or merely respectable album, he made one that's just as pleasing and upbeat as any solo work that preceded it. Wilson might be short on ideas for album titles, but uplifting love songs -- many of which were made with wife Mahin Wilson and producer Greg Pagani -- continue to flow, and the singer's voice remains an energizing force. There are hints of nostalgia sprinkled throughout, like the gentle nod to the Gap Band's "Outstanding" in "Just Like Summertime," and a more overt reference to Carl Carlton's "She's a Bad Mama Jama" in "Sugar.Honey.Ice.Tea." The second half of the album gets an extra boost from a now-routine appearance from Snoop Dogg and some guitar from Pleasure's Marlon McClain, as well as writing and production from Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. That latter duo, sometimes joined by the Avila Brothers and Val Young, assists on three songs, including a driving synth-funk jam that recalls Yarbrough & Peoples' "Don't Stop the Music" (a song that deeply involved Gap Band collaborator and supporter Lonnie Simmons) and their own work with the S.O.S. Band. Oh, and there's a reference to "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" in there too. Cynics could take it all as relying upon past glories, but the material is too fresh-sounding, too joyous, to disregard. ~ Andy Kellman

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