Album Reviews

Jon B – Stronger Everyday

(Sanctuary Urban) UK release date: 14 March 2005

It seems that soul is having a renaissance, this first struck me when John Legend‘s Get Lifted found its way into my CD player. When Stronger Everyday arrived it hit me, it’s not just me who’s getting sick of plastic RnB. Rhode Islander Jon Buck (or more likely his distributors) have decided that the time is right to try and capitalise on this feeling in the UK and European markets.

His debut UK release begins in grandiose fashion with Everytime, which has the feel of a combined ‘intro’ track and a full-on track. It isn’t an awe-inspiring demonstration of Jon B’s vocal ability but there is an appearance from the late great Dirt McGirt (formerly known as O.D.B.) which is a poignant moment. Added to the Just Blaze production then it has all the required elements of a strong opener.

The lead single from the album, Lately, has a much clearer hip-hop feel to it and it is easy to see why it’s been chosen for the first release. The bass line is unusually hypnotic, juxtaposing soft and hard in an intriguing way. The clean vocals start to feel mesmerising. I’m Right Here continues this ambiance with its overtly eastern vibe.

It was only going to be a matter of time before the sexual tension began to surface in a big way – Jon B managed to last an impressive four full tracks before Hands On U. The content of that song was never really going to be all that surprising. Patient is more your traditional soulful love song but there is a slick little rap embedded in the familiar crooning.

You can always tell that one track on an album has ‘big things’ stamped all over it. From the first lick of What I Like About You, you can tell this is that one. The lyrical content does what it says on the tin really but with Babyface‘s input in production and vocals the song does no wrong. Not to let the quality slacken, Part 2 amalgamates Tupac and Jon B’s vocals to perfection.

The album’s title track Stronger Everyday is far too understated to honour the right although it is more of a nostalgic than a stand-out song. It takes things ‘back to the day’ while admitting that his lifestyle has changed: “All the ice in the world couldn’t buy me none of that old school love”.

Thru The Fire gives a ‘heads up’ to one of the queens of soul, sampling from Aretha Franklin‘s Precious Memories. It’s the most instrument-based track on the album with Jon B multi-tasking by taking over bass, drums and piano duties. The album tries desperately not to tail off and Lay It Down works so well in doing this.

It feels almost like closure with Before It’s Gone but then there’s the ritual of adding remixes to the end of an album – although the Lately dancehall remix is an interesting listen.

For a debut release this isn’t a bad effort, although the more observant will point out that Jon B has released an album in America previously, using some of the same material as Stronger Everyday. Unfortunately there’s not enough killer here and a bit too much filler.

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Jon B – Stronger Everyday