The continuing rise and recognition of Ledisi Anabade Young has continued apace in recent years, receiving recognition from Michelle Obama, singing at the VH1 Divas showcase, and appearing on numerous magazine covers as a highly visible advocate of black female empowerment and fashion. The journey from her first group Anibade, through to 'Soulsinger: The Revival' (2000), 'Feeling Orange But Sometimes Blue' (2002), 'Lost & Found' (2007), 'Turn Me Loose' (2009) and 'Pieces Of Me' (2011) has seen her voice reach a growing audience. Now in 2014 she releases 'The Truth', available as a standard or deluxe edition, which features three extra tracks. This review will encompass the deluxe edition version.
The album opens with the gentle groove of 'I Blame You', already established as a firm favourite on the UK soul scene, managing to meld melody, dance floor compatibility and her powerfully emotive voice, which soars beautifully over the song's coda, with Jazz references found in the scatting end. The pace shifts up for 'Rock With You', clearly aimed at the clubs, replete with a very bright sounding electronically driven production. 'That Good Good' is largely percussive driven affair, with Ledisi in an assertive mode over a dipping bass line and handclaps. 'Lose Control' sees the pace drop, with her voice promising her intended beau a night of fulfillment, weaving over a steady slow rhythm with subtle vocoder shading as an accompaniment (with a possible H-Town melodic reference towards the end). Certainly an early stand out, and 'Like This' continues the mature friendly vein, with a greater degree of lyrical sophistication and a production which hints (through the piano) at late 1970s production, although Hip Hop is referenced through the lift from 'La Di Da Dee' (the B Side to Doug.E Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew's 'The Show' (1985)) which provides the song's title. The cavern like production on 'Anything' is clearly designed to emphasize the song's portentously intended message. 'The Truth' shifts production sounds again, offering another standout moment, with gorgeous melodic underpinning providing all the required space for her voice to do what it does best - simply sing. 'Missy Doubt' is an idiosyncratic song choice here, of the type prevalent in the bright shiny world of pop music. This may well undergo some restructuring and remixing in the future. 'Can't Help Who You Love' returns the album to more adult orientated fare and soundscapes, and it makes perfect sense as a track to end the standard album.
For the deluxe edition three tracks are added, 'Mine', which develops in to a strong groove reminiscent of the early 80s sound of electro-funk. 'I Swear' sees another change of gear, in a style which is markedly different to the earlier material on the album, and 'Quick Fix' is sparse and sexually charged.
So. Do you buy?
There is no doubting the power of Ledisi's voice, nor her apparent ability to communicate emotion with her voice. As a show case to her voice the album does offer a variety of settings, not all of which work equally well, with some evidence of vocal tuning and compression to be heard, rendering her beautiful tone a synthetic quality at odds with much of her earlier work. Some of the material appears to be intended to introduce her voice to a wider (and possibly younger) demographic. In the accompanying liner notes Ledisi writes of being grateful to the record label for allowing her the freedom to, '[...] create music and imagery that is a representation of ME', thus it would appear this continuing move to a wider audience is deliberate. The result as a listening experience, however, is to produce an uneven affair which offers all too rare fine moments and some generic sound-a-like songs that will be easily forgotten.
This certainly isn't her best work to date, and yet with that voice you could almost forgive her musical indiscretions. Almost.