Raheem DeVaughn

A Place Called Love Land

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Artistically and commercially, Raheem DeVaughn's time with Jive/Zomba closed on a high note. The Love & War MasterPeace, his third and final album for the label, debuted in the Top Ten of the Billboard 200 and received a Grammy nomination in the category of Best R&B Album. Nonetheless, DeVaughn moved to the independent Mass Appeal for an album titled (perhaps after consulting a Lonnie Liston Smith album title generator) A Place Called Love Land. There are no space princesses or golden enchantresses, but Love Land is stocked sky-high with slow material for bedrooms. "Ridiculous" is a falsetto ballad, sparsely ornamented to allow the light to shine squarely upon DeVaughn's awestruck but clear-minded pleading. Three consecutive tracks during the latter half are among the singer's best slow jams. "Greatest Love" (featuring Dru Hill's Larry "Jazz" Anthony), "Cry Baby," and "Make a Baby" all contain melodic twists that are subtle, lingering, and satisfying enough to wash out the occasional bluntly graphic couplet. No matter how boastful DeVaughn gets, a listener can feel as if she's being addressed directly pretty much all the way through. Even when DeVaughn sings "On the phone saying I love her, but in the bathroom there's another," as he does on "Wrong Forever," it's done as repentance. It's surprising that the newly independent DeVaughn, whose transition to a smaller budget is sonically transparent, doesn't let loose with some freewheeling funk like "Lose Control." That said, the throbbing "Love Connection," released as a single several months prior to the album, is his best uptempo song, as well as one of his catchiest concoctions. It didn't gain traction with radio -- a major shame.

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