Breaking away from Goodie Mob for a major-label solo debut, Cee Lo follows the curious lead of OutKast, who had recently broken through big-time with Stankonia, and unleashes a willfully weird album that eschews rap clichés in favor of full-fledged songs that are more neo-soul than hip-hop. He'd always been more of a crooner than a rapper, of course, but the tattooed big man really lurches forward with his singing voice here on Cee Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections, crossing Al Green's down-home soul singing with Rick James' freakishness. Touchstones only go so far, however, as Cee Lo is a free spirit if anything -- he goes out of his way to be himself and only himself here, to the extent that the album's commercial hopes seem questionable at best. That's not to say that Cee Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections is an unsatisfying album per se. It's just that this is an edgy album, one that goes out of its way to challenge your expectations of what a major-label (neo-soul? Southern rap?) release should sound like. There's nothing prepackaged here, absolutely nothing. The lead single, "Closet Freak," is a good choice, but even that song is pretty far out-there and sounds unlike anything on the charts in 2002 sans OutKast. Cee Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections is ultimately an album for folks who like their music creative, folks who like to hear an artist climb out on a limb and chase his muse, regardless of whether or not the result falls into any clear-cut genre boundaries. It helps, of course, if you like Cee Lo, because this is undoubtedly his show -- there aren't really any guest star producers, rappers, or singers here, just the big man himself center stage. Kudos to the head of Arista, L.A. Reid, for letting Cee Lo fly his freak flag with such freedom. It's not often you get a major-label release that's this daring and this colorful, surely not often enough.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: John Popper