Anita Baker

Compositions

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On Rapture and Giving You the Best That I Got, Anita Baker embraced a blend of technology and "real instruments" -- a definite contrast to the completely high-tech approach of so much '80s and '90s R&B. But on Compositions, producer Michael J. Powell moved even closer to a '70s-like approach to R&B -- recording Baker's vocals live in the studio, employing a live rhythm section, and avoiding drum machines altogether. What stayed the same was the type of material. Once again, Baker rejects hip-hop, techno-funk, new jack swing, and other '80s and '90s black music styles in favor of a consistently relaxed soul/pop mood. Though there's a lot to admire here -- including "No One to Blame," "Soul Inspiration," and "Whatever It Takes," a song Baker wrote with Gerald LeVert and Marc Gordon of LeVert -- Baker's approach was beginning to sound formulaic in 1990. Clearly blessed with a magnificent range and lots of soul, Baker needs to experiment and take more risks. And one way to go just might be jazz. The torchy and captivating "Lonely" shows that she has the ability to record a first-rate jazz album (if Elektra would okay such a project for her). Imagine Baker backed by James Moody, Tom Harrell, Chick Corea, Ray Brown, and Grady Tate.

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