Soul Ballet

Dial It In

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Soul Ballet mastermind Rick Kelly continues to layer smooth jazz intrumentation over slightly ambient electronica on Dial It In, an album that shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with his previous few efforts. Kelly has his trademark smooth jazz/electronica hybrid down to a science at this point, for better or worse. Each of the tracks begins and ends with a rather bland yet affective electronica rhythm driven by light synthetic percussion and lulling synth ambience; there aren't any boomin' bass beats or frantic rhythms here, just "lite" electronica that should neither impress nor repel too many people (potentially derogatory descriptors such as "generic" and "bland" come to mind). Over these electronica rhythms, Kelly layers smooth jazz instrumentation -- a Kenny G-esque sax here and a world music-esque acoustic guitar there. This jazz side of the Soul Ballet equation may be simple, but it is a bit more interesting and certainly more engaging than the electronica side; in fact, the latter seems almost superfluous, like some sort of "hip" ornamentation to help Kelly's music cross over to a wannabe-hip mainstream audience (the sci-fi font in the liner notes is yet more superfluous ornamentation). Of course, this hybrid of smooth jazz and electronica isn't exactly innovative circa 2002, being practiced to much more acclaim by such acts as St. Germain, but you can't help but sense that Soul Ballet is a bit more accessible, the sort of music you'd find prominently displayed on an endcap at Borders next to the latest Sarah Brightman studio album. However, none of this should be news to anyone who has heard Kelly's other Soul Ballet releases. As mentioned earlier, his music has become as much science as it is trademark by this point in his career, perhaps the one exception being the admittedly lovely vocal track "I Feel the Love." Too bad there aren't more tracks like this on Dial It In.

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