Brian McKnight

Evolution of a Man

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Brian McKnight's lone set of non-Christmas material for Warner Bros., 2006's Ten, peaked exactly where his previous six proper albums topped out (within the Top Five of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart), yet he finds himself on E1 (formerly Koch) for Evolution of a Man. Though he has written and produced plenty of his own material in the past, he did it all on this one, and presumably provided much of its instrumentation. It's a set that is predominantly slow, sparse, and intimate. Most of the album's last two-thirds offers familiar McKnight fare -- sensitive, soothing backdrops that are at least comforting when not uplifting. Earlier on, as well as in a couple instances deeper into the album, McKnight takes some risks with tracks that contain little more than pattering percussion and twinkling keyboards; here, the sonics are more memorable than the songs, and not much of the album as a whole holds up to repeated listening. Some of McKnight's devoted fanbase will find the album rather fascinating since it's a change of pace, more a collection of loose sketches than a highly polished set.

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