Elliott Yamin

Let's Get to What's Real

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Originally surfacing only in Japan, then slowly slated for release in other territories, Elliott Yamin's third album, Gather 'Round (originally dubbed "Let's Get to What's Real" and it may still bear that appellation on subsequent releases) finds the American Idol runner-up working familiar territory: modern blue-eyed soul inspired by the '70s, particularly his idol Donnie Hathaway, but sounding like the studio-slick soft pop of the '90s. Professional as this may be -- and it is, there's care to the construction of the songs and arrangements -- there is a hazy, out-of-time quality that accentuates Yamin's status as a man without a country. Appealing as he may be -- and he remains quite likeable, always delivering his lines with conviction, his sincerity ingratiating even when the melodies are not -- it's hard to shake the suspicion that this is music made for an imagined audience that may (or may not) have existed a decade prior to its creation but has now disappeared. Plenty of artists happily devote themselves to sounds from the past, often reaping considerable artistic awards, but the difference with Let's Get to What's Real is that it's not an exercise in retro-soul, it's retro-commercialism, an attempt to play by the rules in an outdated handbook. Yamin may retain some charm as he stumbles through these old plays, but he needs to stop reaching for the faded stars and get to what's real.

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