If you wanted to insult Daniel Merriweather’s debut album, you could call it Back to Black without all the personality. Like Winehouse’s game-changing album, Merriweather’s is also drenched in Mark Ronson’s nostalgic production with all its Sam Cooke spirit and '60s R&B sophistication. The big difference here is that the Australian, twenty-something Merriweather comes with no punkish attitude, and once you take away the appearance from rapper Wale, plus the slacker heartbreak number “Getting Out” (“And now I can’t get my ass off the couch because of you”) you’re left with a retro-soul effort that won’t disrupt mom and dad’s date night. This more traditional throwback is more rewarding than it may seem, as Ronson’s borrowing from the past is respectfully crafted here with warm strings and easy, swaying beats perfectly complementing this singer’s full-bodied voice. The key track, “Impossible,” is somewhere between a Bond theme and a deep cut from Terence Trent D'Arby, while the infectious “Change” gives the album just enough flash and punch with its easy hip-hop flavor. Big ballad “Red” sounds like the best number found on any given Hugh Grant rom-com soundtrack while “Not Giving Up” is a well-executed, uptempo fingersnapper that should make Jamiroquai jealous. If you’re looking for a non-confessional alternative to Back to Black that won’t take over the room, Love & War will serve that soulful purpose.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries