Whether a person associates L.A. session drummer Ricky Lawson with urban contemporary or instrumental pop-jazz/NAC depends on his or her point of reference. Those who know Lawson for his years with the Yellowjackets might associate him with instrumental settings, while those who know him for backing everyone from Whitney Houston to Jeffrey Osborne tend to think of him as more of an R&B player. Released in 2001, Ricky Lawson and Friends has very little to do with instrumental pop-jazz -- this is primarily an album of vocal-oriented R&B/pop. The list of participants is impressive: Phil Collins, the Emotions, Vesta Williams, Robben Ford, Al Jarreau, Sheila E., George Duke, James Ingram, and Donald Fagen are among the people who join Lawson on this CD. And with such a cast, Lawson should have delivered a masterpiece -- which Ricky Lawson and Friends isn't. But while the album isn't exceptional or mind-blowing, it's a generally pleasant collection of quiet storm material. Lawson doesn't get into the type of hip-hop-minded R&B that urban stations were playing in 2001 -- he isn't going after fans of R. Kelly, Destiny's Child, or Pink. Rather, the drummer takes aim at an aging quiet storm audience with mellow, laid-back tunes like "Sweet Love," "Slow and Gentle," and "Love Will Bring Us Back Around" (which finds James Ingram, Al Jarreau, and Vesta Williams sharing the lead vocals). Those who have a lot of Anita Baker, Luther Vandross, and Freddie Jackson CDs in their collection are exactly the type of listeners Lawson is going after with this release, which is competent and likable even though it doesn't live up to its tremendous potential.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson