Tamika Patton

#1

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Philadelphia-based Tamika Patton should have become a significant force in 1990s R&B, but, as with many of her Orpheus labelmates, her chance wasn't fully realized -- in part due to insufficient record company backing. Short and sweet, her eight-song debut is a pleasant melange of slow jams and mid-tempo entries. The songs are simple yet affecting in structure, and Patton's soulful, gospel-dipped stylings stir the heart on a fine pendulum of understatement and power. She brings to mind a cross between Anita Baker and Natalie Cole with her employment of both jazzy nuances and fiery soul. On the focal "Have You Ever Had a Dream," she moves musical mountains that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would be proud of, while the cruising "Keep on Talking" shows her prowess at making her boundaries clear to a Romeo on the hunt, amidst thoroughly engaging vocal arrangements. Lyrically, #1 is impressive in its consistency, with the key concept being commitment. This thematic approach distinguishes Patton from many of her early-'90s R&B peers, who tended to release random assortments of material with no common stronghold. Two remakes -- "Your Precious Love" (a duet with Eric Gable) and "God Bless the Child" -- are welcome additions. But it's Patton's expert treatment of the original material that best demonstrates her subtly rich tone and jazz-tinged inflections.

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