Calvin Richardson

2:35 PM

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It's doubtful that R&B will ever have another era as creatively rich as the '60s or '70s. There's too much working against it -- at least in the United States. Between the rigid, extremely tight formats of urban radio and the fact that major labels are so quick to drop artists before they have a chance to develop, modern R&B is bound to have an abundance of artists who go out of their way to be as generic as possible. That said, the situation is far from hopeless -- if it were, major talents like Alicia Keys, India.Arie, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and Rahsaan Patterson wouldn't have broken through. Like those singers, Calvin Richardson has a neo-soul perspective that owes something to classic soul as well as urban contemporary and hip-hop. 2:35 PM, Richardson's second solo album, isn't in a class with Patterson or D'Angelo's best releases; actually, it's mildly uneven and inconsistent. However, the CD's best tracks demonstrate that Richardson is capable of excellence when he puts his mind to it. The romantic slow jams on 2:35 PM fall into two main categories: radio-oriented tunes that have a strong Jodeci/K-Ci & JoJo influence (with some R. Kelly-ish moves here and there), and material that is more old-school in its approach. The album gets off to an impressive start with "Keep on Pushin'," which recalls classic soulsters like Sam Cooke and Bobby Womack -- and Richardson is equally convincing on "Falling Out," "I Wansumo," and "More Than a Woman" (not to be confused with the Bee Gees/Tavares hit of the late '70s). Unfortunately, 2:35 PM also has its share of material that is competent without being terribly memorable, but when Richardson does hit the mark, it is obvious that the R&B world should continue to keep an eye on the North Carolina native.

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