Geri King


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Deja Vu, Geri King's full-length 2002 debut, was a nice showcase for her soulful, clean-burning vocal style, even if its effectiveness was curtailed by canned arrangements and limited production. King builds on that promise with Always, which ditches Deja's slight flirtations with clubby accessibility for a streamlined set of ballads and contemporary R&B mellowness. The album opens with a few of its strongest tracks, "Could It Be," the spare, neo-soul-inspired "Tears You'll Never See," and "My Life"'s defiant TLC simmer. However, it's immediately clear that Always suffers from the same unimaginatively synthetic instrumentation that marred King's previous output. Not only is Kimo Kaulani the Nuendo Music Group honcho, he exec produced here, and again serves as King's co-songwriter and principal instrumentalist. His reliance on synthesized melodies and percussion continually hinders King's warm vocals -- even if she aims valiantly for the sensual ease of Alicia Keys, the wishy-washy backgrounds of cuts like "The Way" and "When We First Met," and "Lifetime" suggest the soft-focus dead zone of mid-'80s R&B. Always' inclusion of two archly romantic interludes is a nonstarter as well since their awkward phrasing and airy synths aren't memorable enough to be anything more than filler. It's too bad because better-defined direction and stronger production could turn King's soulful melt into pure perfection. Instead, Always is just Deja Vu all over again.

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