J.J. Barnes

Born Again

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Given how many of J.J. Barnes' fiercely spirited soul singles met a grim commercial fate, it's perhaps no surprise that with the 1973 comeback bid Born Again he chose to introduce a heavier, more emotional vocal approach and slow-burning melodies rooted in blues and gospel -- the end result is a raw, often compelling LP that nevertheless lacks the sheer pizzazz of the singer's Northern soul classics. Paired with an impressive list of arrangers including Eumir Deodato, Patrick Adams and Tony Bell, Barnes does his absolute best to be something he's not -- there's no denying the sheer passion he invests in material like "Good Men Don't Grow on Trees" and "I Just Make Believe (I'm Touching You)," but his energy seems somehow misdirected, as if the songs were intended for a gutbucket belter instead of a singer with his dexterity and dynamism.