Roy Davis, Jr.

Chicago Forever

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Recorded after a move from his native City of Big Shoulders to Los Angeles (in his birth state of California) and featuring extensive assistance from three significant Detroiters -- beatmaker Waajeed and vocalists Ayro and Terry Dexter -- this album is titled, naturally enough, Chicago Forever. A divorce and the death of his mother put music-making on the back burner for Roy Davis, Jr.; as you would expect, those two events had a profound impact on him, and yet there are no signs of any emotional wear or tear in this album. Davis delivers an update of what he's been doing throughout his career, in the form of songful deep house grooves that manage to be both elegant and tough at the same time. It'll yield easy comparisons to Water for Thirsty Children, an R&B-oriented album recorded well before this but released just a few weeks prior. Chicago Forever is not quite as remarkable as that album. This one is significantly slicker and sounds more like the result of a labored process, whereas Water for Thirsty Children could've merely happened -- with little in the way of planning or afterthought. It's also to the album's detriment that it seems, ironically enough, less personal. The guest vocalists provide plenty of personality, but the lack of vocal turns from Davis -- even if they wouldn't be quite as skilled as those from his associates -- means that there's less of his touch to be heard. To be fair, the criticisms are just further testaments to Water for Thirsty Children's exceptional strengths; there's no mistaking that Chicago Forever is another solid Roy Davis, Jr. album. Common drops by, if only to leave a phone message, and Davis' son Caleb provides an interlude late into the album with a perfectly succinct endorsement: "My dad makes soul music, so get down."

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