Chris Lee

Cool Rock

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Chris Lee's brand of indie rock is a unique blend of soul, mainstream balladry, and indie. His third record, Cool Rock, is very much of a piece with the first two, with Lee's gently soaring vocals and intimate lyrics; the subtle horn arrangements; chattering, Unrest-style guitars; and soulful organs. Lee sounds more assured and confident than ever; his vocals are never less than strong and are often awe-inspiring -- sort of like Tim Buckley on a concise soul kick (or Jeff Buckley minus the bombast). Despite a couple of tracks that linger ("Sail On" with its falsettoed chorus, "Bronx Science [Julie Ann]" with its hypnotic piano and the sentimental lyrics), there is a lack of memorable material -- too many of the songs drift along with no hooks to grab on to. Some of the songs -- like the meandering "Say It Ain't Soul" and the slight "Nobody Cares for Me" -- veer uncomfortably close to the Lenny Kravitz school of plastic soul. Sadly, Cool Rock is easily forgotten once it is over. When he first began releasing albums, Lee's style seemed fresh and interesting -- now he seems to be stuck in a rut, a pleasant and semi-worthwhile rut, but a rut all the same.

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