Referring to Dornik Leigh's first album simply as promising would be downplaying it. It's a rare debut liable to provoke a mix of admiration and envy from contemporaries, and quite possibly a lengthy queue of prospective collaborators. One peer pleased to uplift Dornik was Jessie Ware, who employed the South London native as a performing drummer and duet partner, then helped him join the PMR roster. Across a two-year period, Dornik scattered a few singles that provoked Michael Jackson comparisons. The series began with the swaying synth-funk ballad "Something About You," where his assured but slightly bashful delivery recalled the MJ of "Butterflies" (which happened to be co-written by fellow U.K. artist Marsha Ambrosius). That initial taste is here, as are most of the supplemental doses that preceded the album. They all fit together for a fluid 40-minute set of sweet modern soul that, accessible as it is, falls to the left of mainstream R&B. Seemingly written with one object of affection in mind, and all about the expression of admiration rather than the detailing of exploits, the lyrics -- and their modest delivery -- evoke the pre-new jack swing era, when the major players in U.K. R&B included Derek Bramble, David Grant, Freeez, and Loose Ends. Dornik gets only a little help. Andrew "Pop" Wansel assists on "Stand in Your Line," a song that's starry-eyed like Elle Varner's "I Don't Care," though certain elements could be mistaken for the work of Rick James or Quadron's Robin Hannibal. "Shadow," a weightless highlight, was written with poet and author Laura Dockrill. Pharrell Williams couldn't be faulted for reacting to it by throwing something out of recognition and jealousy. The ten-percent of the album that isn't a sparkling slow jam or midtempo cut is a swift and uplifting jam that approximates a super session with Dâm-Funk, the-Dream, and 1984 Prince. It leads off -- both a sly fake-out and a hell of a way to open one of 2015's most pleasurable debuts.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman