Bruce Roberts


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Intimacy Review

by William Ruhlmann

Bruce Roberts's pop love songs draw primarily on the Philadelphia soul sound of the early '70s, a lush, melodic, and rhythmic style that continues to influence non-rap Black pop. Roberts is a songwriting craftsman able to construct the simple hooks and generalized romantic sentiments common to such material in song after song, and he's made a career of doing so. But the simple elements require a crucial ingredient beyond the typically tasty L.A. studio production values -- they mean nothing if they are not delivered by a vocalist with a strong personal style. The songs on Intimacy would be potential pop and R&B hits in the hands of any number of singers. Roberts himself, while he emotes covincingly in his tender tenor and falsetto and calls in favors from a small army of fellow singers that includes Elton John, k.d. lang, Ashford and Simpson, and All-4-One, lacks such vocal talent. And his studio approach (he produced most of the tracks) seems dated -- "When the Money's Gone," one of the few uptempo numbers, sounds like it could have been a hit for his friend Donna Summer, if it had been released in 1979. But if material like this was going to be cut by the kind of contemporary artists at which it may be intended -- Mariah Carey, Boys II Men, Whitney Houston, etc. -- the arrangements would need updating to bring them from the disco era to the hip-hop one. Intimacy is a high-priced demo album that demonstrates Bruce Roberts's ability to write well-constructed studio pop, but does not prove him to be a convincing vocal stylist.

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