Gene Rice

Just for You

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Without question, one of the most wrongly neglected R&B releases of 1991 was Gene Rice's Just for You -- an engaging collection of mostly ballads and slow jams that, for all its high-tech production gloss, is very much a throwback to Teddy Pendergrass' late-'70s, post-Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes solo recordings for Philadelphia International. When the robust, no-nonsense belter digs into such unapologetically romantic slow-burners as "Like I Love You," "You're Gonna Get Served" and "Love Is Calling You" -- and provides an inspired interpretation of Carole King's "It's Too Late" -- Rice leaves no doubt that he's indeed a Pendergrass disciple, yet projects an appealing personality of his own. Rice makes it abundantly clear that he's a soul singer first and foremost, and refuses to tone down the gospel-ish qualities that many urban-contemporary singers of the '80s and '90s shied away from in the hope of "crossing over" to the pop charts. Rice picks up the tempo for the convincing "I Believe," indicating that as superb a balladeer as he is, he'd do well to change tempos more often.

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