Van Hunt

On the Jungle Floor

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Van Hunt's first album peaked at the bottom of the Top 40 R&B Albums chart. Anyone who heard it and liked it couldn't help but be surprised that it didn't create a bigger ripple, particularly since it wasn't hard to imagine hearing the likes of "Dust" or "Down Here in Hell (With You)" on regular daytime rotation across the country. But the album sort of tanked, despite its unmistakable strengths and positive reviews. Hunt must have been somewhat frustrated while watching similarly organic and musical singles by Anthony Hamilton, John Legend, and Alicia Keys ride to glory, but then again, all he has needed for a cold dose of reality is a talk with frequent collaborator Rahsaan Patterson, another supremely talented and likeminded artist who has had to settle for an unfairly cult-size following. Hunt's second album, On the Jungle Floor, has no overtones of desire for crossing over, so perhaps he's already content with his position. In fact, the album seems less self-conscious and compromised than the debut. Hunt's songwriting is also sharper and more assured, though it doesn't always pay off; he's occasionally overambitious and overextends himself when he goes out of his way to prove his individualism. Minus a few songs, the album would be a great deal tighter and run no risk of neutralizing any of the aspects that make Hunt one of the smartest and most slyly creative R&B artists. He continues to boldly blend styles like some of his heroes (Prince, Rick James), goes off on a couple hard rock tangents (one of which retains his melodic sense), and continuously finds ways to base the material he writes in '70s soul and funk without making any blatant throwbacks (even the flashes of fellow Dayton natives Slave within "Stage Lights" are kept brief). At least eight of the songs written in whole or in part by Hunt are worth singling out, but the cover of Iggy Pop and James Williamson's "No Sense of Crime" must be mentioned for its pumping of Technicolor into the black-and-white original, as if it had been meant for the second side of Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On or Prince & the Revolution's Around the World in a Day.

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