Romanthony

Romanworld

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AllMusic Review by

A concept album assembled after the fact to an extent, Romanworld is almost as imposing a full-length debut as the Orb's two CDs' worth of tracks. Romanthony has had enough comparisons to Prince over time, but here he takes it one step too far by having each disc mastered as a single song à la Lovesexy, a bit too much for nearly two hours' worth of material. But that flaw aside, this is a grand collection showcasing both Romanthony's skill as an often surprising, playful producer and a strong-voiced performer, kicking off with a murky department store/elevator/underground skit that leads into the title track, itself a beatless bit of semi-jazz that works a hell of a lot better than most such dips into the sound from the house/techno end. It's this kind of "throw in the curve ball and see what happens" approach that helps distinguish both album and performer -- even the random musical interludes seem to function like skits on hip-hop albums, brief pauses for a breath before. Not that there are only musical interludes (his brief talk to "Miss Thing" at the end of "Now You Want Me," for instance), while the fact there's a song called "Now You Want Blues" (which is in fact straight-up urban electric blues) seems only appropriate. As for the more "straightforward" songs, there's more going on than might be assumed. "Make This Love Right" seems to take forever to slowly build toward a conclusion that is abrupt but a perfect release of tension, Romanthony and the other singer's understated voice in perfect counterpoint, while the stuttered, passionate whispers on "Falling from Grace" intertwine with unsettled, film noir synth parts into a suddenly exultant and playful coda.