As Erika Rose asserts early on in this debut, Rosegarden is a "long time coming, dreams deferred are now realized," as she put off her pursuit of a music career to be childhood friend Alicia Keys' road manager for the early part of Keys' career. She did find time to co-write "A Woman's Worth," and a few other tunes sporadically spread throughout the Grammy-winner's two albums; but, for the most part, Rose tabled her artistic aspirations and threw on a business suit. But after a career epiphany in Spain and a chance encounter with Sa-Ra's Om'Mas Keith, Rosegarden finds this singer/songwriter focused on self. This could be fertile soil for an overly self-indulgent album, making up for lost time spent aiding someone else's endeavors; or it could be the type of path that leads to self-doubt and tepid music. Instead, Rosegarden is a solid, well-directed album from a promising artist and a talented musician-producer (Keith). Keith's production is less probing and risky than the work he does with his Sa-Ra partners. But, though devoid of Sa-Ra's peculiar and entertaining eccentricities, Keith mixes rock and '70s R&B, which Rose -- a talented singer -- uses as a canvas for her diary-like lyrics. Whether it's dark paranoia ("The Darkness"), coy sexual boasts ("Spell on You") or quit-hatin' anthems ("Backstabbaz Bounce"), with all her attention now focused on building her own career, Rosegarden is a conspicuously personal work. The title track submits imagery of what seems to be her own fantasy world. And while Rose and Keith tend to aim for more edgy themes and sounds, songs like "Black Gold" and "Fairy Tales" lead one to think that Minnie Ripertonesque R&B might be her best match. Rosegarden is worth the wait for the artist and listener.
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