Reggie Watts

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The lead singer of the so-called new wave soul band Maktub from Seattle, Reggie Watts breaks free of the band on his first solo album, but not entirely free, as he continues to explore its often brooding blend of soul, pop, and electronica. Watts has been described by some as an Al Green disciple -- and admittedly, when he reaches for his wispy falsetto in the seductively complex opening track, "Wanna Get," you can feel some of the old Hi Records vibes in his voice. Yet Watts doesn't harp on the resemblance, mostly sticking to his silky baritone and electronically processed alterations -- and besides, he has deeper explorations in mind. While the first few tracks have additional musicians on them -- the chorus of the slow-treading "Your Name" is carpeted with moody rhythm electric guitar -- eventually the backdrops are entirely turned over to the programmer (producer Steve Fisk), and the music becomes more internalized, more tightly chained to electronica patterns, and ultimately more absorbing. "Sure Do Like the Fire" has all kinds of interesting electronic things wandering under the chorus, "Simple to See" seems to pick up some of its synth bassline ideas from 1970s-vintage Stevie Wonder, and "Perfect Day" supposedly ends the CD on a mellow programmed note. But no, it's not over -- after wading through some 12 tracks composed of 22 minutes of silence, you'll find something called "Love Is Like a Dream" in which Watts does a Bobby McFerrin, overdubbing funky vocal percussion effects and obbligatos onto his vocal. A fine solo debut.

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