This follow-up release has taken an amazing 18 years to materialise. Isn't that terrifying?! Buying “Naked (To The World)” back in the spring of 1991 seems but yesterday. Well, in this time Nicki has grown, developed and come back at us with a very impressive set which has been lavishly produced, recorded and performed. Nicki is even more stunningly beautiful than before and her vocal maturity is amazing. This set is very much what Nicki wants to do and she has the best of company in doing so too. The album is co-produced by legendary drummer, Lenny White, and features the guitar skills of Marcus Miller, Will Lee on Bass as well as Victor Bailey, Joe Sample on piano, JK's Dinky Bingham on organ and backing vocals from Lisa Fischer, Cindy Mizelle, John James and Chris Williams! Oh yes, AND the Tower Of Power Horns! Blimey, what a line up! LOL. What of the music though? Well, Lenny White has added a harder edge and his drumming skills crash through in a strident and forthright fashion, allowing the likes of Marcus Miller to simply shine. The album will appeal to many people and the style is very mature, adult and is definitely NOT for your 15 year old “R&B” fan!
The opening song is possibly the most radio friendly, that being “Let's Dance”, a ditty which is written by Nicki along with Dinky Binghasm and Joel “JK” Kipnis. Don't fret about the rap at the start by 'LAW', this doesn't feature much so begs the question what was the point? Still, the groove is funky and would not be out of place on a Family Stand album. There's a serious groove here, and woe betide any Ne-Yo fans who cross it's path! The following cut, “Why You Wanna Hurt Me So Bad?”, is another tasty effort – the music here is programmed by Nicki herself, but the style more akin to what she was doing back on Atlantic in '91. Excellent stuff! Fans of TOP will revel in the blinding funk groove of “Check Yourself”. The horns sound as good as ever and Nicki has a whale of a time! I have to pick out “Bring The Love” for being different – this is something that we could have heard in the early 90s and the groove is reminisce of what Randy Muller was doing with Skyy and Robyn Springer. I could even include CeCe Peniston too, actually. Think “Crazy Love” or “Keep On Walking”. Good, eh? For me, though, the scene-stealer is the beautiful, beautiful “Parallel Universe” which reminds me slightly of Janita's “I Only Want You”. This is haunting and gorgeous in the extreme. What a great track and worth the price of the CD alone! Lenny White, Joe Sample and Marcus Miller sound great. The seductive and sexy “In Bed” follows but is woefully short, but is made up by the lovely “Say The Words”, complete with acoustic guitar and birdsong. “Alpha Centauri” is an odd, astronomical, title but fans of Lalah Hathaway's recent work will love this. So, a welcome return and an essential purchase.
The Vibe Scribe