Jill Scott The Real Thing: Words & Sounds Vol. 3 Review

Released 2007.  

BBC Review

The Queen of 'neo-soul' returns with another great album.

Jon Lusk 2007

It’s only her third album 'proper' since debuting in 2000, but given the amount of other stuff she's done (publishing a book of poetry, appearing in several movies and TV shows and releasing an collection of joint recordings earlier this year called Collaborations, as well as touring exhaustively…etc.), that’s quite an achievement. North Philadelphia's queen of 'neo soul' is on fine form throughout The Real Thing: Words And Sounds Vol. 3, a conceptually concise song cycle of sorts, devoted (with the exception of the single "Hate On Me") entirely to that ole devil called lurve. And all the lust, longing, jealousy, begging, beseeching, crawling, moaning, shagging, gagging and bragging that go with it. OK, I put one or two of those in myself…

In the accompanying press release, Scott explained that her original idea was to 'show different women – you know, the housekeeper, the stripper, the congresswoman – but as I started writing and recording, I started taking on all these characters'. The result seems to have been not just a wide range of female perspectives on matters of the heart (sequenced in a sustained narrative flow that effectively holds your attention) but an almost chameleonesque quality to the vocals, which evoke a number of well known figures in R&B and beyond, while still leaving room for Scott's own distinctive singing, silky spoken word ("Insomnia") and even rapping ("Breathe"). "Hate On Me" suggests gospel firebrand Tramaine Hawkins fronting Destiny’s Child, while there's more than a whiff of MOR soul crooner Anita Baker on both ''Only You'' and ''Whenever You’re Around''. ''Celibacy Blues (Interlude)'' even finds her digging a retro blues/jazz vibe. But she’s at her most convincing when graphically celebrating the joys of sex on the likes of ''Crown Royal'' and ''All I''.

Scott is well served by producer Scott Storch, musical director Adam Blackstone (of The Roots) and other collaborators in a suitably varied range of tasteful, clutter-free settings that give her voice maximum impact. The Real Thing is a solid addition to her canon, but does leave you wondering where she can possibly go to from here, having explored this subject with such convincing and encyclopaedic thoroughness…

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