As one of the last major R&B singers who aren’t basically trying to be rappers, Anthony Hamilton [click to read] isn’t quite a household name, but has been well rewarded for his dedication. After a small but significant contribution to the film American Gangster [click to read], Hamilton was tapped as a principle collaborator for Al Green‘s new classic Lay it Down, a blessing that few could ever earn. For his latest, Hamilton seems to have found energy in this recent validation and continues to make uncompromised soul for The Point Of It All.
As usual, Hamilton‘s appeal lies in his intimate familiarity with the roots of R&B and Soul. “So Hard to Breathe” truly goes back to the early days when Gospel singers took their traditions into secular music. “Fallin’ In Love” has a similar effect, stacking Hamilton‘s rich, passionate harmonies over a persistent rhythm. He works with a range of producers from several generations, but every song sounds like it belongs and Hamilton himself is never upstaged by his collaborators.
It isn’t that Hamilton simply abandons the modern world to keep his timeless sound–his ability to balance the old and the new is a big part of what makes the best of the album work. On “I Did It For Sho,” he pulls the classic “stop and talk during the bridge” narration that you used to hear on Chi-Lites records but slyly includes a reference to Beyoncé. Elsewhere, the title track uses just enough Pro-Tools magic to add a little more depth and drama to the arrangement.
There’s very little technically wrong with The Point Of It All and even the lesser tracks are basically well done. There is, however, a certain untapped element in Hamilton as an artist that keeps the album from communicating as effectively as it could. Hamilton needs to either expand his subject matter or at least find a wider variety of ways to talk about it since many of the tracks don’t feel personal enough to really stick.
With classic R&B/Soul becoming more of a device than a genre, Anthony Hamilton very well may be the best candidate to carry the torch for a dying art. With that said, he does still need to figure out which of the classic traditions to put aside. Being “The Next Al Green” would be quite the achievement, but becoming the new standard would be better. Hamilton surely has more to offer us down the road, but in the meantime, The Point of it All will be a suitable placeholder.