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Posted: August 05, 2011

Keb’ Mo’ gets in a mellow groove for “The Reflection”

Plus: revisiting Pete Yorn and REO Speedwagon

Mike Cote

Keb_Mo.jpg

KEB' MO' The Reflection (Yolabelle International)

Keb'Mo's first album in five years is marked departure from the blues-based sound that first won him fame, when his records included some stripped down solo guitar and vocal tracks, such as covers of Robert Johnson songs or his own hypnotic "Was I Wrong" from his debut disc.

On The Reflection, Kevin Moore rides a smooth R&B vibe ready-made for adult contemporary listeners, sophisticated and tastefully executed but a quieter affair than the upbeat radio hits like "Muddy Water" that crossed over into the rock audience. Among the album's best tracks is the leadoff song, "The Whole Enchilada," a funky tune about the complications of committing to a relationship. It's the kind of mature theme that has been a staple of his material over the years, one that carries over into "Inside Outside," which would sound at home on a Steely Dan album for its skillful precision.

The album is dominated by mid-tempo R&B and ballads -- such as a gentle cover of "One of These Nights" that retools the Eagles' rock hit into a cocktail ballad and strips away the song's hint of danger. Mo' turns up the heat here and there, such as on the upbeat "Just Lookin," but mostly The Reflection shoots back the image of a very mellow guy -- not somebody you might expect to sell his soul to the devil at the crossroads.

Keb' Mo' is scheduled to perform at KBCO's Studio C at 2 p.m. today and also at 6 p.m. for a free performance at Twist & Shout in Denver. He performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

 

Pete_Yorn.jpg         REO.jpg
PETE YORN :musicforthemorningafter - 10th Anniversary Edition (Columbia/Legacy)
REO SPEEDWAGON Hi Infidelity - 30th Anniversary Edition (Epic/Legacy)

 

You know the time is flying past when it's you already listening to an anniversary edition of Pete Yorn's 2001 debut and simultaneously reliving your high school prom 20 years earlier with REO Speedwagon's multiplatinum breakthrough. Beyond that, there's little to compare here beyond the fact that you're still talking about guitars, bass, drums and keyboards.

Yorn's musicforthemorningafter still sounds as fresh as it did a decade ago - an edgy hybrid of singer-songwriter angst and the grunge bands that inspired it. The best song is still the leadoff track "Life on a Chain," but there are plenty of gems, such as the bittersweet "Lose You" and the radio hit "Strange Condition." Meanwhile Hi Infidelity comes off as a guilty pleasure that sounds just as cheesy now as it did in 1981 when high schoolers nationwide clung each other tightly as they spun in circles to "Keep On Lovin' You."

Both these discs come with a bonus album's worth of previously unreleased music. That makes sense for Yorn, whose lineup includes eight strong live performances and an interview segments from "Morning Becomes Eclectic." As for REO Speedwagon, you basically get stripped down versions of hits like "In Your Letter" and "Tough Guys" with a little less cheese. Like guilty pleasure without the pleasure.


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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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