Tuesday, 20 August 2013

#ESPspotlight REVIEW: '3 KINGS' (ALBUM), TGT

Reviewing the new TGT album '3 Kings' is something akin to coming full circle here on the 'ES in the P' blog. If you've been here since the very beginning, then you'll remember Mr Gibson selecting this (then) week-old forum as one of a select, global few to review 'Stay', his first music video in 5+ years, ahead of its official release. The song was taken from his GRAMMY-nominated album 'Open Invitation', which went on to garner him some of the biggest album sales of his entire career to date.

While busy filming the latest instalments from two of the biggest film franchises in recent years (Transformers 4, Fast & Furious 6), and promoting another New York Times Bestseller ('Manology' with Rev Run), it came as a surprise to this here onlooker, that he even had the time to head back into the studio to reprise the 2007 trio that had the heat and the following, but suffered a comatose blow; supposedly due to their individual label commitments. The world and his wife suspected that the R&B Supergroup failed due to ego issues between the three veterans, but were (thankfully) all silenced last September, when Tyrese officially announced they had reformed, signed to Atlantic Records, and their long-awaited joint album would be released in 10 months.

FAST FORWARD to today, a small push back later, and 3 Kings is already reigning supreme above the competition; topping the charts in 4 Countries before breakfast. Aspiring to do what so many promise, yet so few achieve; the project is intended to return the once great genre to its glory days, when the throne was ruled by 4 Kings, collectively known as Jodeci. Taster single, 'Sex Never Felt Better', was supposedly the warning shot; fired off to signal what was to come. Considering how persuasively that middle King was about saddling my little Pony; the track did little to make me 'giddy up'. Thankfully, it wasn't the best representation. Their recent online listening party was a saving grace; whetting every appetite for the 17-track sex-bomb, which features a ridonculously huge credit list (Tim & Bob, Mikey Jay, Brandon Alexander, Lonnie Burrell), worthy of 3 massive names in the R&B monarchy...

Maybe the content threw my numerical ability off, but I only counted a rundown of 10 tracks instead of the full list as advertised, and as a result you, my lovely readers, were not going to receive this review on that alone. Now that the whole project is available, here's what you really need to know...

Take It Wrong is the sledgehammer opener that, had it come instead of 'Sex...' would have seen MUCH bigger hype on this here page in the album's promotional lead up. The balance is split to perfection, with no King encroaching on another's territory. Ginuwine's chorus, is a smooth and sexy trumpet announcing the Royal Arrival, and Tyrese's rap alter ego 'Black-Ty' adds a break that ensures the combined vocals are not overcooked. Tank's soft vocals keeps things fluid and seductive, leaving no room for confusion of any kind. Ladies, you can only take this 3 Kinds of Right.

No Fun is actually my least favourite track of the bunch, purely because I find the premise insulting. Odes to Homies and brotherhood are all well and good, but I find it hard to imagine any (self-respecting) lady wouldn't have a problem with the idea of being passed around for each member to 'have a go' on. Last I checked, the 'Puff, Puff, Pass' rule was not invented in relation to the female body. It's not nice and so I choose to pass on what could have been a nice follow up to such a strong opener.

The earlier passed on Sex Never Felt Better makes a surprisingly welcome return. In context with the rest of the album, the Tank-written track is far more enjoyable than as a standalone offering. Dressed up this attractively - they've even got a touch of DeVante-esque autotune up in there - you can hear, understand, and even see the Jodeci comparison in the video. Mission accomplished.

Second single I Need follows. The first to refer to life outside the bedroom, is an apology to their wronged ladies. Don't get it twisted, the content might take you out of, but the effect is designed to land you right back in. A beautiful ballad, this one picks you up and drops you right back in a decade where those who can remember, know what was really good.

Next Time Around could be described as a continuation of I Need - if it wasn't better. Having failed to get 'The Girl' back, it's a humble admission of wrongdoing, an acceptance of shortcomings, and a commitment to future intentions, that gets you well and truly lost in the moment.

The first Interlude is a Jodeci 'The Show, The After Party' moment, that perfectly sets the scene for another sexy standout track. Hurry gets infinite stars, because 5 just isn't enough. Definitely a contender for track of the album; in case the premise isn't obvious, it's a 'don't keep us waiting' number too steamy for further, non-adult explanation. Or wait, that could just be the reaction it incites...either way, you get the idea...

Weekend Love is the soundtrack to a dirty weekend - at least that's your intention by Ginuwine's opening verse. Tyrese does what we originally know and love him for with that bridge; utter. gravelly destruction of all ladylike reservations. I believe the official term for a track of this nature is 'Pantydropper'? You decide.

Lessons In Love is a map of vocal assaults as strategic as a 'How To' lesson plan. Tank is soft and seductive, using that upper register as a lethal weapon from note 1. Tyrese adds a dose of 'just rough enough to get you ready'; and Ginuwine laces the third section with an urgency that will send your appetite to the edge of frenzy. You poor victims, you.

The next Interlude is intended as a linguistic aphrodisiac that serves no other purpose than to define what Tyrese labels a "leave it in" track. No explanation is really necessary, as Explode doesn't need the help. You cannot be within hearing distance and not be a casualty of the blast zone.

Despite its questionable title, FYH is another hard-hitting ballad. A last-ditch attempt at reigniting the passion in a flailing relationship; the fellas promise their best bedroom work, the weight of which, will fix what's broken. Far from a weak effort, it's also not the album's best offering by a longshot.

OMG is an anthem for the fornicators (Tyrese's description, see the online listening session above). All about love so good you take our Creator's name in vain, it takes you back to the days of making mixtapes on cassette...Damn, I hate showing my age.

Running Back is about the pain of a lost love so unforgettable, that you simply cannot live without it. Another textbook success, this is definitely one of those 'lie back and stare at the ceiling, replaying the good times on your mental projector' type ballads.

Burn Out is another contender for Track of the Album. This has a touch of what you imagine would happen if you mixed the original H-Town lineup with a dash of Whitehead Bros. There are even a few moments where my imagination had me hearing strains of MJ's 'Lady In My Life' in the composition's foundation. If you remind me of one of my all-time MJ favourites, then understand you have just about reached the pinnacle of my praise - a summit few come into contact with. Ever. It's not single material, it's better falling strongly into that category of 'Album's Best'.

By Tearing It Down, there's no confusion over the album's theme, so you know exactly what this one is all about. Another prime cut, this is 4 minutes and 22 seconds of audible good good.

Final track Our House is a 2nd album, Boyz II Men-type offering. Picture them with the sex appeal they never hadapply a theme full of 'ride off into the sunset, not just about sex, in it for the longhaul' love, and you have a recipe that ensures the ensemble project finishes strong.

Overall pangs of Guy, BLACKStreet, New Edition, Jodeci, H-Town, Whitehead Bros., Boyz II Men, Silk, Shai, Tony Toni Tone, and just about every other good 80s-90s male group, have influenced these 3 Kings; making sure Tyrese, Ginuwine and Tank deliver on their promise to take RnB back to the days when music came first. An album full of ballads obviously doesn't include the New Jack Swing elements, so please don't mistakenly throw it on to help you wake up in the morning, unless you're not waking up alone, in which case, it's perfect!

3 Kings is borderline infallible, because it offers up the best of 3 vocal powerhouses, who could not have pulled off this calibre individually - not even my beloved Ginuwine. A 'best of the best', I can't imagine it sweeping the GRAMMY boards as a whole, purely because it celebrates a standard so long lost, that today's music-buying masses may not recognise just how exemplary it really is. But, tied with the massive tour that touches down in London Town on October 17 with some more Royalty; it most definitely will do a lot for the genre, and I'm pretty sure there are some inevitable single classics in there.

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Until the next!
ES ;)