April 4th l TheUrbanMusicScene.com l Brent Faulkner
R&B group Mint Condition’s seventh studio LP, entitled 7 marks their first release since 2008’s E-Life. On their smartly conceived seventh full-length, Mint Condition sounds just as vocally capable as they did back in their heyday - the glory days of ‘new-jack swing’ and a time where adult contemporary-laden R&B thrived. While new-jack swing and the popularity of ‘grown-folks’ R&B has cooled some, Mint Condition make the styles sound as relevant as ever on this Shanachie released effort (Due April 5, 2011). To call any album ‘revolutionary’ these days would be an ‘overstatement,’ but 7 proves to be a solid and enjoyable R&B effort.
The effort opens with bang with the fantastic “Can’t Get Away,” which features a brilliant stomping groove here. “Can’t Get Away” exhibits the contemporary R&B sound, minus unnecessary modern R&B gimmickry. The vocal harmonies are spot-on and the songwriting is poignant: “In my mind girl, I can’t get away from you, every night girl, you’re all that I wanna do, if you’re close girl, I can’t keep my hands off you...” “I Want It” is an exceptional follow-up cut, possessing a modern-funk feel about it. Within “I Want It,” evidence of Mint Condition’s ‘new-jack swing’ past show up, which is definitely not a bad thing.
“Walk On” continues an upswing of strong material, even if its five minute-plus duration may be a bit too drawn out. The production is smart, featuring a clever sample and the refrain is as catchy as all else: “I should’ve walked away...” “Mind Slicker” features some of the album’s more clever production work, though the songwriting is not as readily accessible as the previous three cuts. That said, it is another interesting, above par listen, that again exposes Mint Condition’s illustrious R&B past. Vocally, particularly following the bridge section, this is a fine listen.
“Caught My Eye” is impressive, slating itself in the track list as a nice, mid-tempo love song. Here, guitar, bass, and solid overall production make for a beautiful piece of ‘ear candy.’ Not over-complicated, “Caught My Eye” definitely does just as the title states from the first listen. “Bossalude” follows, though seems out of place on this effort. It serves as an interlude using boss nova styled production, but even after listening, one questions why it was placed on this album; it is a bit of a ‘momentum-buster.’ The brief “7” rebuilds any lost momentum, featuring alternative-soul styled production and including an extended rap. Bizarre it may be, but “7” is worthwhile and atones for the oddness of “Bossalude.”
“Ease the Pain” is a valedictory performance, possessing a funky quality about it. The vocals are superb, mixing the soulfulness of veteran Al Green and neo-soul standout D’Angelo. The chorus stands out to the listener instantly: “I can help ease the pain, I want you to be my everything, I know you’ve heard these words before, but if you trust in me, you would win for sure babe.” “Ease The Pain” takes the prize as the most soulful number. “Unsung” is an excellent companion piece, though it only rivals “Ease The Pain’s” natural flowing soul. “Not My Daddy” features R&B/gospel chanteuse Kelly Price contributing some gritty, passionate vocals on this ‘over-the-top,’ yet stunning meeting of voices. Even more surprising is the concluding cut, “Twenty Years Later,” which combines jazz and R&B harmoniously.
Essentially, Mint Condition’s 7 is a fine addition to the veteran R&B group’s discography. It may not ‘reinvent the wheel,’ but it proves the point that so many veteran R&B artists ‘still got it.’ No one will dispute given this strong selection of songs, capable production work, and polished and nuanced vocal performances that Mint Condition still have remarkable vocal chemistry and talent. 7 must truly be ‘lucky number seven’ as it is a solid listen.
The Urban Music Scene