The standard cliché is that "the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree".Producers: Cedric and Vic Caldwell, Melvin Williams and Doug Williams
album release date: October 23, 2001
Willie Norwood’s debut project shows that the opposite is sometimes true as well that the tree isn’t too far from where the apple dropped.
As the father of renowned R&B singers Brandy and Ray J, Norwood shows that he has some impressive tenor vocal chops himself.
Interestingly, Norwood will surprise some by offering a vibe that is more throwback soul Gospel than traditional in sound. Soulful in voice, he shows himself able to convey expression by using a pallete of subtle vocal colors.
Artful studio production is crafted around the entire set of ten songs, with an abundance of guitar, organ and saxophone plushing the sound, and a seasoned crew of well-known session musicians ensuring quality. Brother duos Cedric and Victor Caldwell and also Doug and Melvin Williams take turns on production.
The choice of songs is eclectic, and includes a toned-down cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Have A Talk With God” featuring Paul Jackson Jr. on guitar. Kirk Whalum steps in to trade saxophone lead with Norwood’s vocals on that favorite inspirational, “Put A Little Love In Your Heart”.
In fact, this project is a veritable guest-fest, with Billy Preston easily coaxing melody from the B3 organ on “I’ll Trade A Lifetime”. Doug and Melvin Williams join in vocally with Norwood on “The Search Is Over”, a song penned by them along with their long-time instrumentalist collaborator, Derrick Horne. Here Horne joins with Pharis Evans Jr. on the track to create a softly soulful groove.
Brandy drops in for a duet with her dad on “A Love Shared”, an sweet ballad from Angie Winans and the Caldwell Brothers about father/daughter love. Jackson and Whalum contribute instrumentally on this one as well.
On “Have Thine Own Way”, Norwood is joined vocally by both his father (Willie Norwood Sr.) as well as Ray J, his R&B superstar son. This hymn cover starts with the rumbling bass voice of Norwood Sr. singing acappella on the first verse, before Willie Norwood picks it up as the track kicks in. Then Ray J takes the generational baton and enters with a smoothly-sung conclusion. It could be campy, but it’s not, as the Caldwells ensure that things come together for an enjoyable and diverse family affair.
Background singers Jovaun Woods, Jerard Woods, Leann Palmore, Duawne Starling, Darwin Hobbs, Ann McCrary and others are notables in their own right. Their participation in support of Norwood throughout this project is simply icing on a rich musical cake.
And that’s ‘bout it!
reviewed by Stan North —
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