Charlie Wilson • Forever Charlie • RCA • US Release Date: January 27, 2015
Interestingly, there are younger artists who are less prolific than R&B veteran Charlie Wilson. Since 2005, Charlie Wilson has been on a roll, releasing five albums – five! 2015, Mr. Wilson’s 62nd year, marks the fifth album of the ‘Charlie’ series, Forever Charlie. As with his previous efforts, Forever Charlie proves to be well rounded without being monumental. That said Forever Charlie features some of Wilson’s finest musical moments as a solo artist.
Forever Charlie opens optimistically with feel-good contemporary soul joint, “Somebody Loves You.” With a throwback sensibility without sounding anachronistic, “Somebody Loves You” ‘feels right’ Charlie Wilson – he’s in his niche and isn’t forced from his comfort zone. And as always, Wilson is good for that signature vocal run that nobody else even dares to attempt.
He continues to thrive on the follow-up, celestial single “Touched By An Angel.” Sure, Wilson isn’t referencing the church or religion, but rather his lady is so dope that he’s been “touched by an angel” being with her (aw). The feel continues to straddle old school yet contemporary enough for younger R&B listeners. Vocally, Wilson continues to slaughter, showcasing clarity, nuance, and a ripening, as he grows older.
Continuing the balance of old and new, “Goodnight Kisses” continues to find Wilson flexing like a champ, even if he doesn’t eclipse the heavenly glory of “Touched By An Angel.” Set in compound duple meter (six-eight), soul oozes while the drum programs clearly hail from the 10s. Then being the lover man that he is – at 62 years of age mind you – Wilson likens his lady to be “Just Like Summertime.” Again, Wilson is able to play to older and young constituencies, something many artists can’t. Even if “Summertime” is incredibly ‘old-fashioned,’ the concept never dies, hence its relevancy.
“Unforgettable” is Wilson’s riskiest song from Forever Charlie. Going into reggae territory, R&B artists sometimes pull it off while at other times they screw it up royally. Given his musical versatility and veteran status, Wilson makes “Unforgettable” work, even if it isn’t exactly ‘unforgettable’ itself. His cliché euphemism for ‘being the sh*t,’ “Sugar.Honey.Ice.Tea,” isn’t brand new, but the funky joint again is a fine fit for Wilson’s style, artistry, and voice. Not much depth, but when a song sports a form of a dirty word in its title, does one expect profundity?
“My Favorite Part Of You” ranks among the elite tracks of Forever Charlie, matching the opening duo of “Somebody Loves You” and “Touched By An Angel.” Posed as a retro-soul joint with enough contemporary punch (swag if you will), this old school joint easily outperforms countless modern R&B records. Why? It’s because it feels authentic and retains the soulfulness and genuine emotions of classic R&B. Wilson may allude to sex and a physical connection, but his bread is buttered in emotions and a true relationship.
“Infectious” truly is infectious, with Wilson embracing full-fledged funk. Even so, who better to amplify the funk and keep it G than Snoop Dogg? Everybody knows that Uncle Charlie and Snoop are a match made in musical heaven – or something like that! The “beat goes on” on the sound “Hey Lover” where Wilson’s signature riffs remain intact at their very best. Wilson continues to sound highly invested into the material, which helps to sell it.
The remainder of Forever Charlie is solid, if not necessarily exceptional. “Things You Do” embraces adult contemporary R&B fare, relying less on retro means. The results are sound, though less enthralling than say “My Favorite Part of You.” If nothing else, Wilson sings it well, but would anyone expect any less? Penultimate number “Birthday Dress” returns to old school R&B – think post-disco, 80s. The groove is ‘groovy,’ while the overall joint finds Wilson tapping into funk. Closer “Me and You Forever” is appropriately placed at the end, embracing an mid-tempo adult contemporary R&B sound. Effective? Yes. Earth shattering? Of course not, but ‘sound’ is the key word.
Ultimately, Forever Charlie is among Wilson’s better albums during his ‘Charlie’ run. He doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means – as none of his albums has – but he continues to flex his robust, refined vocals. At 62, Wilson has nothing more to prove as his legacy has long been cemented within the industry. Even so Forever Charlie is a welcome bonus nonetheless.
Favorites: “Somebody Loves You,” “Touched By An Angel,” “My Favorite Part of You,” and “Infectious”