If there´s one thing missing from the recordings made by most current neo-soul artists -- besides, of course, an unprocessed rhythm section -- it´s a sense of urgency. All too many of these contemporary R&B artists better hope the revolution gets televised, ´cause that´s gonna be the only way they´ll know anything´s wrong. Atlanta-based crooner Donnie is under no such illusions, and on his second album, this cousin of Marvin Gaye strives to emulate not only the structural aspects of ´60s and ´70s soul goodness but also, well, its soul. The Daily Newsis a decidedly unsubtle state-of-the-world record, running down a checklist of societal ills in its lyrics. Donnie continues to do right by both his relative and his most obvious vocal influence, Donny Hathaway; the social commentary of The Daily News is rendered both immediate and engaging by Donnie´s rich voice. Still, it´s a third antecedent that presides most noticeably: The warm and funky yet completely synthetic arrangements here are straight modernizations of Stevie Wonder´s playbook. Whether it´s the multitracked gospel harmonies on ¨For Christ Sake¨ or the off-measure vocalizations that drive the melody of ¨911¨ home, Donnie clearly gave Key of Lifea few spins before heading into the studio. While Stevie wasn´t singing about Big Pharma or homophobia in the ´70s, Donnie´s trying to bring the same sort of conscious-party sing-along choruses and sneakily subversive lyrics to the present.
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