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‘Back To Love’ – Anthony Hamilton

2011, RCA Records

With an incredibly sneaky entry into 2011, Anthony Hamilton delivers ‘Back To Love’ just in time, 12th December to be exact.  Following the precursor to the album – the massively welcome online mixtape we covered here previously, ‘Soul’, my expectations were certainly high; and on paper, ‘Back To Love’ should deliver everything expected, with production tackled by heavy soul-hitters, James Poyser, Salaam Remi, Babyface, Kelvin Wooten, etc. as I say, my expectations were definitely high.

It’s a little difficult to be able to put my finger on exactly what doesn’t hit home with me though.  I take great pride in declaring myself a solid fan of Anthony Hamilton and remember being very excited at the eventual release of a major-label full-length album, in the form of the brilliant ‘Coming From Where I’m From’ in 2003. [I remember playing ‘Hold Your Head Up’ where he provided backing vocals for Heltah Skeltah back in 1998 and trying to find something official from him since then.]

Subsequent album releases have all paled in comparison to the gritty Southern soul he captured in his debut, which I wouldn’t say he’s been close to surpassing since then.  Although it’s undeniable, each follow-up album has contained some stunning songs within them (see ‘The Truth’ and ‘Pass Me Over’ from ‘Ain’t Nobody Worryin’; ‘Please Stay’ and ‘Soul’s On Fire’ from ‘The Point Of It All’), the total package of ‘Coming From Where I’m From’ and the timeless pieces of perfect soul captured in songs like ‘Charleene’, ‘Lucille’, ‘I’m A Mess’ and ‘Chyna Black’, as I say, have yet to be surpassed. 

I earlier described the music as ‘gritty’ and that definitely feels like an apt description, particularly when comparing the finished product of, in particular, ‘Back To Love’ and just how ‘neat’ and polished it sounds.  There’s almost a paint-by-numbers approach involved in the album being put together and what’s even more confusing for me, is that he’s working with all the right people, yet something from the formula seems to be missing.

A huge source of disappointment for me was the head-scratching absence of Jack Splash, whose previous collaborations with Hamilton have delivered the aforementioned gem ‘Please Stay’, and ‘You’ from the ‘Soul’ mixtape.

This all sounds very negative but that’s really down to the immensely high standard I hold Anthony Hamilton to.  I do want to stress that there really is brilliance to be found here, namely the title track itself, ‘I’m Ready’, ‘I’ll Wait To Fall In Love’ and ‘Who’s Loving You’, and he still is – and will likely be for a very long time to come – a true leader of the pack.

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