Rogiers - Life and Music: All of It (2007)

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    Rogiérs is a night whisperer. One of those raspy seducers who nuzzle your ear offering resonance-rich promises of sweeter tomorrows, if only you'd believe in him. Stories of previous money hungry loves who didn't believe enough, didn't love enough, didn't trust enough to fill the void...these are deliciously vulnerable first date pillow talks. If only he had somebody like you earlier, he'd be ahead of life's game. Now that he's met you, just wait and see how beautiful your life together will be, how good he'll be to you...yeah, baby.

    Ego stroking words - tinged with hurt, angry remnants over yesterday's love-glides off his silver tongue with such smooth sincerity, such candor. Before you know it, half-torn drawers get left on damp floors, morning after breakfast buffets are scenting daylight infatuations followed by premature U-Hauls and the eventual relinquished paychecks without so much as a backwards glance. You know he can't deliver on every promise made, but he sounds sooo good whispering them in your ear, your throat, everywhere...that you don't care. At least, he's got game. At least he cares enough to want to make you feel this special, wanted, needed. Welcome to Rogiérs' debut album, Life and Music: All of It.

    Generally, this kind of lover man boasts such a confident swagger that any red-eyed confessions like "Hollywood Story," is read as privileged insight into the wounded little boy being protected inside. On keepers like "Come Into My World" and "Come When You Call," Rogiérs (pronounced Ro-ghe-ay) is extending an open palm to you into his world, to protect and love that wounded boy too. You're special; you've been given an exclusive ticket into this realm of addictive pleasure and pain. And believe me when I say Rogiers' project is sensually addictive. The former Alicia Keys keyboardist follows an elusive musical brand made by such secretly seductive nice guys as Maxwell and Carl Thomas, the cool kat that always landed dime pieces on the low. Rogiérs catapulted into this rare league so adeptly, I can't help but shake the idea that his Life and Music is the sophomore album Thomas fans always wanted from Carl following that classic, haunting-and it appears never to be repeated-debut, Emotional.

    Accordingly, Rogiérs freshman project is a welcome return to intimate music that envelopes and tempts you into a private realm of naughtiness justified by high brow "spiritual" intentions and mature discretion. His vulnerability begs your vulnerability, and with it a release of your inhibitions. He never actually asks for the drawers, uh uh. He asks for your love, your devotion, your honesty, your commitment which-as any lothario could tell you-leads to not just intimacy, but the best intimacy of your life. On an album that never deems to use base, overtly sexual language, Rogiérs conjures an album that is Junior's cheesecake rich with sexuality.

    Musically this penetrating gaze is achieved with a breathy second tenor that avoids the high-pitched, electronic cold showers passing for masculine vulnerability among contemporary R&B tenors. Rogiérs' instrument has the inviting resonance of the previously mentioned Mr. Thomas combined with the gospel flexibility of J Moss. With fine producer contributions by Dré Bowman, Big Tone, Rogiérs' music is high on mood and space atmospherics: electronic winds, synth organs, light key work, bell trees chime, head-bobbing drum samples, reverb enriched backgrounds that sound as breezy as the wind effects. The phrasing is church, as is Rogiérs talent for runs, a melismic heavy technique that does on occasion slip out of song punctuation to just plain showing off, like on the spare interlude "Dust." But then don't the "gifted" lover boys always eventually over play there hand? Smartly, on the throaty, straight forward piano ballad "You'll Live," the showiness is kept to Rogiérs own impressive ivories work.

    The project does have clear dance moments, but - urban contemporary synths and blaring horns aside - songs like "Home," featuring Joseph Webb, are not hip hop enough to be inner city club bangers and are too mid-tempo to be hard core house cuts. On the other hand, bonafide dance floor jams like "Please Believe Me" will get heavy rotation by any DJs worth their Technics. The feel and rhyme structure Rogiérs favors on these tunes will draw strong Peter Hadar comparisons, particularly on the bouncy first single "Life and Music" featuring Big Tone and house cuts like "My Gift (Applejac Remix)." Following "Life and Music," there are at least two other very commercial radio ditties, "Fa Sho" and "Feel It Now," that read as the missed A&R opportunities Ruben Studdard needed to avert his recent door prize by J Records. Come to think of it, Dave Hollister might want to cover these cuts if he's even slightly interested in reviving his R&B career. As this name dropping should indicate, Rogiérs' music is a gospel-reared, soul man's music.

    True to type, Rogiérs repeats his loverman rap a couple of times too many by offering his lovers remixes or alternative versions of at least two tracks, "Hollywood Story" and "My Gift." Interestingly, the alternative and remixed versions of both cuts were better than the originals thanks to a seamless pairing with Bilal on "Hollywood Story" and that fun Applejac Remix. He also has too many interludes, too many explanations of who he is and what he's really about as if his game wasn't enough to sway you, all distractions that interrupt the romantic fantasy for two. Of course, as time progresses, you don't mind him being a repeater or his protestations of realness. By the end of Life and Music, you know his game by heart, his empty promises all revealed. But damn, if you don't keep letting him talk his way past your door. Well? What you got to say for yourself? I know, I know. If only, those night whispers didn't sound sooo good. Highly recommended.

    --L. Michael Gipson