Charlie Wilson has been a household name for the younger generation that knows of his collaboration with New Boyz and countless appearances on productions by Kanye West, but his latest album reconnects with fans that still follow his more than 30 year career. The once lead singer of classic funk group The Gap Band continues his role in urban adult contemporary R&B music with Love, Charlie.
His latest effort, released on his birthday, is Wilson’s first album since 2011. Mostly produced in a studio instead of on the road, this album makes for a good and somewhat surprising self-given present that he shares with followers, as the 60 year old shows he still has the voice and passion for making music about love.
Wilson’s opening track, “If I Believe”, is an open declaration to faith. Whether his faith is devoted to love, religion, or perseverance, the song is an optimistic ballad that indirectly declares his complete remission of prostate cancer and sobriety from drugs and alcohol. The rest of the album is devoted to loving women properly. Whether that be looking past superficial objects (“I Still Have You”), reintroducing the majestic qualities of an annual milestone in relationships (“Our Anniversary”), or even having a sensually love-making night (“A Million Ways To Love You”), Wilson maintains the respect of honoring love for it’s romance and not it’s physical gratifications. His only credited collaboration on this album is with pioneer in the new jack swing genre, Keith Sweat. Their song together, “Whisper”, caps the album with a beautiful collaboration amongst two classics in R&B.
Each song in Love, Charlie develops into a full sound that will satisfy loyal fans open to an updated sound. The lyricism includes the classic R&B format of storytelling with imagery and intention. The key difference, though, is that Wilson provides a nice break from the more shallow accounts of sexual encounters that younger R&B artists write about. Instead, he honors love in a chivalrous way. Even in the most intimate of moments during this album, Wilson remains a gentleman. The production also stays true to R&B with twinkling stabs, soft synth melodies, and a wide range of percussion sounds. Whether a song has doo-wop influences (“I think I’m In Love”), hip-hop touches (“My Baby”), or a quiet storm (“Turn Off The Lights”), this album never strays away from the Charlie Wilson sound. And yes, his vibratos sounds good for 60.
Love, Charlie would make a great love letter if it was presented in pen and ink. The entire album is neatly packaged and makes the constant message of love always feel new as different topics of love are introduced throughout the track listing. Men could learn from what he has to say, and women could melt at the thought of his romantic ideas.