Album: Alexander O'Neal

Saga of a Married Man, Eagle
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The Independent Culture

It was a long time ago that we last heard anything particularly essential from Eighties soul-growler Alexander O'Neal – it's been the better part of a decade, by my reckoning – but judging by Saga of a Married Man, things haven't changed that much for him since the days of "Fake" and "Criticize". He's still the permanently wounded, put-upon victim of lurrve, his heart crushed by treachery ("My baby's gone/ She couldn't stay faithful") and his woman paying too much attention to rumour and bad advice ("What's it gonna be?/ Listen to your friends, or listen to me?"). This time round, though, Alexander's trying his level best to keep his own adulterous desires firmly zipped-up – or is, at least, more mindful than before of goose and gander's equal access to the extramarital saucepot. The 10 songs on Saga of a Married Man are arranged into a sort of loose concept album about separation and reconciliation, with the incorrigible philanderer eventually returning, chastened, to his family. The crucial song on the album is "What is a Man?", which finds O'Neal going against type to reproach those prepared to sacrifice stability in the name of sex addiction: "You've got so much to lose/ Your son don't even know you/ What is a man who doesn't love his kids?". The crisp, flowing computer-funk is neat but feisty, with a light touch rare in modern R&B, and a merciful absence of overcooked drum programming. As for O'Neal's vocals, it's a pleasure to hear a mainstream soul singer who possesses character as well as technique.

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