Album: John Legend <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Once Again, COLUMBIA
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It's hard not to feel underwhelmed by this follow-up to Legend's major-label debut Get Lifted, which secured three million sales through a judicious blend of his gospel roots and hip-hop ties. The lunge for the mainstream is too pronounced, and probably ill-advised, inasmuch as it places him in direct comparison with more expressive, adept singers. The better tracks make best use of Legend's vocal mix of Bill Withers' warmth with the reflective nature of Donny Hathaway: the smooth, Philly soul-styled " Each Day Gets Better", and " Slow Dance", whose sleek early-Sixties R&B sound recalls The Impressions and "Groovin'" -era Young Rascals. But too many seem like water-treading cast-offs from Legend's high-profile producers Kanye West, Raphael Saadiq and Subtle Tropicalia influences, such as the backing vocal section of " Save Room" and the bossa nova groove of "Maxine", add colour, as does the quietly discursive, Hendrix-esque guitar on "Show Me"; but elsewhere the tracks seem bland and hurried, and in the case of the bizarre blend of chamber music and cabaret ballad that is "Where Did My Baby Go", simply wrong-headed.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Slow Dance', 'Show Me'