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If Curtis Mayfield ever had a chance to record a full-length album for Playboy Jazz After Dark, Pete Belasco’sLights On would be the eventual culmination. It’s not an absurd idea since Mayfield on a number of occasions unleashed the expressions of his sexier side (“The Makings of You,” “When We’re Alone,” “You Mean Everything to Me,” etc.), so Belasco’s effort doesn’t come off as being grandiose or self-indulgent. But, for the most part, Belasco’s third disc – his first album in eight years – finds himself making love under the pale moonlight on a bed of rose petals, but with very little moves to show off. His feathery falsetto mimics the relaxed centrality of Robin Thicke, although his cooing hardly goes past a whisper. And, to add to the list of worries, the set of songs never branch past its boxed-in comfort zone.
There are a few album favorites, particularly the Quiet Storm opener “I Ain’t Doin’ It” and “Later,” where he remixes Impressions doo-wop with cozy New York jazz. Still, it’s hard to even pick out favorites when the entire album hardly abandons the tempo and sleepy lounge soul. He has a smart vocal instrument and he is totally surrounded by dreamy piano, romantic balladry and pristine production. But, Lights Onis a clever summation of mood music, a neat disc to put on for a late-night romantic rendezvous. Those who want a longer reprise of a Kem album after hours may want to put a checkmark on this
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