|Recording information: Battery Studios, New York, NY; Crib Zeno Studios, Atlanta, GA; Face Studios, Fort Washington, MD; Kay-Dee Studios, Secaucus, NJ; Omega Studios, Maryland; Phase Recording & Media, White Plains, MD; The Hampton Studios, Sicklerville, NJ.
|Emboldened by Love Behind the Melody's crossover success, involving a Top Ten spot on the Billboard 200, a BET Award and two Grammy nominations, Raheem DeVaughn grants his third album a title that sounds (but does not necessarily look) arrogant. Despite the wordplay, DeVaughn did not mess around when it came to recording a set befitting a title as grand as The Love & War MasterPeace. There are plenty of love songs, naturally, and most of them are imaginative and excellent. Even when they slip into clever foolishness, as on "B.O.B." -- in which the protagonist testifies the many reasons why he would be preferable to a specific device -- they are strong in construction, much more about honoring the woman than the man's prowess, and DeVaughn's easy falsetto never sounds self-satisfied. On the socially conscious material, DeVaughn really lays into it all with a dedicated force that is potent musically and lyrically. Subtract Dr. Cornel West's recurring spots as hype man-slash-mood enhancer, and the album would still remain one of the most grippingly conscious major-label R&B albums of the last 30 years, featuring the Curtis Mayfield-channeling (and sampling) "Bulletproof," an alluringly morose opener, and the startling 13 minutes that make up the closers "Nobody Wins a War" (despite involving the input of nearly a dozen of DeVaughn's contemporaries, it is no wreck) and "Revelations 2010" (assisted by Damian Marley and a chorus of "They're out to bury me, they're out to bury you/And all you can do is arm yourself"). An expanded version adds over 45 minutes to the program, making the album clock in at nearly two hours. DeVaughn stretches out on the meditative "Soldier Story," inspired by a friend who returned from Iraq without legs, and "Lose Control," an 11-minute robo-funk workout. Most of these songs -- especially "Wing and a Prayer," featuring UGK's Bun B and a spine-tingling chorus -- should not be considered merely bonus content. ~ Andy Kellman