Published Nov 11, 2015Cool Uncle is the pairing of crooner Bobby Caldwell and producer Jack Splash. Caldwell is best known for his 1978 smash and classic R&B radio mainstay, the oft-sampled "What You Won't Do For Love," and a major re-appraisal of the blue eyed soul veteran's unheralded catalogue was initiated when J Dilla sampled "Open Your Eyes" on Common's 2000 classic "The Light." While the past two decades have seen Caldwell align himself with smooth jazz and Frank Sinatra tributes like 2014's After Dark, Cool Uncle is a return to his soul roots, and Splash's trunk-thumping, genre-twisting, wall of sound production makes this an inspired collaboration between two musical mavericks.
Opening with the effortless menthol cool of "Game Over" (featuring Mayer Hawthorne), it's immediately apparent that Caldwell can more than match his sonic progeny. Meanwhile, his vocal style has grown deeper over the years, which is affirmed by the slamming "Breaking Up" (a duet with veteran diva Deniece Williams), "Never Knew Love Before" and "Break Away" (with Jessie Ware), tracks that stand as Caldwell's funkiest to date and keep the brisk, bump factor going. "Destiny" and the charming "Embrace The Night," meanwhile, are upscale pop-soul confections with just the right amount of low end to avoid succumbing to schmaltz.
There are some daring and rewarding chances taken as well. The ominous "My Beloved" is soaked in atmospheric horror-show synths and a baroque choir, which make for a captivating sonic snapshot of a vampire on the prowl.
A few duds abound — the overly melodramatic Mercy" with Cee-Lo and the too slight, reggae-tinged "The Cat Came Back" could have been trimmed — but the album closes strong with its last three tracks: the ambitious space funk of "End Of Day," the exquisite "A Dream" and "Outro," which wraps things up on an elegantly sensual note. Eclectic, soulful and refreshing, Cool Uncle is a must-hear. (Fresh Young Minds/EMPIRE)