John Legend Get Lifted

Apparently, John Legend can’t keep it in his pants. At least, that’s what we’re led to believe with his debut album. The running theme is obviously fidelity, or the lack thereof. One would think that there is only so much mileage in it, but somehow the Ohio-born crooner gets away with the standard "baby, I’m sorry” and "I can change” refrains without it sounding trite. What John Legend has admirably done (with the aid of über-producer Kanye West) is craft an R&B/soul album that is solid from start to finish, all the while avoiding that insipid "neo-soul” tag that plagues any new Black artist that is a non-rapper or passes on pandering to the BET "106 & Park” crowd. Unlike Alicia Keys, Legend manages to successfully combine proficient pianist skills with a mix of soul, hip-hop and gospel without it sounding forced. Even when the omnipresent Snoop Dogg makes an appearance (on the superb sounding "I Can Change”) Legend holds his own, making the track rather than complementing it. While every track here gets equal billing, joints like the soothing "Stay With You,” the soulful "Number One” (save for the superfluous Kanye rap) and the scintillating "Live It Up” get that extra shine. The early line on Legend is that the heat this album will undoubtedly generate guarantees that Legend’s apparent fidelity issues will get worse before they get better. Get Lifted indeed. (Columbia)