Marsha Ambrosius: Late Nights & Early Mornings

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Posted March 24, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0
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Now on her own, U.K. soul singer aims to insert more sensuality into modern soul

Former Floetry star Marsha Ambrosius opens up her debut LP Late Nights & Early Mornings with a sexy, slow cooker. “With You,” co-written by Alicia Keys, sounds like it belongs on Keys’ turf, but Ambrosius’ sensual attacks and steamy controlled moans atop the vintage Luther musicality is downright delicious, even if the “uh-uh-uh” moans becomes increasingly monotonous. Ambrosius’ production gives in to Prince synth blurs (“Late Night & Early Mornings”) and leans a little more on the Michael Jackson end (“Butterflies”), but it’s the kind of bread-and-butter that gels comfortably on a woman’s pipes of this caliber.

“Hope She Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player)” — with its thuggish beats and immature retaliation — may be her way of sneaking a single into urban radio playlist, but it lacks the kind of crunch of a Keyisha Cole/Mary J. single. Instead, Ambrosius shines the most using dreamy ‘90’s contemporary R&B and bedroom galore like on “Far Away.” Ambrosius milks the song into a seven-minute ballad, while singing across grooves that seemed to be ripped from the archives of Boyz II Men’s “Come Back to Me.” But even all the night passion gets predictable in places, as Ambrosius uses her pipes like a Toni Braxton-Taylor Dane hybrid. Midtempo jams (“I Want You to Stay” ) and Aretha soul (“Tears”) brings the album the relief it needs in order to deflect most predictabilities. She balances out the album with adventurous covers of Lauryn Hill’s “Lose Myself” and Portishead’s “Sour Times,” even trying to top things off with a spirited remix of “Butterflies” and a heartfelt lovers’ goodbye on “The Break Up Song.” Smartly, she injects a great sense of warmth and sweetness into the now-predictable R&B game, doing what most R&B divas are mostly too afraid or too unskilled to do. She’s comfortable in using her poetic smarts on her kingly influences. Her style isn’t entirely original, but it’s all her own. Her vocals aren’t all that tightly woven either, using lots of Kim Burrell vocal runs on frail Alicia Keys-esque pipes. Although the R&B world is struggling to find the type of sophisticated artistry that rivals Anita Baker or Toni Braxton, Late Nights & Early Mornings reveals the hope of a new kind of R&B songstress.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 1 March 2011
  • Label: J Records
  • Producer: Marsha Ambrosius, Rich Harrison, Focus…, Just Blaze, Dre & Vidal, Canei Finch, Syience
  • Spin This: “Far Away,” “With You,” “Butterflies (Remix)”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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