Chris Chandler - A Different Look (2013)

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    It can be said that Chris Chandler knows his way around when it comes to music.  After all, the Chicago native has family ties in the music world, and Chandler himself has always embraced Chi-Town's rich musical history.  From Nat King Cole, Sam Cooke, Lou Rawls and Curtis Mayfield to Earth, Wind & Fire, the music was all duly noted by Chris Chandler.  And when the time came for him to make his way in the music world, Chandler was prepared to make his mark.  His first foray into the music scene came as a songwriter for the Beatnuts.  Next up, Chandler became a songwriter  for the Rawkus Records Hip Hop label, where he also sang hooks for some of the artists.  Then came the touring, as Chandler traveled with such impressive Hip Hop acts as the Beatnuts, Common and Eminem.   

    All of the seasoning Chris Chandler has received over the years from writing, touring, performing and artists development can be heard in his new CD, A Different Look.  On the album, Chandler seeks to give a bit of all his experiences and his music influences in a package that's mellow and smooth.  The album, written and produced by Chandler, combines several genres in a contemporary R&B setting that also pays tribute to music of decades past, when artistry took precedent over everything else.  A Different Look is chock full of rich and vibrant background vocal overdubs to accentuate Chandler's voice.  Chandler takes some risks as well, covering classics like the Beatles'  "Something" to Michael Jackson's classic tune, "I Can't Help It."  Both covers are good; Chandler certainly makes his impression felt on each track, but a classic song is a classic song after all.  Still, Chandler shows you just a hint of the range of his music depth on both covers, and that's a plus.  But the overall theme of A Different Look is mellow, and Chandler gives you more than enough mellow to fill your palette, with some smooth added in for good measure.  Musically, the album is one you can put on and chill, max and relax to.  Chandler's vocal inflections give  A Different Look its three-dimensional feel that one can easily assume comes from a personal experience, just in CD form.

    Though it is an independent CD, A Different Look has a rich variety of instruments and arrangements.  The love song "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonite" offers live drums and with a merging of piano and rhythm guitar.  "Who R U" gives you a strong horn arrangement, with a keyboard style that evokes memories of early D'Angelo.  On "Just A Dream" Chandler pushes for a heavier guitar arrangement, blended with a softer percussion.  The album is really more of the adult contemporary variety in much the way of Kem than it is the hyper-swagger of today's R&B.  And that's a good thing to be sure.  

    The grown and sexy crowd is where it's at, and with A Different Look, Chandler caters to an audience that's begging for good music.  Chris Chandler introduces himself to adult soul audiences with a unique brand of mellow that chills out precisely as intended.  And while only a few contemporary artists can provide a "coolness" factor to their balladry, Chandler isn't far from reaching that level. In the meantime, he's delivered an enjoyable debut that should portend good things to come. Recommended.

    By Gabriel Rich