Gregory Abbott - Drop Your Mask (2012)

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    The year was 1986 when Gregory Abbott burst onto the R&B music scene, essentially out of nowhere.  The only tidbit of note about Abbott back then was that he was once wed to Freda Payne, and he had a strong academic background.  But that changed quickly.  With his suave, sophisticated demeanor, classic good looks and signature green eyes, Abbott made the ladies swoon through both sight and sound.  But the New York native was more than just a pretty face. 

    Abbott immediately made a big splash with the title track from his album, Shake You Down.  The single jammed up the radio airwaves, as it was requested by females from age 15 to 60, and it was the choice of lovers who wanted to bring a bit of spice in their romantic lives.  When you heard “Well, well…” from a Gregory Abbott song, you could see the ladies singing along while fantasizing about the man with the green eyes.  Abbott brought a sensuality that was adult, yet women both young and old could relate to, and he held a sexuality that made women believe he could back up his claims of unbridled romance.  Shake You Down, both the single and the album, went platinum, and for a time, Gregory Abbott could do no wrong.  Abbott created an alternative style of adult contemporary R&B; his own signature sound he coined, “Groove Ballads.” 

    As both the writer and producer of his music, Gregory Abbott’s staying power has endured over the years, even as his fame has faded.  Abbott’s ninth effort, Drop Your Mask, is chock full of music that has something for everyone.  The album also pays homage to Abbott’s Harlem, Venezuelan and Caribbean roots.  Lyrically, Gregory Abbott has always been top notch; full of romantic and insightful poems that stay in your brain long after you’ve listen to his music, and nothing has changed with Drop Your Mask.  But what do you expect from a man who has a degree in creative writing from Stanford, and was once an English professor at the University of California, Berkeley. 

    From the very first track, Abbott sets a Caribbean/reggae tone with “Things That Mean (The Most 2 Me)”.  Three of the album’s first four songs pay an ode to Island Music, with only “Rhythm Rhyme,” an 80’s style adult contemporary love ballad, being the exception.  Abbott has never been one to allow himself to be placed in a music box, and true to form, he switches gears on the album, giving adult contemporary R&B in pop, blues, and uptempo dance flavors.  Songs like “Sin Ti,” “Reunion” and “Eleven Eleven” all inspire the listener with messages of love and life.  With “Miracles,” Abbott goes for a Marvin Gaye, “Trouble Man,” type of feel, and his positive vibe should be well received.  Abbott switches up again with “Do The Caribbean,” before settling in to giving what his R&B fans long for: some Groove Ballads.  As with “Shake You Down,” the title track on Drop Your Mask is the standout on the album, a soulful, funky groove that’s bound to be a favorite at 40-plus clubs and house parties alike. 

    It’s not that Gregory Abbott ever went anywhere.  His live shows have captivated audiences over the decades, and his fans have supported his music over that period.  It’s refreshing to see an artist still be a consummate professional with his music, and Gregory Abbott is proof positive that staying power goes a long way in keeping music lovers happy.  Recommended

    By Gabriel Rich