It’s his first full-length album since 1985 can you imagine! The man who gave us the immortal “You And Me” in 1980 only released a handful of singles afther his 1985 MCA Records album, among them the UK-based Debut 12″ “Are You Ready” in 1991.
Rockie played London’s Jazz Café last weekend and is now back with “Good Life”, the title track and first single is also the album opener. Rockie miraculously hasn’t changed, his voice at times sounding more assured and secure on the slow ballad “Love Me Tonight”, co-written by keyboardist Ricky Peterson who is on board on all of the tracks and also produced the entire album except for one track.
The music can best be described as a welcome return of the quiet storm format (if you’re in need of a format at all), with jazzy sax solos here and there and most of the tracks staying in the midtempo, slow-grooving category. Breezy tracks like “Let Me Be The One” and “A Night To Remember” perfectly fit Rockie’s seducing, caressing vocals. There is a sexy flow on the suavely drifting “Drives Me Out Of My Mind” where Rockie stretches out a bit a few times (elongating a syllable or two for effective dramatic purposes, but not overdoing it) and where the backing vocals and the length of the track help to make this one of the highlights of the set.
The 80s ballad style of “Hang On” is one of the better cuts on the album, making this the perfect indie soul tune. His attempt to stretch it out onto the dancefloor doesn’t really work out on “Let’s Groove” but it’s on this particular track where Rockie’s signature upper registers can be heard to full effect on an otherwise pretty lackluster song. Aretha’s “Rock Steady” turns the whole thing into funk mode but somehow feels a bit restrained and too polished. I’m not really into the arbitrary style of the R&B swayer “Stay” or the syrupy “You Go Where I Go”.
We also get two tracks from the standard songbook: “Since I Fell For You” is a fair-enough and solid cover of the Buddy Johnson classic and further proof that Rockie still has the chops and “For All We Know” has him veering towards Donny Hathaway in intonation and class. Two more mixes of “Good Life” complete this new set. A welcome return of one of the most enduring vocals in contemporary soul.