But his artistic strength and Achilles heel is that hes so much more: Musical tributaries flow in from Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Prince and Jimi Hendrix, just for starters. His near-flawless eponymous 1996 solo debut had the faithful swearing that Marvin Gaye had been reborn, and a slew of high-profile celebs (Aaliyah, Elton John, DAngelo) sang the praises of this wildly eclectic singer-songwriter/producer. He never gained a foothold in America never even released the record here but for a moment was the Next Big Thing in the U.K. But after his followup,Lewis II
which might be described as his
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Taylor lost his major-label record deal and descended to cult/critical-darling status. Subsequently, hes released one fantastic album after another.
Taylors stateside debut, Stoned, is a re-sequenced version of 02s Stoned Pt. 1, supplemented with five new tracks (many culled from other limited-edition albums); its also one of the finest albums of the year. Taylors silky voice, with just the slightest hint of graininess, effortlessly shifts from the self-penned, party-vibed Lovin U More to the romantic sweep of Positively Beautiful, then covers David Sylvians Ghosts, Brian Wilsons Melt Away (reverent but passionate) and the Thom Bell & Linda Creed R&B classic Stop, Look, Listen. Its his own lyrics that slay you, however. The gorgeously wrought, self-flagellating When Will I Ever Learn is drawn from a well of anguish familiar to anyone whos ever fucked up a love affair (Have I been a burden to you?/I tried so hard to please . . .). Produced to fuse soulful delicacy (those gorgeously layered, Brian Wilsoninfluenced vocals) with offbeat alt-flourishes, Stoned is heady stuff that floats far above 99 percent of contemporary pop and R&B likely to its detriment.
LEWIS TAYLOR | Stoned (Hacktone Records/Shout! Factory)