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June 2007

Norman Brown
Stay With Me
Peak Records

Norman Brown won a Grammy for 2002’s Just Chillin’, but that wasn’t even the guitarist’s best CD. He followed that in 2004 with West Coast Coolin’, another strong effort that featured a few vocal tracks and several collaborations with writers and producers.

On Stay With Me, whose title was perhaps prompted by his recent slight drift from his earlier sound, Brown composed and produced the majority of songs. The guitarist explains that he looked to his second CD, After the Storm, for inspiration. That remains a stellar record hardcore fans consistently call their favorite. Brown hasn’t completely forgotten his musician friends, however, as that other Brown—Paul—adds his hit-making producing touch to a couple of tracks, most notably on “Pop’s Cool Groove.” Another strong effort comes with the title track, penned by soul singer Brian McKnight. Brown takes lead vocals, with McKnight adding the familiar call-and-response heard in his biggest hits.

The real charms here, though, are the sparkly tunes that are all about Norman. The first single, “Let’s Take a Ride,” is an instant classic with its hooky guitar lead and vocal scatting (by Brown, of course). “You Keep Lifting Me Higher” is another classic-to-be, distinguished by singer Nikkole’s vocals on the refrain. “It Ain’t Over BWB” reunites Brown with his BWB bandmates Rick Braun on trumpet and Kirk Whalum on sax, while “So in Love” is a tender ballad with Brown’s vocals sweet as honey on the chorus.

Old fans and new fans will certainly continue to stay with Norman Brown as a result of this CD, which is his best since 1999’s Celebration, another effort on par with After the Storm.

Originally published in June 2007
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