October 1998

Lonnie Liston Smith
Ichiban Records

Veteran keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith appears to be stuck in some sort of time-warp through the better part of Transformation (Ichiban International/ Loveland D2-24942-2; 50:30), an album marked by outdated-sounding grooves, and a strange mix which appears to highlight the wrong elements. Tracks like "Queen of Hearts" and "Moon Beams" are all drippy atmosphere, keyed on a tingly, unexciting electric piano sound that seems an outdated, rather than retro-hip, reference. Vocalist Donald Smith applies needless melodrama to the quasi-George Benson groove "Transformation," and a deadly serious delivery to the clich d lyric of the somewhat funky "Space Princess." Both of these tunes place Donald's vocal extremely low in the mix. Most pieces here also take a while to get going... or at least to get to the good stuff: Smith's sweet touch keyboard melody lines, which come through best on the light Caribbean tonic, "Beautiful Girl."

Originally published in October 1998
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