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Chico Debarge: Long Time No See

With everyone and their mother up on the neo-soul thing, distinguishing yourself is getting harder and harder. One, therefore, can excuse Chico Debarge for treading on well won ground on his Long Time No See (Kedar/Universal, UD 53088, 54:53). Drawing inspiration from Marvin Gaye is not a new tactic; to Debarge’s credit, he brings more than just a falsetto and some analog grooves to the table on this, his post-bighouse solo debut. (He recently spent six years on lockdown following conviction on a drug charge).That his experience has lent his love-man leanings a semi-tragic undertone goes without saying. But the influence goes beyond any pseudo-poetic ruminations about the connection between psychological suffering and musical ability. Debarge waxes autobiographical on the jail-release opening sequence and then proceeds onto the first thing on a freshly released inmate’s mind: Sex. Debarge plays up the lover-man throughout the album, tackier offerings like “Virgin” and “Superman” balanced by dead-center grinders like the aching “Love Still Good,” “Igging Me” and the sultry “Love Jones.”

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