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Kevin Mahogany: Pride and Joy

If ever there was a perfect marriage of musician and moniker, Kevin Mahogany is it. Like the exotic wood that fills upscale furniture showrooms, Mahogany’s voice is dark, lustrous and of rare beauty. Often compared to the great Joe Williams, he does, indeed, invoke the same majestic authority and a similarly rich resonance. Artistically, though, Mahogany more closely resembles Cassandra Wilson. Like Wilson, he willingly-indeed, eagerly-embraces multiple genres and appreciates that there is gold to be mined from pop hits of the ’60s and ’70s. For his Telarc debut, Pride and Joy, Mahogany pays homage to several of contemporary pop’s most underappreciated poets by reinterpreting a dozen Motown classics.

As any baby-boomer worth his or her salt knows, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Holland-Dozier-Holland and Stevie Wonder crafted some of the most beautiful love songs of the past quarter-century. Trouble was, their craftsmanship was often obscured by the need for an oh-so-danceable beat. Now, at long last, some of those remarkable lyrics are being given the front-and-center prominence they deserve. Consider, for example, Mahogany’s exquisite treatments of Wonder and Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown” and Holland, Dozier and Holland’s “My World Is Empty Without You.” Unfolded at an achingly slow pace, both are exposed for the heartbreakingly beautiful anthems they are. Similarly, Michael Jackson’s plaintive “She’s Out of My Life” is transformed from an overemotive paean to bad break-ups to a stark and painful self-condemnation of love derailed.

Other highlights include a gorgeously bittersweet “Neither One of Us,” a peppery rendition of “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” with a killer a cappella intro and an intriguing cover of the decidedly more obscure Marvelettes’ hit “The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game.”

Suffice it to say that Pride and Joy is uniformly stunning.

Originally Published