Red Star Sounds
Name of Album: Volume 1: Soul Searching
Ratings: Personal - 2 General - 2.5
Release Date: October 9

As far any “benefit” album might go, this does not. That is, as with the retinue of such productions, it may serve their purpose to raise funds for a worthy cause, simply by getting people to buy based on the name brand (marquis of star power recruited to “work for nothing”), but its worth rarely goes beyond a finale pop-tune which just might "save the world" if it stays on the top of the charts long enough. Otherwise, the rest of any such album tends to be true to its ad-hoc de-sign. Besides, how much soul searching can you do, when Heineken is the major sponsor?

Amel Larrieux, featured on track one, is certainly a small treasure. She has a voice you might associate with a femme-fatale lounge singer that you wouldn't mind dying in the arms of—to my great disappointment, for a foolish moment, I actually believed that she was featured on every track, for my computer's Jukebox player read the pressing error which mistakenly indicated that she was the featured artist on every track.

Despite Larrieux's promising performance there are many more examples of the typical shoddy production of the genre than you can shake Harry's wand at.

For instance, I've heard much better from Erykah Badu. Her "Today" sounds like she wrote the song while she was sitting on the toilet. The next track, "don't forget it" by Glenn Lewis is equally as pallid. Macy Gray's performance lies somewhere in between her first and subsequent albums, the debut being far better then the second time around the bend —there is just something wrong about Macy singing about love and not lust.

In addition to Amel, Jill Scott proves to be another saving grace. Unlike Gray, Scott's work has been consistently smooth and she makes no exception here. Her "…long walk" walks lithely all over me, just like Nancy once did with her boots way back when.

India Arie's Butterfly was as mediocre as her chorus: "If you want to butterfly, you got to be a butterfly, nothing falls out of the sky" —too bad because India has a sweet of a voice as any of her R&B diva contemporaries. Following Arie is Jack Herrera who sounds like a masculine Prince—slightly effeminate Barry White, and whose rendition of "high off you" seems to be off the same production line as most smarmy male soul singers these days - nothing new, nothing worth mentioning.

Lathun's sweetest thing was "sweet." It's effluence actually seemed genuine enough to warrant not skipping on to the next track and even took me back to fond memories of my college innocence ushered through by the likes of Keith Sweat who initiated me to the world of sweeter things. Brad Young's "So Sweet" perhaps came at the wrong time, since one sweet song can be too much, so I was really looking for something slightly sour, just like a bite into my lemon rind curled up at the edge of my demi-tasse.

The album goes back and forth manipulating my dislikes and likes all the way through track 14, so that in the end I give it a thumb sideways. It's worth one listen - no more and no less.