Down In The Delta
Virgin Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/02/1999
I honestly don't listen to a lot of popular r&b music these days, for the simple reason that I never did develop that much of a taste for it. I'm not saying I don't appreciate a good song when I hear it, it's just that I don't go out of my way searching for the latest releases, say, by Bobby Brown or R. Kelly.
The soundtrack to the movie Down In The Delta could change all that for me. The sixteen tracks on this release highlight a lot of great performances, and is a wonderful primer for those who, like me, might not be well-schooled in r&b.
Naturally, you'll find some of the more recognizable names in the genre on this collection. Stevie Wonder checks in with a lovely "If Ever" - though I question if we really needed the synthesized bird sounds. Chaka Khan - who I've not heard from since 1984's "I Feel For You" - surprises with "Don't Talk 2 Strangers", while Luther Vandross and Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men both turn in decent contributions.
But Down In The Delta helps to introduce listeners to either newer groups or to artists who never achieved the same level of fame as the former group. SUNDAY, who open the soundtrack with "Believe In Love," show they're a name to be watched in the future. Stanley Clarke's contribution from the film's score ("Family") and Sweet Honey In The Rock's a capella rendition of "Patchwork Quilt" are both hauntingly beautiful. Likewise, Sounds Of Blackness ("Don't Let Nothin' Keep You Down") was impressive.
Of the well-known names, two performers turned in works that, surprisingly, failed to impress me. D'Angelo's "Heven Must Be Like This" got to be far too repetitive within the first 90 seconds of the song, almost to the point of becoming annoying. And while I'll freely admit I've never been a big fan of Ashford & Simpson, "Uh Uh Ooh Ooh Look Out Here It Comes" didn't raise their stock in my eyes.
Other selections, while good, are purely subjective, and whether or not you'll like them will depend on what your tastes in r&b are. From The Leverts ("Where Would I Be") to Janet ("God's Stepchild") to the duet between Me'Shell N'Degeocello and Keb' Mo' ("My Soul Don't Dream"), there is something on Down In The Delta that will please everyone.
Not having seen the movie, I don't quite know how these songs fit in with the action. But with the strong performances on this album, you don't necessarily have to be well-versed in the film to appreciate what the songs are conveying. And in the end, that's the sign of a good soundtrack, a classification that Down In The Delta fits nicely.