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Van Hunt


There's an evolutionary branch of R & B that was started by Sly Stone and Curtis Mayfield in the 70s, picked up by Prince and Terence Trent D'Arby for a while in the 80s, then went missing for years. I think of it as Tiffany's Funk. Elegant in arrangement, with a deliciously delicate sense of groove and melody, it's sexy without the X-treme antics of most contemporary soul. It's all about the sidelong glance over the shagging bump 'n' grind.

From the opening tracks of his sophomore album, it's obvious that Van Hunt has unearthed this missing link in R & B, and made it his own. It's one thing to have killer grooves, but on "If I Take You Home," "Hot Stage Lights," and the hit-worthy "Being A Girl," Hunt flaunts songwriting chops that take this whole affair to a higher level. His ballads are just as strong. "Daredevil, Baby" recalls Stevie Wonder in his early-70s prime, while "Mean Sleep" stairsteps from verse to chorus with neatly constructed twists and turns. Album closer "The Night Is Young" achieves a Bic lighters aloft anthemic quality without being cheesy in the least.

In a recent interview, Hunt summed up his simple mission: "I don't really have a message other than it's an album full of really good songs. That's my only goal, to put the best songs on an album and put it out. It's about the songs. Because that's what I am at heart, a songwriter."

And though he shares a co-producer credit with Bill Bottrell (Sheryl Crow, Michael Jackson), multi-instrumentalist Hunt is behind all of the writing, along with most of the arranging, performing, and singing here. It gives Jungle Floor a cohesiveness that's missing from a lot of modern R & B records (where it's not unusual to have seven different producers).

Kanye and Usher may be grabbing the current headlines, but for my money, Van Hunt has got the sound and vision to go the distance. • Bill DeMain

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