Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be the 100 Most Dynamic Debut Albums Ever Made, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
Kenny Lattimore had an old school flavor at a time when old school really wasn’t en vogue. By the mid-nineties, the romantic musings of singers like Miles Jaye, Freddie Jackson, and Luther Vandross had, for the most part, been supplanted by hip-hop soul. Gone were the days when mature R&B could rest on airwaves next to more youth-oriented fare, and many singers were left adrift.
Lattimore, however, was a rare case of someone who bridged the gap between the past and the present - and his gold 1996 eponymous debut stands as a delightful blend of contemporary production values and heart-on-the-sleeve soul singing. He wasn’t too young for the 30 and over set but he was hip enough to connect with teenagers and young adults, and Kenny Lattimore effectively showcased his range and hinted at the greatness to come.
Featuring production from the likes of Dave “Jam” Hall and Barry J. Eastmond, Kenny Lattimore was pure cool, blending mid-tempo movers and ballads with a little hip-hop edge for good measure. The album’s three singles—“Never Too Busy,” “Just What it Takes” and the wedding staple “For You”—highlight Lattimore’s gliding style, allowing him to sing through the percolating grooves without spilling into the excess male singers often see as conveying manliness. Ultimately, that’s what makes the record so joyful; this is good, crisp vocalizing that complements its soundscapes instead of competing with them.
From top to bottom, this remains an enjoyable listen, as “Joy,” “Always Remember,” “Forgiveness,” and “I Won’t Forget (Whose I Am)” are emblematic of an artist who, despite being new to the scene, was fully secure in his talent and musical vision. Lattimore continued to challenge himself, taking on a broad swath of deeper, more complex material over the last 20 years, most notably on From the Soul of Man (1998) and the covers vehicle Timeless (2008). With the release of last year’s A Kenny Lattimore Christmas, the singer took his rightful place as one of the most consistently engaging performers of his era.