Noel Gourdin is a relatively fresh face in the R&B/neo-soul scene. Signed to Sony BMG’s Epic Records in 2005, he has had only a few years to develop the cultivated sound and maturity of a veteran, but has done all that and more. His new studio debut LP, entitled “After My Time,” is an impressive showcase of skillful vocals and heartfelt lyrics of a quality unparalleled by most industry vets today.
“The River,” the album’s lead single, is a sincere and inspiring ballad about Gourdin’s childhood years and first love. In what he himself describes as a ‘contemporary Negro spiritual,’ a vulnerable tenor croons: “Growing up, it was tough/ We were glad for what little we had/ I saw my share of old fair Mississippi/ Dirt roads and Confederate flags/ Every day my father would tell me:/ “Son, run and don’t never come back”/ That’s where I left my girl, That’s where my heart is at.”
On “One Love,” a mature Gourdin contemplates taking a relationship to the next level, expressing the joys of new love with candid, genuine lyrics: “Now I know we said we weren’t gonna rush/ I was the first to say it/ But I’ve been thinking about your touch/ My mind keeps replaying it.” He also uses the auto-tune gimmick a little here, but he’s got the skill to back it up, so the song works well as a whole.
“Sorry I Led You On” is an apology for ruining a relationship: “Every time I see your eyes/ The thought comes back to mine/ Girl I didn’t want to do it/ But I gave into temptation.” Acknowledging his weaknesses, he seeks forgiveness: “I’m sorry babe,” he sings, hoping for a second chance. The strongest tracks here are “The River,” “Sorry I Led You On,” “One Love,” and “Better Man,” though nearly all of the others are on the same level quality-wise.
Noel Gourdin has the falsetto range of Maxwell as well as the earthy soul of Musiq Soulchild, and regularly cites classic R&B influences such as Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, and Sam Cooke, all of which are apparent in his vocals. Sultry neo-soul backing gives the album a chill vibe, highlighting Gourdin’s melodic tenor, and collaborative production efforts from big names like Raphael Saadiq and Vidal & Dre give all of the tracks a topnotch audio quality. It is hard to criticize such a well-put together album.
“After My Time” is a creative, thoughtful and heartfelt album deserving (at the very least) of a purchase. Gourdin is a personable, talented young singer/songwriter who shows massive potential as an R&B mainstay for years to come.
-Robert Burns, II
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