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Cee-Lo Green: Cee-Lo Green… Is The Soul Machine

Album: Cee-Lo Green… Is The Soul Machine
Label: Arista

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Cee-Lo Green's uneven but intermittently brilliant solo debut Cee-Lo Green And His Perfect Imperfections anticipated the genre-hopping, eccentricity, and sheer messiness of Andre 3000's The Love Below, but lacked the OutKast member's radio-friendly pop sensibility. The result was a critical hit but a commercial disappointment, in no small part because Green handled the production himself and limited the guest roster to a few low-wattage spots, including a puzzling cameo from Blues Traveler's John Popper. As he proved during his song-stealing work with Dungeon Family and his tenure as the standout member of Goodie Mob, Green is a prodigiously gifted rapper and singer, but he's had a hard time channeling that talent into memorable songs. Green has grown significantly as a songwriter and producer since his debut, but just as importantly, he's no longer going it alone. With Cee-Lo Green... Is The Soul Machine, Green reaches out to some of the top producers in hip-hop, giants like DJ Premier, The Neptunes, Organized Noize, Timbaland, and Jazze Pha. Since hip-hop producers tend to become the biggest by being the best, that strategy is as sound artistically as it is commercially. Lyrically, Green's persona is still that of a passionate hip-hop preacher, albeit one who attends to his congregation's sexual needs as well as its spiritual ones. Green isn't afraid to play the smooth-talking lover-man, but his honeyed come-ons are accompanied by welcome graciousness and modesty. On "The One," he sings about how it's a privilege simply to be in the presence of his object of desire, while on the disarmingly sweet "All Day Love Affair," he foregoes R. Kelly-like promises of VIP excess, and instead humbly proposes "a Blockbuster night." A major album from a major artist, Soul Machine works with a sonic, lyrical, and emotional palette that encompasses everything from joy to rage. Green's debut made it clear that he had a great album in him. Soul Machine occasionally overreaches, but this is it.