Gerald Levert

Gerald's World (Elektra)

Gerald Levert's got the smooth, sweet-talkin' loverman thing down so well by now that he can practically sing an entire album without breaking a sweat or even thinking twice about what he's saying. And on Gerald's World, his latest album, he's as smooth and sweet-talkin' as ever. But there's something automatic about it all, a sense of security with the persona and legend he's built over the years. Levert still may have a bedroom voice, but more often than not on Gerald's World, he seems about ready to call it a night. Back in 1987, when he was fronting the family trio LeVert (which included brother Sean and hometown friend Marc Gordon), Levert was the voice behind one of the slickest R&B jams of the era, "Casanova." It's a sexy and slinky slice of '80s soul. Levert aims for a '90s update of the style on Gerald's World, but the generic grooves (provided by a bevy of producers) and Levert's own casual approach to the music rarely service the tepid material.

Levert worked hard on "Casanova" to prove he wasn't merely coasting on the family name (Dad Eddie headed the O'Jays); 14 years later, he sounds as if he has nothing left to establish. Which doesn't make Gerald's World an awful album -- just an uninspired one. There are moments when Levert's sweet tenor overrides the lackluster sentiment and sound, just as there are times when he plays straight into the arms of lovers everywhere. There's no doubt that this was conceived as a bedroom album: Not one track breaks from the measured bump 'n' grind. He sounds remarkably like his father on the opener, "Soul Mate," gets all sentimentally squishy on "Made to Love Ya," and builds a personal paradise on the closing "Dream With No Love." In other words, Gerald's World is another Gerald Levert album -- nothing less, nothing more.

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