Album Review: Portrait, Afro Trees
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

Album Review: Portrait, Afro Trees

One of the most underrated R&B groups of the early nineties, Portrait returns to the scene with their new release Afro Trees. Since releasing the 2017 buzz single “In The Moment” (a grown folks bop) to a positive reception, Portrait have kept their fans waiting in anticipation for a new album. Serving as the group’s fifth release overall  and first new album  since 2005’s Share My Love , the group’s newest album finds Portrait (now a duo comprised of original members Philip Johnson and Michael Angelo Saulsberry,) releasing music in the digital age.

Instead of trying to keep up with current R&B trends (auto-tune, vulgar lyrics or rapper cameos), in house producer Michael Angelo Saulsberry updates the signature Portrait sound for 2020 and caters not only to fans who fans of the group, but those who enjoy timeless R&B production.

Opening with “Describe You” the song instantly will make male listeners hope in the car and just go for a summer drive with their significant other. Saulsberry produces the track with ease, showing off his production skills. Up next is “Love Song” which reminded of a nighttime summer beach concert. Johnson’s tenor carries the track to a musical euphoria.

Similar to the Portrait releases of yesteryear, Michael Angelo Saulsberry handles the bulk of production on Afro Trees. However when I discovered that one of my favorite producers Raphael Saadiq collaborated with the group for “I Feel So Alone”, I was ecstatic to hear the finished product. Saulsberry and Saadiq previously collaborated on three songs from Saadiq’s 2004 Ray Ray, so I was looking forward to their reunion. Fans of Saadiq’s production will instantly have burning ears, when they recognize some of his signature guitar riffs.

 My favorite portion of the album would have to be tracks five though seven.  Starting with the Les Whitaker assisted “Cum Over”, transitioning into “Pick Up” and ending with “Closer”, Johnson’s vocals mixed with Saulsberry’s production tell a great relationship story from the initial hook up to the chase and finally the commitment.  Hollywood filmmakers should take note and consider using the songs for a romantic comedy. As a film person, the moment I heard the songs I was able to picture the songs as background music or during a montage.

Throughout the rest of the album, Saulsberry experiments with various sounds Chicago soul (“Love Is Everywhere”), EDM (“Good Love”) and Japanese melody (“Clear”). In a lesser producer’s hands the results could have been abysmal, but with the first-rate musical composition of Saulsberry, the songs a success. My only minuscule compliment with the album is the group didn’t give us one of their signature slow jams

While Afro Trees ranks number three (1995’s All That Matters & the 1992 self-titled debut hold the # 1 and 2 slots) in my favorite Portrait album rankings ,as a complete body of work, it’s a winner.   No matter what the music genre is, not many music artists can take a fifteen year gap between releases and still sound fresh.  The masses may feel that R&B is dead, but Portrait is doing their part to keep it alive.

Afro Trees can purchased exclusively on the group website at https://www.portraitmusik.com/shop

Final Grade: A

Album highlights – “Cum Over”, “Pick Up The Phone” ,”Closer”, “Love Song”

Movie Clappers

More reviews to explorer

Second Listen Sunday : The Rude Boys, Rude House

For this week’s Second Listen Sunday, I decided to visit the Buckeye State and pay homage to The Rude Boys. The Cleveland-based quartet consisted of Larry Marcus, Melvin Sephus, Edward Lee “Buddy” Banks, and Joe Little III. Initially breaking onto the scene in 1990 with the hits “Written All Over Your Face” and “Are You Lonely For Me” from their debut, they wasted no time returning to the studio.

Slow Jam Saturday : Lloyd, Valentine

Valentine’s Day 2024 may have come and gone, but I still plan to use highlight songs with the V-word for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. The artist I chose is a southern gentleman by the name of Lloyd. Initially breaking onto the scene as a member of the preteen-boy band N-Toon, Lloyd’s solo career kicked off in 2004 with the hit “Southside.”

Slow Jam Saturday : Ryan Leslie, Valentine

As we continue to celebrate the month of love, I chose “Valentine by Ryan Leslie as the second song with the word valentine for February’s Slow Jam Saturday. Leslie broke into the music industry in 2003, writing hits for Beyoncé and New Edition. Leslie released the singles “The Way That U Move Girl” and “Used 2 Be” featuring Fabolous. However, his debut album was never officially released due to creative differences with his record label. In late 2007, Leslie finally broke through with the bop “Diamond Girl,” and his self-titled album would finally hit record stores on February 10, 2009. Leslie also succeeded with the follow-up singles “Addiction” and “How It Was Supposed to Be.” Surprisingly, though, Leslie didn’t drop “Valentine” as the fourth single, which would have timed perfectly with the album release date.

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

© Copyright Reviews & Dunn. All rights reserved

website designed by Red Robin Digital designers