Some of soul's finest performers specialize in cutting loose; their vocals roar with authority. But just as many of the genre's talents focus on control, synthesizing their emotions into a smooth confection that makes everything from infidelity to heartbreak taste as sweet as sorbet. John Legend falls into the second category, and if Once Again seems modest on first listen, it ultimately proves that sophisticated reserve can be just as powerful as chest-thumping rawness.
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The ubiquitous will.i.am has indulged in cheesy over-sampling of late (e.g., Fergie's solo debut), but his touch is blessedly light on "Save Room," in which he and Legend effortlessly alter the forecast of "Stormy," a Classics IV oldie. "Heaven," produced by Kanye West, and "Maxine," a luxuriant samba, are just as strong. Granted, "Again" feels too much like "Ordinary People" redux, and "Coming Home" doesn't quite hit the "What's Going On" heights for which it's clearly aiming. They don't miss by much, though, and as long as "Each Day Gets Better" is spinning, its title rings true.
Play it Again.