John Legend & the Roots, 'Wake Up!' (Columbia)

6
Wake Up!
Critical Mass
Release Date: September 21, 2010
Label: Columbia

by Mikael Wood

A proudly dependable source of silly little love songs, John Legend makes for an unlikely heir to Marvin Gaye's conscious-soul crown. Yet, here he is backed by the Roots on covers of protest-pop classics such as Eugene McDaniels' "Compared to What" and Bill Withers' "I Can't Write Left Handed" (which the group stretches well beyond the 11-minute mark). The results don't always play to the singer's melodic strengths; ?uestlove sounds a bit reined-in, too. Occasionally, though, they send up some serious sparks, as with a raw garage-funk take on Baby Huey's "Hard Times."

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