Vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Butler
has been fairly consistent in his quest to be the next George Benson
, as his recordings could all be easily mistaken for the classic pop/jazz album Breezin'
. So Strong
follows those same non-discretionary lines, as Butler
makes no bones about playing the exact same style of tunes that Benson
popularized in the mid-'70s, establishing the so-called smooth jazz format. You hear relatively similar light funk beats, spare guitar chords, or easygoing, simple lines, and the kind of underdeveloped, lazy affectations that are formulaic to this production model, cookie-cutter music. As Butler
plays this genre of singer/songwriter pop, he sounds well, creeping closer vocally to Stevie Wonder
, his fans should be pleased at the end result. In the pocket and on the make, songs like the title track and "Feels so Good," are purpose-built to slink and seduce one into a late-night lull, while moaning ballads and cooing come-ons dot the surface of these marginal compositions. Butler
does hearken back to his South African heritage with ringing chords and a horn complement (Rick Braun
and Dave Koz
) during "Make Room for Me," and does a quite credible version of the 1972 Johnny Nash
hit "I Can See Clearly Now." There's nothing outstanding or all that different to suggest Butler
has an interest in establishing his own identity past commercial considerations. Perhaps someday he'll do the pure highlife, kwela, or township jazz album that is within his native soul.