Picks and Pans Review: Let It Be Me
As a singer, Brookins doesn't go in for anything too fancy. He just lays his feelings out there and lets the chips fall wherever they're inclined. Fall they do when this Sacramento, Calif.-born soul singer is belting the songs out. It's not that Brookins, 22, doesn't have technique. He's an accomplished stylist. (He has toured as musical director for Stanley Clarke and Philip Bailey.) He manages to just sound honest and unstudied. For a worthy cover of "Where Is the Love," he picks labelmate Stephanie Mills as a duet partner. (The song has been previously recorded by the tandem of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.) Brookins and Mills complement one another nicely. Only at the very beginning and end of the song does Mills trill off the handle like a hummingbird on sugar water. She has a formidable presence on this record. In addition to co-producing nearly half the songs with Brookins, she contributes many vocal backgrounds and arrangements. (Mills's sister-in-law Cassandra is Brookins' manager.) Other helpmates include pianists George Duke and Angela Winbush and keyboardist Jeff Lorber. Brookins' voice, a rich, sandy instrument, really goes to the races on the ballad-heavy first side of this album. Slow, simple songs such as the title track and "Crazy 'Bout Your Lovin' " allow him to give free rein to his emotional range. He's not nearly as impressive on the funkier second side—overshadowed by the beat, don't you know—and comes closest to holding his own on the choppy dance ditty "United." Fans of good singing would be well advised to stick with this platter's topside. Brookins is quite a piece of work when he's a mellow fellow. (MCA)
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