Magazine article Variety

Good Thing

Magazine article Variety

Good Thing

Article excerpt

MUSIC REVIEW

Good Thing

Artist: Leon Bridges

Label: Columbia

With his second album, "Good Thing," Leon Bridges has adroitly managed to escape the trap set by his first. But let's take a moment to point out what a beautiful trap it was. That debut, 2015's "Coming Home," was a starmaker for all the right reasons, turning the young Texan into an instant amphitheater headliner and a favorite of no less a cultural arbiter than President Obama on the basis of how preternaturally he was able to channel a certain brand of early '60s R&B. The album sounded like it was recorded on actual equipment from the era, and his pleated suits looked as if they'd laid amid the world's gentlest mothballs since then too. But the best part about it was how little Bridges seemed to care about being a revivalist, as great as he was as it. He just happened to be a man possessed - even though, by the end of the media cycle for "Coming Home," he surely would have traded 10 years of future royalties just to never hear the words "Sam" or "Cooke" again.

Faster than you can say "A change is gonna come," Bridges has shuffled things up for "Good Thing," probably correctly divining that what seemed fresh on the freshman outing would start to look like a one-Cooke-pony stunt by album two. He renewed work in the same vein with the same longtime band that produced and co-wrote the first record before thinking better of it. Instead, he started over with project overseer Ricky Reed, a 2017 Grammy producer of the year nominee whose labors here won't hurt his chances at a repeat nomination. Reed has wisely kept Bridges' original crew on board for a few tracks, but brought in a broader range of neo-soul collaborators for the others. The new album is not that drastically less of a classicist affair than "Coming Home," when all is said and done, but this time it's a whole variety pack of retro. If anyone wanted to bear down on Bridges for still mining the past - and who'd be spoilsport enough to do that? - now he's much more of a moving target.

The major shift is from leaning in on the early '60s to taking a whirlwind tour de force through the R&B 1970s. You can see the rough parameters in the two oldies that pop up as samples. Curtis Mayfield gets a co-writing credit for how the heavily orchestrated opening ballad, "Bet Ain't Worth the Hand," borrows from his oft-sampled 1970 hit "Makings of You," while the disco track "If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)" gives a nod in the credits to the Whispers' 1980 smash "It's a Love Thing." There are uncredited debts, as well: The one-two punch of "If It Feels Good" and "You Don't Know" briefly threatens to turn the album into a full-on Chic tribute record. …

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