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Kem: Intimacy

Motown/PGD

On his third outing, Kem proves himself a low-wattage Maxwell. Dark and handsome, he strikes an equally romantic, mysterious figure within the urban/adult contemporary market. With his sultry Al Jarreau tenor, Kem sincerely sings self-penned lyrics of intimacy and relationships instead of bravado and backbreaking. Similarly, Kem's female-friendly music is at home on both jazz and soul stages. However, after a five-year hiatus, his long-awaited, Rex Rideout-produced project departs from Maxwell by delivering what is basically an extension of his first two ballad-heavy offerings. Essentially the third movement in a suite, Intimacy is comforting in its predictability, but too reverential with respect to his earlier releases. Sung with a consistent caress over polished productions, it soothes and placates. Yet, only three cuts test Kem's routine, including the single "Why Would You Stay" and a duet with Maurissa Rose. Whereas Maxwell's latest work challenges, Kem's only cajoles. (3 out of 5 stars)