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Fun Tonight

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Critics' Reviews

amg review
A press release that Delvian Records sent out with Fun Tonight described Jamie Sparks as "a soulful talent combining the passion of Seal, the smoothness of (Luther) Vandross and the magic of Stevie Wonder." Well, Sparks is definitely soulful, but this 2004 release isn't as amazing or as unique as Delvian's description would indicate. Even so, Fun Tonight is an enjoyable, decent outing that puts the Canadian vocalist firmly in the neo-soul camp -- neo being the operative word. Sparks isn't old-school soul in the classic '60s-'70s sense; he is, however, a modern soul man for a generation of R&B enthusiasts who were raised on hip-hop and urban contemporary. Sparks, who produced the album and wrote or co-wrote most of the tunes, doesn't pretend to offer an exact replica of pre- '80s soul; his high-tech, hip-hop-minded production style certainly isn't what you'll hear on a classic Gamble & Huff production from 1973. But for Sparks, high-tech doesn't mean cold, stiff or mechanical. Hip-hop showed a lot of people that technology doesn't have to be used in a robotic fashion, and that lesson wasn't lost on Sparks; Fun Tonight has warmth and humanity -- qualities that are missing from a lot of the more generic and formulaic R&B recordings of the '90s and 2000s. Like R. Kelly, Rahsaan Patterson and D'Angelo, Sparks knows how to express his appreciation of hip-hop without forgetting the R&B basics; he brings a lot of gospel-minded grit to this 52-minute CD (which is dominated by original material but includes a cover of Force MD's' "Tender Love") and seems to realize that gospel is the 'R' in R&B. Fun Tonight falls short of mind-blowing, but it's a noteworthy and likable (if slightly uneven) effort that neo-soul and urban contemporary fans should be aware of. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi