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I Am Now

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Album Review

I Am Now is the album that introduced the late West Indies singer, songwriter, guitarist, and arranger Jon Lucien to American audiences. Issued by RCA in 1970, Lucien's meld of flawlessly executed jazz, pop, and theatrical song remains highly original and sophisticated. The material on I Am Now is unlike anything else in his catalog. Of the 11 songs here, only "Find Yourself a Lover" was penned by Lucien. With its swirling strings, bossa guitars, smooth soul vocals, and lithe Caribbean rhythms, the song was a precursor to the kind of genre blending that is so prevalent in the 21st century. I Am Now also includes then-current pop standards ("Who Will Buy" and Lalo Schifrin's "A Time for Us" from Romeo and Juliet) and a Bahamian take on the theme from The Sound of Music. Lucien tackles Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" with a startling arrangement in collaboration with Horace Ott that combines bossa and early salsa rhythms with a tough, sexy-smooth soul vocal (think Bill Withers crossed with Teddy Pendergrass). Another stunner on this nearly flawless recording is Tom Jobim's "Dindi," which captures all the tune's subtle beauty yet ratchets up its sensual intensity a couple of notches. Perhaps the finest track here is his reading of "The Shadow of Your Smile," because it reveals the emotional depth, musical discipline, and flawlessly expansive range in the grain of Lucien's voice. His interpretation is dramatic, yet in this arrangement, the singer's passion and pathos are balanced by a harmonic elegance that offers the listener a seductively warm, velvety darkness. Including Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" in this mix of tunes arguably feels like a misstep because of an overly sweet instrumental chart. That said, it is a small complaint. For 21st century listeners, Lucien's debut has rightfully earned its place as an undisputed classic.

Biography

Born: 08 January 1942 in Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '90s, '00s

Dubbed "the man with the golden throat" by Herbie Hancock, Jon Lucien was the premier crooner of the fusion era -- blessed with a deep, velvety voice ideally matched to romantic ballads, his sophisticated amalgam of soul, light jazz, and Caribbean rhythms never enjoyed commercial success commensurate with the esteem afforded him by critics and peers alike. Born Lucien Harrigan on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands on January 8, 1942, he grew up on the neighboring island of St. Thomas. An ardent...
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