Summary

Joe's tenth proper studio album arrived a month short of the 20-year anniversary of the release of his debut. On a new label but still with Kedar Massenburg, Joe has reached a major milestone that is all the more impressive considering the changes his genre has gone through since 1993 -- from the fade of new jack swing to an era when core artists collaborated with European and Scandinavian dance-pop producers for a shot at cracking the R&B-resistant Hot 100. On Doubleback, Joe does work with Norwegian hitmakers Stargate, but it's one of the crew's slicker R&B tracks. Joe and Derek "DOA" Allen (Bobby Brown, Lionel Richie, Karyn White) divvy up most of the production work. The result is a little less salacious than 2009's Signature and 2011's The Good, the Bad, the Sexy, with classier elements that reach a Philly soul-evoking peak on "Love & Sex," a duet with Fantasia. That said, it's still obvious that Joe is a product of the new jack era. There's no mistaking that he's not referring to a writing instrument when he sings of his Bic. Despite nearing 40, he still has a player's mentality: "Sometimes I think I'm a son of King Solomon, but two beautiful girls is a problem." The grown-man macking goes down easier when it's applied to relaxed grooves -- as heard on "Something for You," "Easy," "Mary Jane" -- that owe much to smooth soul of the late '70s and early '80s. Those three songs help make Doubleback one of Joe's finer 2000s/2010s releases. ~ Andy Kellman