Summary

Some of the interviews and press released in support of Anthony Hamilton's first RCA album (and sixth overall) were slightly misleading. Some readers might have been led to believe that Back to Love would offer a significant break from Hamilton’s past work; the singer noted that he did not want to be pigeonholed as “the sad cat,” that he was “ready to have some fun.” Hamilton even talked about “taking things to the next level.” Hamilton’s previous release, 2008’s The Point of It All, was as creative as any of his albums that came before it, and it had the higher first-week sales of than any of his other albums -- remarkable feats for a veteran, Grammy-winning artist. Regardless, Back to Love is clearly viewed as a fresh start, even though it offers no more surprises than Ain’t Nobody Worryin’ or The Point of It All. The lineup of collaborators is no shock, either, though longtime associate Mark Batson was not involved, and Babyface assists on three songs. Familiar names, including Salaam Remi, Kelvin Wooten, and Mike City, are more numerous than new ones. That Back to Love is not a major shake-up is not a bad thing. Most of the songs are instantly ingratiating in some way, with none of the lighter, upbeat numbers -- including the strutting, midtempo Southern soul of “Woo” and the thematically “Cool”-like blue-collar love song “Best of Me” -- the least bit out of character. There are some “sad cat” moments that come very close to the standard Hamilton set with the instant classic “Charlene,” led by the hushed “Life Has a Way” (produced and co-written by James Poyser), where the singer shuffles easily, if wearily, into that Bill Withers level of chilling relatability: “And my children still look up to me while their stomachs on empty/Oh, I need an angel to fall on me now.” The way the song weaves Hamilton’s raw, broken-spirited croon and spectral, multi-tracked melody is kind of crushing. ~ Andy Kellman