Today’s POP RESCUE is the 2004 second album Time To Grow by BBC Fame Academy runner-up Lemar, but was this a problem teen album or a more mature sound? Read on…
This 12 (+ not very secret bonus track) album opens with Soulman – no, not a cover of the famous Sam & Dave hit, but an original. ‘I ain’t trying to be no gangster. I ain’t trying to be no hustler. Just remember I’m a soul singer‘ the song opens with, with a definite nod to that Sam & Dave hit. However, this song with it’s super-slick production is laden with disco strings motifs and a delicious bassline. Lamar’s vocals are soft and soulful here.
Next up is Better Than This, which turns the lights down and the tempo too. Acoustic guitars gently strum, and strings, flute, and chime bars flutter around. I could easily imagine this song on a Luther Vandross album, and it would even probably be at home on Lisa Stansfield‘s 1993 So Natural album.
I Don’t Mind That comes straight in hot on the heels of the last track. This track has a harder beat, and a simple guitar line. It also includes some bleeping synths and some vocal samples. The vocal harmonies here are really rich, even if Lemar’s vocal style on this track remind me a lot of Craig David‘s hit 7 Days, aside from Lemar’s vocal range being far wider and stronger than Craig’s – something he proves towards the song. It’s kind of plodding, but it works pretty well.
Vinyl crackles for next song What If, which sees a simple, delicate little piano sequence introduce this slow number. Again, Lemar’s soft soulful vocals shine here, and they make light work of the lyrics. Over all, it’s a simple little song and that repeated piano sequence and the ever-constant vinyl crackle really gives it a nice feeling. The chorus sees bass and strings join in, but they really just help to give the vocals extra richness. A wonderful track.
Call Me Daddy follows this, and the pace picks up again, as Lemar sings over a simple hard beat and acoustic guitar. Again he sounds a bit like Craig David again, but also at times you can almost hear Seal. His backing vocal layers add some wonderful harmonies throughout this song.
Up next is the lead hit single If There’s Any Justice, which gave him a huge #3 hit in the UK. His voice fits it perfectly, and is so soft, soulful and warm here that it sounds absolutely timeless. It flows perfectly, and it sounds like it could be a forgotten 60’s hit, but it’s an original. Thankfully, Lemar got to record and release this song, after it was originally recorded by Hear’Say and then shelved as it was ‘too mature’ for them. Phew, we dodged that bullet! His version is absolutely flawless.
Third and final single Don’t Give It Up is next, and this is an up-beat RnB track – with some bleeping synths, a thick heavy bassline and some tinkling little keyboard sequences. However, unlike the previous track, this song doesn’t really go anywhere, this may have been part of the cause of it stumbling in the charts, resulting in a peak at #21 in the UK.
Piano leads us into title track and second single Time To Grow, which sees Lemar take on this ballad that is laden with flurries of strings, before bass and beats arrive. The song reminds me somewhat of something you’d expect a TV talent show winner/loser (which of course he was) to sing. However, he puts in a good vocal performance as you feel like there’s an inevitable key change and step-off-the-high-stool moment. Oh. There it is – right on cue, ushering in the final third of the song, and complete with a choir to help push the song through the drama drums to the end. Predictable, but quite a nice song.
Complicated Cupid follows this and picks up the tempo again. Handclaps really help the song along, as well a little riff (keyboard or guitar?). The song is quite simple although it is full of vocal layers, and these really help to bring the song together.
A simple guitar strum and finger clip lead us into Maybe Just Maybe. A thick bassline slowly plods along, with Lemar pouring his rich mellow tones throughout. This is quite a slow number, and it feels very slick indeed – again with lots of vocal harmonies.
Feels Right is up next, and a Rhodes leads us into the song. This is a mid-tempo track that has a sense of an earlier age to it. Lemar really shines here throughout – with a melody that weaves its way amongst the strings and bass, and taking us into some well placed ‘bah bah bah bah-ee-ah‘ chorus moments. At times the vocal melody reminds me a lot of When I Need You by Leo Sayer.
Twelfth track All I Ever Do / My Boo (Part II) is up next, which sees the piano and RnB beats return. This song again sounds like something you’d find on a Craig David album, or maybe even a Destiny’s Child album. The acoustic guitars and heavy bass guitar really help keep this song together.
The album closes with I Believe In A Thing Called Love, which is a cover of The Darkness‘ 2003 hit. I’m not sure why Lemar decided to add this track to the end of his album, but it has an air of live performance to it. His version takes the song to a new style, and his harder vocals give more echoes of Seal. The Darkness’ version is better.
Where is Lemar now?
Lemar went on to record and release his most successful album to date – The Truth About Love in 2006, which gave him a #3 UK hit. It featured appearances from Joss Stone, and Mica Paris, although the later singles from it did not fare as well as some of his earlier tracks.
He followed it up in 2008 with album The Reason, but despite a UK tour, it stalled at #41.
After a Hits album in 2010, he released his fifth album Invincible in 2012, but this also stalled at #49 in the UK chart.
Despite a decline in commercial chart success in recent years, his career has included winning 2 Brit Awards and 3 MOBO Awards, and he is one of the most successful artists to come from TV music talent shows.
His most recent UK charting single was dance track The Way Love Goes in 2010, which gave him a #8 hit.
His sixth album, The Letter, was released in October 2015.
POP RESCUE RATING
Over all this album is a wonderfully slick production. It really shows off Lemar’s writing and vocal skills and gives us a great example of when a TV talent show’s entrant makes good music off the back of it.
His voice is rich and soulful and whilst there’s a couple of musically weaker songs here, Lemar’s vocal performance is flawless. If you were a fan of If There’s Any Justice, then you’ll probably not be disappointed by the rest of this album.
- POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 4 / 5
- 2004 UK CHART PEAK: #8, certified 2x Platinum.
- POP RESCUE COST: 50p from an RSPCA store.